With some careful meal planning and by eating a variety and balance of different vegetarian or vegan foods, vegetarian and vegan mums-to-be should be able to get all the nutrients that they and their baby needs. A lot of the information below is also relevant before conception, to make sure the body’s nutrient stores are ready for pregnancy, and during breastfeeding.
Plenty of starchy carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta, rice and potatoes. Base your meals around these. Choose wholegrain options, like wholewheat pasta, wholegrain breakfast cereals and brown rice or potatoes with skins where possible, as these contain more fibre which is an important part of a healthy diet and can help to prevent constipation (common in pregnancy).
Similar to any healthy diet, you should make sure you include foods from the four main food groups:
- Plenty of fruit and vegetables, which can be fresh, frozen or tinned. Try to have five portions a day. A glass of 100% unsweetened fruit or vegetable juice counts as one portion.
- Protein-rich foods, which for a vegetarian or vegan include foods like tofu, beans, pulses and nuts, and eggs for those who include them in their diet.
- Milk and dairy, such as milk, cheese and yogurt, or non-dairy alternatives which are fortified with vitamins and minerals (e.g. calcium) if you are vegan.
- Meat, fish and dairy are good sources of a number of essential nutrients. Most of these nutrients can also be found in foods (including fortified foods) that are suitable for vegans and vegetarians, but vegetarian and vegan mums-to-be need to make sure they are getting enough of these foods in their diet.