It’s funny how pregnant moms are given the OK by society to fill up on ice cream, Big Macs, French Fries and chocolate bars. Cravings are cravings, after all. Junk food seems to be an acceptable part of the pregnancy diet. But, if you tell some people you’re vegan or vegetarian, they ignore the fact that you’re filling up on healthy vegetables, fruit, legumes and beans, and instead balk at the thought of denying meat to your unborn child.
As a vegan or vegetarian, if you eat the right combinations of foods — whole grains, beans and legumes, and a rainbow of fruits and veggies — you’ll get all the nutrients you need to grow a healthy baby. And, you’ll be setting up your unborn baby for a lifetime of healthy eating choices and reduced risk of developing ailments such as diabetes, certain cancers, obesity and heart disease.
Some studies have even shown that vegan and vegetarian moms have lower levels of pesticides and herbicides in their breast milk than meat-eating mommies. So, by avoiding meat when you’re pregnant you can rest easy knowing that you’re delivering less harmful chemicals to your baby in utero, too.
Being a vegetarian or vegan has its benefits from the start of your pregnancy. All the foods that are deemed unsafe for consumption during pregnancy include meat or dairy: deli meat, raw meat, sushi, pate, fish high in mercury, raw shellfish, smoked seafoods, raw eggs, soft and unpasteurized cheeses and unpasteurized milk. Since most of these foods aren’t part of a vegan or vegetarian menu, avoiding them is a piece of cake.
Vegetarians should note that while hard cheeses are deemed safe to eat, be aware that tempting cheeses such as brie, camembert, chèvre, blue, stilton, sheep and goat are to be avoided, as they might contain listeria or salmonella. Listeriosis, an illness that develops due to a listeria contamination, can cause mild flu-like symptoms in a pregnant mom, but can cause miscarriage or loss of the baby at birth.