You Asked: Can I Be a Vegetarian While I'm Pregnant?

You Asked: Can I Be a Vegetarian While I'm Pregnant?

You're asking and I'm answering...

Dear FitSugar,
Just curious if you can clear the air. I have heard from many sources, that it is a good idea for Vegetarians/vegans to take pre-natal vitamins, to supplement the lack of nutrients you would otherwise get from eating meat. What do you think?


- Veggie Lovin' Pregnant Pam

This is an awesome question, since I'm sure many other vegetarians want to know. Let me just clear up the fact that you can definitely be a vegetarian and have a baby, you just have to make sure that you are getting enough vitamins and minerals.

Vegetarians who eat nuts, beans, green veggies, dairy products and eggs will have no problems getting the protein, calcium and B vitamins they need. Vegans may need to take supplements to ensure they get enough B12 (but they need to do that even if they weren't pregnant). Both diets just need to include a variety of fruits, veggies, whole grains and sources of protein.

Pregnant women definitely need more of certain vitamins and minerals, so they should talk to their doctor if they are concerned about whether or not they are getting all that they need from their diet alone.

I made a chart to help you see what the nutritional needs of a woman are, compared to one who is prego. To see it read more

Vitamin RDI for Women RDI for Pregnancy
Vitamin A 700 mcg same - supplements are not recommended since too much vitamin A could cause birth defects.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 1.0 mg 1.5 mg
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 1.2 mg 1.5 mg
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 14 mg same - Too much niacin during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy may lead to birth defects.
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid) 5 mg same
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine and Pyridoxamine) 1.3 mg same - overdosing during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (more than 100 mg per day) may be linked to birth defects involving the baby's arms, legs and nerve development.
Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid) 400 mcg 400-500 mcg before conception and for the first 3 months of pregnancy. While it is possible to obtain this level through eating plentiful amounts of foods rich in folic acid every day, it is more likely to be consistently achieved if the woman takes a daily folic acid supplement. It is important not to take larger doses of folic acid (1000 mcg) unless prescribed by your doctor.
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) 4-6 mcg same - pregnant vegetarians eating dairy products probably don't need to take a supplement. Pregnant women following a vegan diet may need to take a supplement. Although nutritional yeast contains B12, and many soymilks are fortified with this vitamin as well.
Vitamin C 70-90 mg same
Vitamin D 200 units same
Vitamin E 10-15 mg same
Calcium 1,000 mg 1,100 mg
Protein 40-60 g (depending on your weight and activity level) about 70 g (25g more than you need when you're not pregnant)
Iron 18 mg 27 mg

A pregnant woman just needs to monitor her diet closely to make sure she is getting her RDI's. If she isn't, taking a pre-natal supplement is a great idea (and usually recommended by her doctor). It's not a necessity though, and it is possible for an expectant mother to get all the vitamins and minerals she needs from her diet. The vitamin is like a safety net. The best thing a woman can do, if she is already pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, is to talk to her ob/gyn about her dietary concerns. And don't forget the folic acid, which helps prevent many birth defects.

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