Veganuary: Keeping Well In Pregnancy

Women's Health

Eating healthily during pregnancy is important for your own health and the health of your developing baby. It's important to eat a varied and balanced diet during pregnancy to provide enough nutrients for you and the development and growth of your baby.

If you're pregnant and a vegetarian or vegan, you need to make sure you get enough iron and vitamin B12, which are mainly found in meat and fish, and vitamin D, calcium and iodine.

Iron in your diet

Good sources of iron for vegetarians and vegans include:

  • pulses
  • dark green vegetables
  • wholemeal bread and flour
  • nuts
  • fortified breakfast cereals (with added iron)
  • dried fruit, such as apricots

Vitamin B12 in your diet

Good sources of vitamin B12 for vegetarians include milk, cheese and eggs. Good sources for vegans include:

  • breakfast cereals fortified with vitamin B12
  • unsweetened soya drinks fortified with vitamin B12
  • yeast extract, such as Marmite, and nutritional yeast flakes which are fortified with vitamin B12

Vitamin D in your diet

From late March or early April until the end of September, most people should be able to get enough vitamin D from sunlight. Although we get vitamin D from sunlight, vegetarian food sources include:

  • egg yolk
  • foods fortified with vitamin D, including some breakfast cereals and fat spreads
  • dietary supplements

Because vitamin D is found only in a small number of foods, it is difficult to get enough from foods that naturally contain vitamin D and fortified foods alone.

That's why the government recommends that all adults, including those who are pregnant and breastfeeding, should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D during the winter months (October until the end of March).

You may be at particular risk of not having enough vitamin D if:

  • you have brown or black skin (for example, if you're of African, African Caribbean or south Asian origin)
  • you cover your skin when outside or spend lots of time indoors

You may need to consider taking a daily supplement of vitamin D all year. Talk to a midwife or doctor for advice. If you're vegan, check the label to make sure your vitamin D is suitable for vegans.

Calcium in your diet

If you're a vegan, you also need to make sure you get enough calcium. This is because non-vegans get most of their calcium from dairy foods. Good sources of calcium for vegans include:

  • dark green leafy vegetables
  • pulses
  • fortified unsweetened soya, pea and oat drinks
  • brown and white bread
  • calcium-set tofu
  • sesame seeds and tahini
  • dried fruit

Talk to your midwife or doctor about how you can get all the nutrients you need for you and your baby.

Iodine in your diet

Good sources of iodine for vegetarians include cow's milk, dairy products and eggs. Iodine can also be found in plant foods, such as cereals and grains, but the levels vary depending on the amount of iodine in the soil where the plants are grown.

If you're vegan then you may want to consider taking an iodine supplement or eating foods fortified with iodine, such as some types of plant-based drinks.

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