Being pregnant means that life is growing inside you. It’s no wonder that so many people who are expecting choose to have a vegan pregnancy, as there’s no kinder way to welcome new life into the world.
But is a vegan pregnancy healthy? Is it safe?
Yes and yes, according to Dr. Shannon M. Clark, a spokesperson for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
“[Y]es, absolutely,” she says. “You can still get all the nutrients you need.”
Ensuring that you’re getting proper nutrition is something that all pregnant people must do. Talk with your doctor about your decision to be vegan during your pregnancy, and keep reading to learn about our essential tips, favorite foods and products, and a few vegan-pregnancy myth busters.
How to Get Essential Nutrients
All people who are expecting should ensure that they’re getting the proper nutrients for themselves and for their growing baby. To get enough protein, eat beans and legumes, whole grains, leafy greens, nuts, and seeds—that way, you’ll get all the essential amino acids without the cholesterol or saturated fats found in meat and dairy “products.”
People who are pregnant are told to increase their iron intake. To get the proper amount, eat iron-rich foods such as sweet potatoes, spinach, lentils, raisins, artichokes, peas, and pumpkin. To help your body absorb the iron, you’ll also want to eat foods that are high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits.
Pregnant people (and all vegans) should take a vegan B12 supplement, as the vitamin is essential for the formation of red blood cells and proper brain development. Both vegan cereals and nutritional yeast are commonly fortified with it.
Folate helps to prevent birth defects relating to the brain and spine, such as spina bifida. It’s recommended that expectant people increase their folate intake. Tons of vegan foods—including chickpeas, beans, and green vegetables—are excellent sources of folate.
Omega-3 fatty acids are vital for a healthy pregnant person and baby. Flaxseed, flaxseed oil, hempseed, hempseed oil, leafy green vegetables, and walnuts are all excellent sources of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) omega-3s. To get eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) omega-3s—two of the most essential fatty acids—you’ll want to pick up a vegan algal oil supplement, like the one sold by Nested Naturals.
This might seem like a lot to remember, and “pregnancy brain” might be getting the best of you, so just remember to eat a well-balanced diet, take a high-quality prenatal vitamin each day, and consult your doctor if you have any questions. If you’re looking for a vegan prenatal vitamin, Vitamin Code RAW Prenatal and mykind Organics Prenatal Multi—both from Garden of Life—are favorites of ours and of vegan actor and mom Alicia Silverstone.
Let’s Talk Cravings
Pregnant people are typically instructed to stay away from seafood because of its high mercury content and the risk of contracting foodborne illnesses. Fortunately, vegan seafood dishes are healthy, humane, and safe for all diners—including people who are pregnant. Gardein offers ready-to-heat Fishless Filets and Crabless Cakes, both of which feature algal oil, another good source of DHA. Good Catch Foods also dishes up algal oil in its crab-free cakes and fish-free tuna. You can even make your own jackfruit “crab” cakes.
Lactation bars are becoming a popular way to boost the supply of human milk while satisfying snack cravings. The Boobie Bar is a vegan lactation bar made of flaxseed, oats, and herbal ingredients. It comes in Oatmeal Chocolate Chip, Blueberry Coconut, and Gluten Free Peanut Butter varieties.
Many products containing dairy cheese aren’t safe for pregnant people to consume, but vegan cheese is safe for almost anyone’s enjoyment—whether they’re expecting or not. Soft “cheeses”—like those from PETA favorites Kite Hill, Treeline Treenut Cheese, and Miyoko’s Kitchen—are delicious, animal-friendly, and pregnancy-safe. Plus, who can relate more to cows used in the dairy industry than pregnant people?
You'd be surprised. Why Cheese Is the Most Sexist Thing You Can Eat. https://t.co/qtrOy51nq2
— PETA (@peta) August 5, 2017
Cheese, milk, and other dairy “products” are the result of imprisonment, rape, reproductive control, kidnapping, and abuse. Can you imagine not being allowed to feed your own baby?
Such abuse is a reality for mother cows in the dairy industry. Instead of bonding with their newborns, their babies are torn away from them, usually within hours of birth. Pregnant or not, we should all help to end this violence by ditching dairy “products.”
Cold cuts and other processed meats are another no-no for mothers-to-be. But thanks to companies like Tofurky and Lightlife, you can have all the deli “turkey” and roast “beef” slices your pregnant belly wants.
Nothing says pregnancy cravings like pickles and ice cream, right? Relax—dill pickles are naturally vegan. And with so many vegan ice cream brands on the market, forget nine months—you’ll be able to satisfy your salty-and-sweet cravings for nine years without getting bored.
To combat morning sickness, try peppermint tea, flavored popsicles, saltine crackers, or veggie broth. Ginger is another great cure for nausea—try ginger ale soda, ginger tea, ginger jam on toast, or gingersnaps.
To soothe itchy tummy skin and help prevent stretch marks, many pregnant people turn to shea butter or belly balms. If you’re picking one up at the store or online, be sure to check that it’s cruelty-free and vegan. If you’re a DIYer, try making your own using animal-friendly ingredients. Click here for a DIY belly balm recipe and video.
For even more tips on having a healthy vegan pregnancy, check out Your Vegan Pregnancy: A Complete Guide to a Healthy, Plant-Based Pregnancy. It’s chock-full of recipes, expert advice, and key information.
Take Things to the Next Level
Parenting begins in the womb, and being vegan is a great way to teach children to show all living beings kindness. But why stop there? Learn more about easy and important ways to raise our children to be just as compassionate as their parents:
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