Vegetarian Pregnancy 101: How to Get the Right Nutrients

Eating for two without meat? Here's how to get the nutrition your growing baby needs during a vegetarian pregnancy. 

No matter why you choose to go meatless—health, ethical reasons, or just how you feel—you may be wondering if being (or becoming) a vegetarian while pregnant is OK. The answer is a resounding yes.

You can be a pregnant vegetarian and still get all the protein, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients you need. Furthermore, your pregnancy diet doesn’t have to be terribly complicated; just make sure that you eat a variety of healthy fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts. 

Plant foods should take center stage to help ensure an abundant supply of every essential vitamin and mineral needed to fuel you and your growing baby. Dairy products can help boost your intake of protein, calcium and vitamin D. Dairy foods also add vitamin B12, which comes only from animal or fortified foods. (To be on the safe side, you should also take a prenatal vitamin that contains 100 percent of the vitamin B12 and iron you need.) 

Nutrition Basics

Follow these guidelines during your pregnancy to ensure that you and your baby get the proper nutrition:

Weight Gain: Women of normal weight should gain 25–35 pounds during pregnancy (28–40 pounds if you’re underweight and 15–25 pounds if you’re overweight; check with your doctor or midwife).

Calorie Counts: Add about 300 calories a day to your diet during your second and third trimesters.

What to Avoid: To reduce the risk of illness from the listeria bacterium, steer clear of uncooked, unpasteurized cheeses such as feta, brie, Camembert, and blue-veined or Mexican-style cheeses. Never eat raw or undercooked animal foods such as meat, sushi, seafood or eggs; avoid fish that may contain excessive mercury (swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish); and limit shellfish and canned fish to 12 ounces a week. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and medications that have not been approved by your doctor.

Vitamins: Take a daily supplement, as recommended by your physician, that supplies 100 to 150 percent of the Dietary Reference Intake for all vitamins and minerals. Consider calcium supplements if you can’t make the quota of 1,000 milligrams a day.

Daily Dose: Focus on including these nutrients in your diet every day:

  • Calcium: 1,000 milligrams
  • Folate: 600 micrograms (400 micrograms folic acid from supplements, plus 200 micrograms from foods that contain folate)
  • Iron: 27 milligrams
  • Magnesium: 350 milligrams for women ages 19–30; 360 milligrams for women ages 31–50
  • Phosphorus: 700 milligrams
  • Protein:60 grams
  • Selenium: 60 micrograms
  • Vitamin A: 770 micrograms RAE (retinol activity equivalents)
  • Vitamin B6: 1.9 milligrams
  • Vitamin B12: 2.6 micrograms
  • Vitamin C: 85 milligrams
  • Vitamin D: 5 micrograms
  • Vitamin K: 90 micrograms
  • Zinc: 11 milligrams


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