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Proteins for Vegetarians

If you're not a meat eater -- or if you're temporarily nauseated at the mere thought of a hamburger -- there are plenty of ways to get the protein you need during pregnancy without eating meat.

Some nonmeat sources of protein include dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt), eggs, legumes (lentils, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, black beans, split peas), and nuts (peanuts, walnuts, cashews, pecans, and their butters). Protein-packed meals include a bowl of vegetarian chili, a cup of lentil soup, a peanut butter sandwich, or a bean burrito.

Watch for fat and cholesterol content when you choose nonmeat protein foods; meat-free doesn't automatically mean low-fat. Full-fat dairy products contain lots of saturated fat and calories; choose non-fat or low-fat dairy foods. Egg yolks are high in cholesterol, so limit yourself to four yolks per week. Nuts also pack a fair amount of fat. The fat in nuts is the heart-healthy monounsaturated kind, but it's still high in calories. When you eat nuts and nut butters, always measure serving sizes; they may be smaller than you realize. A serving of peanuts is 1 ounce, for example. That's about the size of the small bags served on airplanes -- you know, the bags you can eat 12 of during a cross-country flight.

Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.

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