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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Vegetarian and Vegan Pregnancies

Starting a few years ago, before children were even being thought of seriously and planned out, people would ask me "So you're a vegetarian.  Is your husband? Are you going to raise your children vegetarian?" I've always said that I want to make as healthy choices as I can for my children but I also don't want to entirely eliminate a source of protein when children tend to be pretty picky anyway. In other words, my kids are most likely going to limit the choices on themselves so why would I want to limit their dietary variety even more?  Oh, yeah, and my husband is definitely not a vegetarian but is a huge supporter of my choice and has never made me feel weird or like a burden about it. 

So anyway, we'll see with this little one how it goes with encouraging a well balanced, as healthy as possible diet.  Back to pregnancy....

One of the surprising things about this pregnancy was the dietary restriction of the first few months.  As many know, morning sickness is typically a big part of the early months of pregnancy.  While I only threw up once, I did have a pretty constant, low level of nausea the first trimester.  This was a challenge particularly because my biggest culprit was ALL THINGS DAIRY.  I am a lacto-vegetarian so this was a hard adjustment.  (I also really was imagining eating lots of yummy milkshakes during my pregnancy...).  Therefore, I became a vegan during most of my pregnancy.  Another challenge was that I was training for a half marathon which was taking place at 16 weeks. I now needed to fuel appropriately for half marathon training and that race and make sure I was fueling for my body and growing baby all with a shift of available food choices. 

So what did I do? Well I ate as well balanced as I could, although my picky stomach limited what I found appealing. I talked to my OB about it and they all told me not to worry too much, that its just a phase and it will get better. I really did make the best choices I could, and tried not to freak out about anything in particular. I probably had a higher carb to protein ratio than I wanted but again, I knew it would be short lived and I could get back to a better ratio soon. I also talked to my doctor about vitamins. I had been taking a prenatal and DHA for a long time before we became pregnant.  The doctors at my OB practice suggested taking a calcium and B-vitamin supplement as well just to be sure I was getting all that I needed.  One big thing worth mentioning is that I am normally gelatin free (which comes in lots of things, including some yogurts and soft gel pills).  I did have a soft gel DHA that unfortunately contains gelatin that I took for a little while because at the time I couldn't find one that was gelatin free.  I have to evaluate my priorities and weigh the pros and cons.  It is more important to me that my baby gets the DHA she needs than I stick so rigidly to my gelatin free lifestyle.  You can find some DHA that doesn't include gelatin and I suggest doing so if you can, but at the end of the day, do the best you can with what you have and realize the importance now goes beyond just you! 

1. Really evaluate your priorities and weigh the pros and cons of certain choices knowing that your baby is now the most important part of you.

2. Keep an open dialog with your doctors and a registered dietician about your food intake, any questions you have, and possible recommendations.  My experience is that they are much more supportive than you might think!

3. Know that even if you have to cave in a certain realm of your diet, its probably only for a short time and then you can go back to choices you are more comfortable with.

4. Explore new foods and techniques to obtaining nutrients.  A friend of mine who is an RD once recommended that I try peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast and I thought that sounded so weird.  Thinking outside the box can sometimes be a great solution, even if its only temporary!

Here are a couple of resources on vegan/vegetarian pregnancies in case you are interested:

Vegan and Vegetarian Diets during Pregnancy

Vegan Pregnancy

Vegetarian Pregnancy

PS One of my fears was that I'd become one of those pregnant ladies you hear about who suddenly craves a big mac or something.  Thankfully I've gotten this far and have had no such desires!!! :)

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