Are you vegan and planning on sticking to your meatless diet during pregnancy? Don't worry about the naysayers. Medical experts, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Dietetic Association (ADA), have given you the green light. That is, as long as you do it right.
Pregnancy is actually the perfect time to revamp your eating habits and make sure you and baby get all the nutrients you need. Not only is it possible without any animal products, but doing so can be beneficial for you and your family. You just need to make sure you are covering all of your bases and getting enough protein, iron, calcium and various vitamins. You also need to check in with your doctor and keep up with your supplement routine until you are done breastfeeding.
Here’s the inside scoop on our favorite vegan pantry staples to keep you and your babe healthy and happy during pregnancy.
1. Nutritional yeast: This superfood (and inactive yeast, don’t be fooled by the name) is a complete protein and powerhouse of vitamins including B-complex, folate, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, selenium and zinc. It has a cheesy taste, so try adding it to soups, dressing and sauces. It’s sold in the bulk aisle of most health food stores and can be stored in your pantry in a glass jar.
2. Lentils: All vegans and especially those expecting will benefit from learning how to cook a variety of beans and legumes. Lentils are great place to begin as they are quick to cook and don’t require soaking. They are rich in protein, iron and folate, which are all vital to a healthy pregnancy.
3. Walnuts: Nuts can be a pregnant vegan’s best friend, as they are easy to grab when feeling suddenly famished. Walnuts are especially great because in addition to the protein and fiber they provide, they are a powerful source of plant-based Omega3s, which are crucial for brain health. Stock up on a variety of nuts and nut butters and give them each a whirl when hunger strikes.
4. Sea vegetables: These veggies from the sea are rich in protein, Omega3s, iron, fiber and iodine, which your baby needs for a healthy thyroid and brain development, so much so some doctors are even talking about taking supplements during pregnancy! Try seaweed snacks, a great alternative to chips when the salty craving calls. Dulse, a salt alternative, is also a good pantry staple. Look for it in spice aisle of many health food stores. Just be mindful as you snack, as seaweed snacks can contain a great deal of sodium.
5. Sesame Seeds: Perhaps you take these seeds for granted on an occasional bagel, but don’t over look them. Sesame seeds, especially unhulled, are a wonderful source of plant-based calcium. Stock these little seeds in your pantry to sprinkle on salads, soups and sandwiches. Also try adding tahini to your routine, which is a sesame seed based butter great for dressings!
Look out for these pantry staples next time you are shopping and let us know what vegan foods you stock up on during pregnancy.
Stacey Capobianco is a health coach who focuses on families. She helps clients think more deeply about their nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress and home environment. Learn more about Spread The Health Now here.