Meat is packed with protein, so as a vegetarian you may need to work a little harder to make sure your diet meets the recommended protein quota. This is even more important when pregnant, and you may be worrying that you're not eating enough protein to meet your baby's need. Fortunately, a wide range of vegetarian foods contain protein, so there's no need to bring on the beef when you're pregnant.
Protein, Especially Now
Protein is packed with amino acids, which are vital for healthy cell development. It's particularly important during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, as this is your baby's rapid-growth phase. Pregnant women need a lot more protein than non-pregnant women. Around 70 grams of protein per day is recommended for pregnant women, says the pregnancy and parenting website BabyCenter, while non-pregnant women only require around 45 grams. You don't need to eat 70 grams each and every day -- you can aim for that amount as an average over an entire week, BabyCenter explains.
Beans, Cheese and Nuts
A balanced vegetarian diet should meet your protein requirements during pregnancy, says the article "Vegetarian Diets for Pregnancy" for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. If you eat dairy foods, you may get all the protein you need from milk, cheese and yogurt. If you don't eat dairy, include soy products (soy milk, miso and tofu), legumes (various types of peas and beans, such as green peas, chickpeas, kidney beans and pinto beans), whole grains (brown rice, whole-grain cereals, barley, couscous and millet), nuts and seeds (walnuts, cashews, almonds, brazil nuts and pumpkin seeds) in your diet.
Sample Daily Diet
You know what vegetarian foods to get your vital pregnancy protein from, but you may be wondering how you can incorporate them into your meals. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has a useful chart to help you plan a nutritious vegetarian pregnancy diet. For example, aim to eat five to six servings (the equivalent of a half-cup cooked beans or tofu) of legumes or soy products and one to two servings (two to four tablespoons) of nuts and seeds per day.
Vitamins and Other Nutrients
In addition to protein, other vital nutrients are important during pregnancy. As a pregnant vegetarian, you need to make sure you get enough calcium, iron, vitamin B12 and vitamin D, advises the article "Eating Vegetarian and Vegan During Pregnancy" on the What to Expect website. Consume dairy, leafy green vegetables, fruit juices and sesame seeds for calcium. Beans, seaweed, spinach, beans, soy products and barley are good iron sources. Vitamin B12 is only present in foods that come from animals, so this means plenty of dairy. Drink milk and eat fortified breakfast cereals and bread for vitamin D, and of course get a few minutes of sunshine whenever possible. Don't forget omega-3 fatty acids, says BabyCenter, to help your baby's brain and vision development. Fish is a great source of omega-3s, but if you don't like fish make sure you eat plenty of leafy green vegetables, flax seed, squash and canola oil. If you're a vegan, you may need to discuss the option of a dietary supplement with your doctor to provide the nutrients you won't get from dairy.
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