Deciding not to eat meat and fish in nine months is an increasingly shared choice, even among expectant mothers. Who run no risk of deficiencies, as long as they contact an expert nutritionist. Here are the pros and cons of the vegetarian diet in pregnancy.
According to Eurispes, the percentage of Italians who have chosen a veg diet is 8.9% overall. Vegetarians are the majority – 6.7% – while vegans are 2.2% of the population, marking an all-time high for Italy. This is a growing trend, but what precautions should be followed when expecting a baby? Here are the pros and cons of following a vegetarian diet in pregnancy.
What Is The Difference Between A Vegetarian And A Vegan Diet?
A premise is a must, following the vegetarian diet or embracing the vegan food line are two very different things. In the first case, it means eating all kinds of vegetables, but also milk, dairy products, and eggs, and therefore taking proteins of animal origin, without touching meat and fish. In the second hypothesis, the consumption of food of vegetable origin only is foreseen and the restrictions at the table must then be compensated with specific supplements indicated by the doctor.
The vegetarian diet during pregnancy is not absolutely not recommended, however, it must be planned in a personalized way by a nutritionist, especially in such a delicate moment. It is important that the expectant mother from the first weeks of gestation is followed not only by the gynecologist, but also by an expert in food science, in order to meet the criteria of variety, quality, and combination of foods, precisely to obtain the maximum value. nutritional.
What Does The Vegetarian Diet Exclude?
Veg cooking requires a great exercise of imagination, research, and attention to the ingredients, as it is free of meat and fish (milk, eggs, and cheeses are allowed instead, but excluded from the vegan diet).
In any case, it is better to move towards certified foods from organic farming, i.e. products without the use of pesticides and antibiotics. Attention also to the expirations: generally the very long ones are such for the use of preservatives that it is better to avoid. A food that has undergone many processing processes, in fact, does not always guarantee a high nutritional content.
In the cart, for those who have chosen the green diet, vegetables, vegetables, and fresh fruit cannot be missing, but also nuts, the latter ideal for quick and balanced snacks even outside the home. In particular walnuts, chia seeds, and flax seeds, offer unsaturated fats and above all the precious omega 3, as well as mineral salts such as calcium, zinc, and iron.
Also to be added cereals – barley, spelled, rice – to be cooked in all possible preparations: soups and salads, but also flours, in the form of pasta, bread, pizza, and wraps, represent a foundation of the veg diet. Yes also to cold prepared legumes, such as creams, such as chickpea hummus, for example, to spread on bread, or in soup, or in the form of sauces.
Once at home, the vegetables purchased should be cooked preferring simple cooking: steamed or grilled, in order to preserve their nutritional properties as much as possible. The little “aggressive” cooking also maintains the authentic taste of the ingredient and requires a reduced quantity of salt, thus limiting the risk of blood pressure rise.
What Do You Eat On A Vegetarian Diet In Pregnancy?
Here are some examples of what you can eat on a vegetarian diet when you are pregnant. In general, you should always have three main meals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus two small snacks in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon. During the day you can eat two portions of the fruit of 150 g, two portions of semi-skimmed milk of about 125 ml. or a jar of low-fat yogurt.
Alternatively, those who follow the vegan diet can choose between the various types of vegetable milk, according to their taste (almond, rice, soy milk). Cereals must not be missing (70-80 g), of which only 50% in the integral formula, in order not to take on too many fibers that can interfere with the absorption of nutrients. Three portions of vegetables must be added (80 g raw, 250 g to cook), for a total of five portions of vegetables a day, including fruit and vegetables.
For breakfast, the traditional cappuccino with rusks or toast and a veil of jam or honey can be fine. In addition, a glass of orange juice or fresh fruit.
In the middle of the morning, you can stop your hunger with yogurt. For lunch, you can prepare tasty quinoa and sesame meatballs with a side of steamed vegetables; for a snack of nuts, and for dinner a soup of legumes and mixed salad. All are enriched with two teaspoons of grated cheese and two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.
What Supplements Should Vegetarians Take?
Pregnant women who follow a vegan diet have the greatest risk of running into a significant deficiency of vitamin B12, found in meat, fish, eggs, milk, and dairy products. Therefore, both pregnant and breastfeeding, the vegan mother will have to take vitamin B12 supplements, essential – among other things – for the neurological development of the fetus.
Regarding iron, it is interesting to know that more iron is found in legumes than in meat; however, the iron contained in plants is not absorbed by the body with the same effect as that of animal origin. This is why it may be necessary to take supplements. Iron is an essential element, because, by binding to hemoglobin, it allows the transport of oxygen in the blood and is essential for the formation of red blood cells.
As for folic acid (vitamin B9), the deficiency of which can cause congenital defects of the neural tube in the unborn child (the best known is spina bifida), the supplement (usually prescribed when looking for a baby and for all the first trimester of pregnancy) may not be necessary, as women who follow a vegan diet often already consume an abundance of dark green leafy vegetables, a natural source of this vitamin.