March 3, 2024

Veganism is possible for pregnant women and their babies, but it requires careful planning

Limiting total fat consumption during childhood is not recommended. High-fiber vegan food is low in kilojoules and requires a lot of chewing. You can increase the number of calories in each meal by choosing higher-fat foods.

Consume foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like walnuts, flaxseed, and ground chia seed. Monounsaturated fats such as olive oil are also good sources.

Avoid foods high in omega-6 fats, such as sunflower, safflower, or palm oil margarine, as these can compete for metabolism with omega-3 fats. Reduce the other types of fats to give omega-3s an advantage.

Plant foods high in calcium include calcium-fortified breakfast cereals and beverages, such as soya and nut drinks, tofu, and nuts and seeds.

The level of vitamin D in your body is determined by sun exposure, supplements, and not diet. Download the SunSmart application and find out what amount of sun exposure you can tolerate and whether you need to use sun protection based on your location.

Use foods that are fortified with Vitamin B12 or take vitamin B12 supplements.

Vitamin B12 helps to produce red blood cells and myelin, which is a nerve insulation. It also aids in the production of neurotransmitters, which help to function the brain, as well as DNA.

Some dairy-free products, such as soymilks and “meats” made from soy or nut milk, are fortified. Labels will have nutritional information.

Read more: Have you gone vegan? Keep an eye on these four nutrients.

Vegan diets in pregnancy and lactation

Vitamin B12 and iron deficiency can occur in vegan and vegetarian women during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

The systematic review found that there was no significant difference in the health of mothers or infants between vegan and vegetarian pregnant women.

A study of vegetarian mothers found that there was an increased risk for male babies to be born with Hypospadias. This is an abnormality in which the urethra (the tube that transports urine from the bladder up to the tip of the penis) opens in the wrong position.

A good diet during pregnancy can affect the birth weight of your baby. Kryzhov/Shutterstock

Many studies were limited. While some reported higher birthweights or lower birthweights when compared to non-vegetarian mothers, there were limitations in many studies. The review highlights that it is important to optimize nutrient intakes in order for birthweights to be within the normal range.

Vegan diets in infancy

Australia’s guidelines recommend exclusive breastfeeding for six months, and then continuing breastfeeding until complementary foods are introduced.

Breastmilk or commercial infant formula provides a large amount of nutrients to infants in their first year. They are essential for the optimal development of the infant’s brain and other organs.

Breastmilk contains a high amount of vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids, and iodine. This is dependent on the intake of mothers, so they need to ensure that they are getting enough.

Read more: Breastmilk alone is best for the first six months – here’s what to do next.

Infants have small stomachs, which can make it difficult for them to eat the volume of plant foods needed to meet their energy requirements. Lowering the fiber intake can help. You can do this by using refined or lower-fiber versions of grains, peeling some beans and legumes, cooking well, and pushing them through a sieve.

The best way to track growth is by measuring your baby regularly and plotting the data on infant development charts.

Plotting a baby’s development can alert parents to possible problems. Oksana Kuzmina/Shutterstock

Foods should be offered in a form that does not pose a risk of choking, such as nut butter and not nuts.

Different sources of plant protein, such as legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, and dried beans, help meet the need for specific and other amino acids. These are the building blocks of proteins.

Iron can be found in iron-fortified cereals for infants, as well as mashed and peeled (cooked) dried beans and lentils. Vitamin C-rich vegetables, fruits or juices consumed with meals help convert plant sources of zinc and iron into a form that is easily absorbed.

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