A Vegetarian's Nutritional Guide During Pregnancy
Welcome to a new stage of your life, mothers-to-be! Worried whether your vegetarian diet will give your baby proper nutrition? Well, fret not. For, there are plenty of nutritional options for green-loving, future supermoms.
Pack In The Protein
Most vegetarian mommies-to-be are concerned about inadequate protein intake. In the first trimester of pregnancy, the Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) for Protein for pregnant women is 46 g per day (0.75 g/kg/day). In the second and third trimesters, it is 60 g per day (1.00 g/kg/day).
There is a slight variation in the guidelines by World Health Organization (WHO) for pregnant mothers. It recommends 597 g (range 497g to 696g) Protein gain for an average weight gain of 12kg (range 12-14kg) for a pregnant woman.1 Adding pulses and legumes in your daily diet can increase your protein intake. A combination of cereals, millets and pulses, provides most of the amino acids, which complement each other to provide better quality proteins, suggest the ICMR guidelines.2
Other Essential Nutrients
So, what other important nutrients do you and your baby need during pregnancy? The ICMR guidelines recommend folate rich foods for pregnancy. You also need iron, calcium, and iodine. Vitamins A, B12, and C are necessary too, along with essential fatty acids. These help your baby’s growth and improve your health as well.3
Add fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes to your daily diet. These supply you with vitamins and minerals that are essential for your growing baby. Dairy products are rich sources of Calcium and Vitamin D. Fruit-based desserts also pack in Calcium and Vitamin C. Additionally, try to consuming foods that contain Zinc (kidney beans, flax seeds), Iron (cereals, breads, pastas, peas), Folic Acid (avocado, okra, broccoli), Phosphorus (nuts, beans, dairy products) and Magnesium (yogurt, chocolates, dried fruits).
Make sure you get enough of Choline and DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid. These contribute to the development of the baby’s brain. For Vegetarians, Mother’s Horlicks is a great source of DHA which helps support baby’s brain development. A body dependent on a strictly vegetarian diet converts alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) to DHA, which is naturally found in Flaxseeds and perilla seeds (bhanjira). Meanwhile, spices like mustard and fenugreek are good sources too. Include vegetables, fruits, pulses, wheat and pearl millet. These are good sources of ALA.4 For vegetarians, whole grains, vegetables and fruits, and milk can provide Choline.5 These make for excellent supplementation to the diet.
Why A Diet Chart Is Important?
According to the UNICEF, 50 per cent of growth failure in Indian babies occurs in the womb. This is due to the poor nutrition in the mother’s diet during pregnancy.7 So every Indian mother-to-be must be careful about her daily diet being healthy and packed with nutrition.
Be mindful of what you eat every day. Remember, you have plenty of choices and your meals do not have to be the same every day. If you want a change from rice and rotis, try a brown rice pulao, or a quinoa salad, or even oats khichdi. You need not depend on spinach alone for your daily dose of leafy greens. Try cabbage, colocasia leaves, mustard greens, and fenugreek leaves as well.8 Non-dairy milk, like almond milk, is a great option too. Also, make sure that you ask your doctor about the dietary supplements available in the market and whether you need any.
As long as you meet your daily requirement of nutrients, your diet will remain adequate, and you can be sure that you and your baby will remain healthy as well.
Benefits Of Being Vegetarian
A vegetarian diet during pregnancy, is also a source of important roughage and it enables good digestion. Moreover, adding greens helps you avoid several health risks such as obesity, constipation, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and heart diseases.
So, remember, being vegetarian is a boon during pregnancy; the trick is to eat right. Ensure your daily diet in pregnancy includes foods that give you and your baby the right nutrients. All the best!
The author is Neha Chandna, who is a practicing dietitian since the last 8 years. The views, opinions and recommendations expressed in this article are solely those of the author and intended as an educational aid. Please consult your doctor for professional advice concerning specific health/medical matters.