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Nutrition During Pregnancy

Like with all pregnant women pre-natal and post-natal nutrition is really important to me, so as soon as I found out I was pregnant I started to swot up on plant-based nutrition and just general good nutrition for a healthy pregnancy. 

I also talked to my GP to let her know I would continue to follow a plant-based diet - she was really supportive and just suggested I take a good pre-natal supplement. 

Watch my YouTube video talking about 'Pregnancy Nutrition & My Plant-Based Pregnancy'. 

The first thing to talk about is calories and "eating for two"!

During pregnancy the extra amount of calories you need to eat is only 400 - this means as a women you need to go from 2000 to 2400 calories to help provide your body with the fuel to grow a baby. The additional calories intake only needs to be introduced in trimester two and continues throughout breast feeding. 

400 calories is simply two extra small snacks throughout the day or a small meal. 

Now I don't calorie count, but that's because I don't diet or calorie restrict. If you are coming from a calorie restricted diet of 1200 or 1500 calories - it might be worth just tracking a few days to know you are getting enough food each day. 

I've been getting in my extra calories buy including more healthy fats into my diet by adding chia seeds and almond milk to my smoothies. I've also beed adding coconut cream to more curries and snacking on foods such as avo on toast or protein raw balls. In particular I've been loving these caramel raw balls.

A note on digestion....

When you are pregnant your digestion slows down to allow better nutrient absorption through the gut walls (clever hey), this does mean you can be left with a few digestive issues, most commonly constipation. Eating a high fibre plant diet will help prevent this and read the additional info on iron and constipation below. Other digestive issues can include heart burn and burping lots, if you experience this try adding some raw fermented apple cider vinegar to some warm water, with some rice syrup (1teaspoon apple cider vinegar: 250ml warm filtered water: 1 tsp rice syrup), and drinking it before any big meals. 

Key nutrients and foods to include:

Folic acid 

Probably the vitamin we all associate with taking when pregnant. Folate is a B-group vitamin that helps to protect against neural tube defects in the foetus and 400 micrograms is the recommended daily amount for pregnant women. A plant based diet is already high in folic acid, as folic acid is found mostly in veggies, beans and fruit. 

The best sources of folic acid are:

  • Asparagus
  • Chickpeas
  • Dried beans
  • Lentils
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli 
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Oranges 
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Peanuts (unsalted)
  • Walnuts
  • Hazelnuts 
  • Wholegrain bread
Iron

A pregnant women's iron needs increase during pregnancy, particularly in the last few months of pregnancy. The recommended daily intake of iron is 27mg and can be met by eating protein rich foods such as dark leafy greens beans, lentils and organic black strap molasses (BSM) .

To improve the absorption of iron, pair iron rich foods with other foods high in vitamin C - for example 1 tablespoon of BSM washed down with some fresh orange juice. 

Consuming sources of iron form animals or in synthetic forms (cheap supplements) can lead to chronic painful constipation. Stick with plant-based sources of iron or head to the supplement section for more information on supplementing iron.

Iodine

Is a really important mineral for growth, thyroid function and important brain development. 150 micrograms is needed for pregnant women but it's also really important to continue supplementing with iodine during breastfeeding. 

Unless you eat processed bread, where iodised salt is added, our diets are actually a really deficient in iodine - so this is a really important mineral to make sure you get enough of. 

Good sources of iodine are found in sea vegetables such as dulse and nori. Check out this video to see how much you should be eating.

Calcium

Extra calcium is no longer recommended for pregnant women due to our bodies naturally increases our capacity to absorb calcium. Women should get 1,000mg per day so make sure to include calcium rich foods like; tahini, bok choy, other dark leafy greens, green juices and green smoothies. You can also try adding a green powder, just make sure it is safe for pregnancy, I've been using this one

Zinc

Is another mineral that is important for growth, brain development and bone strength, because most zinc sources are found in animal products it's important to keep an eye on your intake. Pumpkin seeds are a good source ,and then making sure you soak nuts and seeds to improve zinc absorption from these foods. 

Protein

As always people are concerned about plant-based eaters getting enough protein. When you are pregnant your protein requirements jump up form 50g per day to 70g per day. I really haven't worried about my protein intake because I know as long as I eat 2400 calories I will be getting enough - somedays though I do add a scoop of organic rice protein to my smoothies or munch on some homemade raw protein balls. 

Water

Keeping hydrated is extremely important during pregnancy, because our blood volume increases I suggest upping your water intake to 3 litres a day. This will help with any constipation you might be experiencing and also keep your blood thinner - which is great for all the blood tests you'll be having.

I actually had a water aversion in my first trimester. Filtered water tasted like drinking pure chlorinated pool water, so I invested in a reverses osmosis filter and it was quite simply life changing. The water tastes better than bottled spring water and I don't have to worry about things like: chlorine, fluoride and heavy metals. I highly recommend in investing in one just for your general health! After this I was able to drink much more water without feeling nauseas.

 

Supplementing your diet

Supplementing your diet with a multivitamin is totally an individual choice, whilst it's recommended by health professional if you feel you can meet your daily needs through food you should be fine. You might want to track your food in take on chronometer to make sure you get everything.

I did decide to supplement with a pre-natal multivitamin. I decided to do this for piece of mind that I was getting important minerals such as iodine and b vitamins, particularly in the early months when I was struggling to eat or keep anything down.

I highly recommend avoiding traditional pre-natal vitamins you can get over the counter. Most of them are made with synthetic vitamins (not taken from an plant) or animal products, and contain cheap fish oils

This is a problem for two reasons:

  1. Absorption of vitamins and minerals will be reduced and you'll get nasty sided effects from the harsh iron added
  2. Most toxins digested by fish are fat soluble and theres can be found in high levels in cheap fish oils

Instead take an organic, plant derived, vegan supplement in addition to eating a healthy plant-based diet. I have had no problems with my supplement causing constipation of making me nauseas - they also make it in a lower does if you struggle to take large pills.

 

Foods to avoid

All the foods recommended to avoid by health professionals are animal products, so I didn't worry about this!

There are no plant foods to avoid BUT the way some foods are prepared or stored mean you should avoid them. Buffet foods cut and left out for a long time are best avoided, and left overs need to be re-heated extremely well to make sure bacteria is killed off. 

I actually got food poisoning from not re-heating my rice well enough - don't make the same mistake please!

 

Helpful resources

The Everything Vegan Pregnancy Book -Reed Mangles 

Vegan for life - Jack Norris

Nutrition Facts - www.nutritionfacts.org

 

Don't forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel to keep up to date with my pregnancy journey and for some added extras that I don't include in my blog posts! 

Lastly please let me know if you have any questions on nutrition during pregnancy by leaving a comment in the comment box below! 

Thanks X