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Vegetarian Pregnancy and After

By: Corinna Underwood - Updated: 2 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Vegetarian Pregnancy Vegetarian Child

With some thought and careful planning, a vegetarian diet during pregnancy can provide all the necessary nutrients that you and your growing child need.It is calculated that you will require between 200-300 extra calories each day for you and your growing child. Your nutritional needs increase by up to 50 percent however, so vegetarians should be careful about planning meals.

Protein

During pregnancy you body requires about 30 percent more protein than it needed previously. Protein is important for building and repairing your body's cells and tissues, getting enough of it won't be a problem for you if you eat eggs and dairy products. If not, you'll need to make sure you're getting enough protein from non-animal sources such as dried beans, peas, lentils, and tofu at each meal.

Iron

You need plenty of iron while you're pregnant because of the increase of blood formed for your growing child. Your body does compensate for this by increasing its capacity to absorb iron from your food, but you still need a diet which contains healthy sources of iron. Vegetarian mums-to-be should increase their intake of foods rich in iron such as whole grains, beans, tofu, cruciferous vegetables, combined with vitamin C, which assists with iron absorption.

Calcium

Calcium is needed in pregnancy so your baby's teeth and bones can develop. Studies have shown that calcium absorption is increased in pregnancy, so if you are already getting an adequate daily amount, it does not need to be increased.

A Vegetarian Child

When your baby is born you'll want to think about how feasible a vegetarian diet is for children. During his first year, of course, s/he can get all his nutrients from breast milk, or, if you're not breast-feeding, formula recommended by his paediatrician. At six months, you can start introducing solids.

Children can do fine on a vegetarian diet, as long as their parents plan well and include milk, cheese, and eggs. However, children on vegetarian diets that omit all animal protein sources may not do as well. They are at greater risk of suffering from rickets, iron-deficiency anaemia, and problems absorbing nutrients, so more attention is needed to make sure meals are adequately balanced.

The biggest problem with a vegetarian diet is that kids must eat a lot of food to get enough calories, protein, and iron. A child would need to eat four to six times the volume of non-meat protein sources to get the amount of protein found in a single serving of meat or cheese. For example, to get the same amount of protein in two slices of cheese, your child will have to eat two cups of beans. Children who can't eat that much won't get enough protein; their intestines lose some of the ability to absorb fat, which exaggerates a calorie deficiency and can result in your child failing to grow adequately, or suffering from ill health.

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