While vegan diets can be controversial at the best of times, during pregnancy, they become even more so, and if you’re a vegan and pregnant, chances are that someone has told you that your diet is dangerous (whether you asked for their advice or not)
You don’t have to look very hard online to find stories about how raising vegan children is dangerous, or how pregnant women who follow a vegan diet are putting their babies’ health at risk. But are these stories true?
With all the hype around vegan diets, it can be hard to know what to believe.
But, we’re here to tell you that being vegan during pregnancy is totally safe!
In this post, we’ll debunk some common myths about how veganism affects pregnancy and parenting, and give some helpful tips to make sure your vegan baby grows up as healthy as possible on a plant-based diet.
Is A Vegan Diet Bad For Pregnancy?
A vegan diet is based on plants (such as vegetables, grains, nuts, and fruits) and foods made from plants.
Vegans do not eat foods that come from animals, including dairy products and eggs.
So, does the fact that meat contains more of the essential nutrients and vitamins you need in pregnancy mean that a vegan diet isn’t safe?
The answer, as with any question like this one, is: it depends!
The truth is that there are a lot of misconceptions out there about veganism, and it’s often assumed that vegans cannot get the nutrition their bodies need during pregnancy without eating meat. But the fact is, there are plenty of ways to get all the nutrients your body needs and more, from plant-based sources.
It’s also true that if you don’t plan your diet correctly, you might miss out on nutrients like; vitamin B12, omega-3 fats, iron, iodine, calcium, and zinc — all of which are very important during pregnancy.
And this is why there’s so much controversy around vegan diets in pregnancy—because although they are safe when done right, they can also be dangerous if you don’t make sure you’re meeting all your nutritional needs.
If you’ve been vegan for a while, you’re probably accustomed to fielding questions about where you get your protein, calcium, and other nutrients. While many people are quick to tell you that it’s impossible, it’s actually quite easy!
All it takes is knowing which nutrients are most important for your health and for the health of your growing baby, and finding out where they come from in a vegan diet. With the proper planning, your pregnancy can be just as healthy and fulfilling when you leave animals off your plate.
So here’s the scoop on everything you need for a healthy pregnancy on a vegan diet.
Protein is an essential nutrient that helps build and repair your body. During pregnancy, your body needs more protein than usual to help support the growth of your baby. Luckily, there are plenty of plant-based sources of protein out there if you know where to look! Including; tofu, beans, pulses, meat replacements, nuts, seeds, and grains like quinoa or oats—these should all be staples in your diet during pregnancy. You’ll want to aim for about 40 grams of protein each day.
If you’re pregnant, you’ll need more iron than ever before as during pregnancy, your blood volume increases by 30%. Your body needs iron to help it make new red blood cells to replace old ones. Iron deficiency is common during pregnancy and can lead to anaemia—which can cause problems for both you and your baby! To get enough iron, try eating spinach and other leafy greens every day (about 1 cup per day will do), as well as beans and legumes (about 3 servings per week). You should also make sure you’re getting enough vitamin C from fruits like oranges or kiwi or vegetables like bell peppers or broccoli—this helps your body absorb iron more efficiently—and take a prenatal vitamin including iron daily.
B12 is important because it helps with brain development and nerve function in babies.
It’s not found in many plant foods so if you’re vegan and pregnant its important to take a vitamin-B12 supplement, as it can help prevent anaemia.
Pregnant women need more calcium than usual because their developing baby needs it to build strong bones and teeth. If you’re vegan, make sure you’re getting enough calcium by including plenty of leafy greens in your diet—they’re one of the best sources out there!
This nutrient is important for all stages of life, but particularly during pregnancy. It helps with brain development, vision health, and foetal growth. The best vegan sources include flaxseeds and walnuts, hemp seeds or chia seeds.
Zinc is another nutrient that’s important during pregnancy, especially for women who plan on breastfeeding—it helps ensure that babies’ immune systems are healthy enough to fight off infections. Get your fill of zinc by eating lentils, beans and whole grains like brown rice or quinoa.
Iodine is an essential mineral that helps your hormones work properly during pregnancy. It’s also essential for normal growth and development of your baby. If you’re vegan it’s best to take a supplement in addition to eating other sources of iodine throughout the day such as; potatoes, seaweed, iodized salt and a wide variety of fruit and vegetables.
Fat is an essential nutrient for pregnant women. Fats help the body absorb vitamins A, D, E and K, which are critical for foetal development. Fat also helps to boost immunity and keep you feeling full longer.
If you’re vegan and want to get enough of this important nutrient, you can get it from avocados, nuts, seeds and oils.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for your body. It helps the body absorb calcium, which is important for building strong bones and teeth. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s especially important to get enough vitamin D in your diet, since your baby needs it to grow strong bones and teeth.
Vegans can get their daily vitamin D from sunshine, mushrooms and fortified foods such as cereal, orange juice and soy milk. Or they can take a vegan supplement with vitamin D.
Breastfeeding When Vegan
So a healthy pregnancy is very plausible if you plan and prepare for everything you need, but what about after the baby is born?
Does being vegan affect breastfeeding? Let’s take a look.
A Healthy Start
Breastfeeding is a beautiful natural process that gives babies the healthiest start in life. It’s also free, which makes it just about perfect for any parent who wants to give their baby the best start possible.
But does a vegan diet affect breastfeeding or supply?
There’s no need to worry! Being vegan doesn’t affect your ability to make enough milk for your baby.
The ‘ideal’ diet varies widely, depending on the family, culture, economic situation, and religion of those involved. Yet, almost always, all over the world, even in situations of deprivation, mothers produce milk that helps their babies grow well.
So being vegan is no roadblock to breastfeeding, but there are some things you can do to make sure that both you and your little one are getting enough nutrients.
First, make sure that you’re eating enough calories each day. If possible, try to eat more than usual so that your body has more energy and resources to produce breastmilk.
You should also make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day—this will help keep your body hydrated and functioning properly as well as provide extra fluid for your baby during nursing sessions.
Lastly, consider taking supplements daily to ensure you both receive enough nutrients while breastfeeding.
Weaning And Beyond
According to the NHS, babies, and young children on a vegan diet CAN get the energy and the nutrients they need to grow and develop from a well-planned and balanced diet.
Just like throughout pregnancy, a well-planned vegan diet can be very healthy and nutritious as long as you plan carefully to make sure that your child gets all the nutrients they need.
The best way to do this is by providing a balanced diet that contains a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and healthy fats.
In addition to making sure your vegan child is getting enough nutrients from food sources, you should also consider supplementing their diet with a multivitamin.
Top Tips For Raising Vegan Babies
It’s no secret that there are a lot of challenges in the world of vegan parenting, and if you’re just starting out on this journey, it can seem like an insurmountable mountain.
But don’t worry! We’ve got some tips for you.
Breastfeeding has many benefits for both mother and child, and it also helps ensure that your baby is receiving all of the nutrients they need. Breastfeeding for longer than six months is especially recommended for vegan babies because breast milk is packed with nutrients that help prevent iron deficiency anaemia and zinc deficiency in babies.
Know Your Nutrients
Make sure they are always getting all they need. This means sources of protein, iron, zinc, vitamin C and D, iodine, fats, calcium and more. If you have questions about how much of what nutrient your baby needs at what age, check out age-by-age guide by babycenter.
Preparing home-cooked meals for your baby can be a fun way to get creative in the kitchen. You may be surprised at how much they love to try new flavours and textures! So don’t be afraid to experiment with different veggies and grains. It will also allow you to control exactly what your baby eats and will help you avoid the risk of them being given contaminated food by other people.
If you don’t feel like cooking every day, try making some large batches of food and freezing them in individual portions so they’re ready whenever!
Get The Right Advice
If you want to consult with healthcare professionals about raising your child vegan, make sure they support the decision and are willing to answer all of your questions. If they don’t understand or agree with what you’re doing, find someone else who does!
Tell The Truth
Be honest with them and educate them about why you are choosing to raise them this way
It’s important for children to learn about the world around them so don’t be afraid to talk about where food comes from and why some people choose not to eat animal products at all.
MYTH VS FACT
There are a lot of myths about raising vegan babies—some of them are even pretty convincing. But we’re here to tell you that they’re not true.
Myth 1: Vegan babies will be malnourished.
Fact: It’s actually quite easy to get all the nutrients your baby needs from a vegan diet, especially if you’re breastfeeding. This myth has its roots in a lack of understanding about what nutrients are needed by infants and young children in order for them to grow properly—but as long as you’re feeding your baby a healthy, balanced diet, then there is no reason why this myth should concern you at all!
Myth 2: Vegan Babies Won’t Get Enough Protein
Fact: This myth has been around forever—and it’s just not true! In fact, there are plenty of plant-based sources of protein that are even more nutritious than animal sources such as beans, lentils, and tofu.
Myth 3: Veganism Is Bad For A Baby’s Mental Development
Fact: Actually, the opposite is true! Studies have shown that diets high in fruit and vegetables actually improve mental health, in addition to helping maintain a healthy weight and avoid disease later in life.
Myth 4: Raising vegan babies is expensive.
Fact: Not so much. You can save some money by buying seasonal fruit and vegetables at farmer’s markets, as opposed to in supermarkets where they’re typically more expensive. This will help keep your food budget down while still providing your baby with plenty of nutrients. And remember that lentils and beans are a lot cheaper than meat!
And that’s a wrap!
Veganism is a great way to live your life, but it’s important to be careful when you’re vegan and pregnant. Make sure you and your child are getting all the nutrients you need, and don’t hesitate to talk with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.
If you enjoyed reading this article, and wish to learn more about Vegan Pregnancy, you may wish to consider purchasing This Book which will provide you with 50 healthy meal plans to see you through all three trimesters!
Thanks for reading!