A Vegetarian Diet when pregnant or weaning
It’s National Vegetarian Week! If you are considering giving up meat and fish and following a vegetarian diet or already do, then obtaining all the nutrients you need during pregnancy shouldn’t be too difficult. Likewise, if you choose to wean your baby onto a vegetarian diet, then with a little imagination they can get everything they need.
When stopping eating meat and fish the main nutrients that you will need to replace with other sources are iron and omega 3 fatty acids.
If you are still consuming dairy on a daily basis (including milk, cheese, yoghurt, butter) then you are likely to be getting adequate amounts of iodine and vitamin B12, but if dairy is also something you are limiting, then you should check out my previous blog on Veganism.
Iron is essential for transporting oxygen around our bodies and plays an important role in the immune system.
Sources of iron:
Egg yolks (in the UK you can eat running yolks even when pregnant as long as they have the Lions stamp of quality on them).
Fortified breakfast cereals
Beans and lentils and chickpeas
Dried fruit especially figs, apricots and raisins
Seeds including pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds
Dark green leafy vegetables
In order to help the absorption of the iron it is great to consume these foods with sources of vitamin C such as tomatoes, peppers, oranges, kiwi
Babies have increased requirements for iron between 6 months and 2 years and at the same time breastmilk and formula milk will no longer provide all that they need, so infants should therefore be offered iron rich foods twice a day.
Omega 3 fatty acids (known as EPA and DHA):
Omega 3s are essential fats needed for brain, eye and immunity development. In pregnancy your intake must be sufficient for that of the developing foetus as well as yourself. There are no clear guidelines in the UK, but according to the European Food Safety Authority, the minimum dietary goal for pregnant women is a daily intake of 200mg of DHA on top of the normal, recommended daily intake for adults of 250mg of both DHA and EPA.
Sources of omega 3s:
Flaxseed (otherwise known as linseed)
Algae (or algal oil) supplements
Using rapeseed oil and olive oil can help balance out your intake of omega 6 fatty acids and omega 3 fatty acids, because using oils high in omega 6 such as sunflower oil can stop your body utilising omega 3 fatty acids.
Remember not to take cod liver oil during pregnancy as this will provide too much vitamin A and can be toxic.
Click here for my favourite vegetarian lasagne recipe!