Over the last couple of years lots of people have jumped onto the ‘Vegan Train’ if you will. Some think it is a great new lifestyle, while others think it’s all a bit over the top. But then it raises the question as to whether it is healthy or ethical enough to do it while pregnant. What nutrition does the baby need? Can they get it just from plant-based food? Is it sufficient enough?

Will the pregnant mother have enough energy?

Protein is an extremely important part of anyone’s diet. Chickpeas, quinoa, tofu and lentils all contain a decent amount of protein for the everyday lifestyle but a pregnant woman needs more protein as she is providing nutrients for her growing baby. The recommended amount of protein is 60g-100g while pregnant.

A mother-to-be needs double the amount of iron than the average woman (27 milligrams). This is because iron is necessary to make more blood to allow the baby to get more oxygen. Pumpkin seeds, flax seeds and almonds all naturally contain iron but only small amounts. Whereas foods such as cereal and oatmeal are foods with an increased amount of iron in it.

Calcium is crucial to the growth of a baby as it helps build the bones and teeth, there must be a sufficient amount of calcium otherwise the baby will take the mineral from the mother. Dairy products also contain vitamin D. Dairy is harder to come by in plant-based foods as dairy comes from foods such as milk, cheese, salmon or yoghurt. Salmon is obviously meat and the other dairy options come from animals. However, it is also possible to get calcium from figs, kale and molasses, but choices are limited.

Is it healthy for the baby?

Folic acid is also crucial to a healthy pregnancy. This is because is a B9 vitamin, it is important to the development of a healthy baby. Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects while the baby is developing. This isn’t much of an issue when it comes to having a vegan diet because trying to get the right amount of folic acid from food alone. But it is possible to get it from green vegetables, cereals and pasta. Therefore, it is easy for those who are vegan to consume folic acid with no limitations. It is recommended to take folic acid supplements during pregnancy in general.

It is key to have a healthy diet during pregnancy, whether you are a vegan or non-vegan. It is imperative to make sure that both a mother and her baby are getting the right amount of all different nutrients. Even after the pregnancy, a baby needs the right nutrients to grow as well.

Case Study

“A vegan couple have been accused of neglecting their toddler” . The child has said to be malnourished due to the strict vegan diet that her parents chose to feed her. The child was suffering from ‘rickets’, a disease which causes soft and weak bones in young children. Rickets is caused by a lack of vitamin D and calcium, as stated early both are important in a normal diet let alone a pregnancy diet. It also causes slow growth developments for a child.

However, the same can be said for a non-vegan diet. If any diet lacks diversity it is going to be unhealthy. If someone eats too much chocolate or has too many unhealthy snacks (e.g. a packet of crisps or pot noodle). It is unhealthy, the diet will consist of too many carbs and sugars and not enough protein and iron. You can always treat yourself, but you could also have healthy snacks (e.g. carrot sticks with hummus on the side or fruits). Therefore, even as a non-vegan, a balanced diet while pregnant, with the correct and varied amount of nutrients is fundamental to be a healthy mother with a healthy baby.

The Verdict

Being on a vegan diet while pregnant is possible and healthy, as long as it is varied. Someone who eats nothing but bread can be 100% vegan but extremely unhealthy!