Ask the Expert: Will my baby get enough nutrition if I’m vegan during pregnancy?

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Q: I’m vegan and I’ve just found out I’m pregnant. Will my baby get enough nutrition from my diet, and what should I make sure I eat?

A: Vegan mother-of-two Louise Palmer-Masterton, founder of the plant-based restaurants Stem & Glory, says: “Absolutely, your baby can get the right nutrition if you’re vegan during pregnancy. It does, however, depend on following a varied and healthy diet. Just being vegan in itself doesn’t necessarily mean your diet is healthy.

“It‘s recommended all pregnant women take folic acid. With regard to vegan pregnancy it’s additionally recommended to take B12 and vitamin D. I think all pregnant women should take a pregnancy-safe multivitamin, which includes vitamin D and iron, just to be on the safe side.

“I’ve done two vegan pregnancies myself, and my own experience with being vegan during pregnancy is that it was completely normal. I was almost 40 when I became pregnant with my first daughter, and my diet was mainly vegetables, small amounts of (mainly) wholegrains, lots of tofu, lentils, nuts, seeds and beans, and I continued eating in exactly the same way throughout my pregnancy.

“I had no morning sickness, no cravings, no complications, no deficiencies and delivered both my children safely at home. For both pregnancies, I did take a pregnancy multivitamin and the recommended folic acid.

“Many vegans are very well researched on the subject of vegan nutrition. If that doesn’t sound like you, I’d recommend reading up on this during your pregnancy. It’s also a great time to develop a love of cooking, as home-cooked, fresh food is by far the best diet during pregnancy.

“You should increase your protein intake in pregnancy by 10-20 per cent, and this can be done with greater attention to eating balanced meals. You don’t necessarily need to eat protein-rich foods such as tofu – pulses, nuts, seeds, wholegrains and vegetables combined will also give you what you need.

“I said when I first became pregnant that if I craved something I’d eat it. Fortunately, I didn’t have any cravings in my pregnancies, but I’d definitely advise paying attention to this if you do. If you crave non-vegan products, try increasing your vegan protein and fat intake. Snacking on nuts and toasted seeds is one of my go-tos and a really good option during pregnancy.”

:: Remember to check with your doctor or midwife if you have any concerns or questions about your diet during pregnancy.

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