Pregnancy Nutrition

Pregnancy Nutrition

Eating well in your pregnancy and sticking to your beliefs about veganism and vegetarianism are some of the greatest gifts you can give your unborn baby. How you eat while pregnant and breastfeeding is the only time in your life that your eating habits directly and immediately effect the health of another human being.

Getting all the right nutrients you need for a healthy vegan or vegetarian pregnancy is easy if you eat a wide variety of whole grains, beans and legumes, and a rainbow of fruits and veggies. But like any pregnant mom-to-be, you should be aware of your body’s increased needs for certain nutrients, including iron, folic acid, calcium and omega-3 fats, as well as vitamins D and B12.

Recommended Dietary Allowance Non-pregnant, non-lactating adult female Pregnant Breastfeeding
Folate/Folic Acid (mcg/day)




Iron (mg/day)




Vitamin A (mcg RAE/day)




Vitamin C (mg/day)




Vitamin D (mcg/day)




Calcium (mg/day)




Zinc (mg/day)




Vitamin B6 (mg/day)




Magnesium (mg/day) 310 (19-30 years old)

320 (31-50 years old)

350 (19-30 years old)

360 (31-50 years old)

310 (19-30 years old)

320 (31-50 years old)

Vitamin B12 (mcg/day)


2.6 2.8
Energy Requirements (kcals/day) 1900 (19-30 years old)

1800 (31-50 years old)

19-30 years old

First trimester: 1900 + 0

Second trimester: 1900 + 340

Third trimester: 1900 + 452

31-50 years old

First trimester: 1800 + 0

Second trimester: 1800 + 340

Third trimester: 1800 + 452

19-30 years old

0-6 months postpartum: 1900+300

7-12 months postpartum: 1900+400

31-50 years old

0-6 months postpartum: 1800+300

7-12 months postpartum: 1800+400

Folate (Folic Acid): Folic acid is extremely important during pregnancy and while you’re trying to get pregnant too. It’s especially important during the first 6 weeks of pregnancy, as this is when your body is creating your baby’s spinal cord and brain. Folic Acid helps to ensure that no abnormalities develop, such as spina bifida, hydrocephalus or other neurological disorders. Dark leafy greens (such as spinach), avocados, lentils, almonds and bananas are examples of whole foods rich in folate.

Vitamin A: Vitamin A helps your unborn baby’s growth, especially the heart, lungs, kidneys, eyes and bones, and also the respiratory, circulatory and central nervous systems. It is very important for women who are further along in their pregnancy, as it helps with postpartum tissue repair and can help fight off any infections after giving birth. Sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, squash and eggs are rich in Vitamin A. Be aware that taking a Vitamin A supplement is generally unnecessary — too much Vitamin A can be harmful to your unborn baby. Speak to your doctor if you are concerned about your Vitamin A intake.

Vitamin B6: During pregnancy your estrogen levels rise. Vitamin B6 helps balance hormones and regulate moods (yes, being cranky during pregnancy is a thing!), and can also act as a diuretic. Swollen ankles will happen, and Vitamin B6 may help to alleviate them. B6 might even help reduce morning sickness, so it truly is a miracle vitamin. Vitamin B6 is found in many yummy foods such as peanuts, avocados, tomatoes, bananas and bell peppers, so getting enough should be easy if you’re eating a balanced diet.

Vitamin B12: As a vegan or vegetarian, the need for supplementing Vitamin B12 is already there, as most naturally occurring food sources of B12 are animal-based. But, as you increase your folic acid intake, you need to keep a close eye on your B12 intake as well — folic acid can mask a B12 deficiency. Proper levels of B12 during pregnancy have been shown to effect mental function in infants. Vitamin B12 is found in fortified milks and cereals, fortified nutritional yeast, eggs, and even in peanuts and peas.

Vitamin C: Vitamin C helps develop your unborn baby’s bones and skin, as well as his immune system. Excessive Vitamin C can cause preterm birth or even scurvy in your unborn child, so by eating a balanced diet of whole, plant-based foods will ensure you’re getting just the right amount. Oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, strawberries and red peppers are delicious, excellent sources of Vitamin C.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps build your baby’s bones and teeth — a deficiency could cause rickets in your baby at birth, growth abnormalities, skeletal deformities and poor immune function from childhood through to adulthood. Not enough Vitamin D can also cause complications during pregnancy, such as pre-eclampsia. Sunlight is the best way to get Vitamin D, but it is also found in fortified plant milks, fortified cereals and breads, as well as vitamin supplements. Vegetarians can also get Vitamin D from fortified milk and eggs.

Iron: As your baby belly grows, so does your blood volume. Iron helps produce your newly needed red blood cells and helps to prevent anemia. Your growing baby also requires iron from your iron stores, as does the placenta. Iron deficiency can cause pre-term birth, low birth weight and even infant mortality. As a vegan or vegetarian, you’ll need to eat lots of food rich in iron, but you should also take an iron supplement to ensure you’re getting what you need. Foods rich in iron include leafy green vegetables, beans and legumes, pumpkin seeds, dried fruits and blackstrap molasses.

Magnesium: During pregnancy, magnesium helps build and repair body tissues, and it helps build your baby’s bones and teeth.. A deficiency can lead to pre-eclampsia, poor fetal growth or infant mortality. Magnesium and calcium work hand-in-hand, stimulating and relaxing muscles. A diet rich in magnesium is thought to keep the uterus from contracting prematurely. Magnesium is found in lots of tasty foods, including sunflower and pumpkin seeds, leafy green vegetables, quinoa, brown rice and nuts such as cashews.

Calcium: Calcium helps build your baby’s teeth, bones, heart, nerves and muscles. It also helps with mom’s circulation, so it is essential. If you aren’t taking in enough calcium it will be taken from your bones in order for your baby to develop. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to up your cow’s milk intake in order to meet your calcium needs. It is abundant in loads of plant-based foods, including broccoli, nuts, seeds, leafy greens and molasses.

Protein: If you’re eating a wide variety of whole grains, beans, legumes, fruits and vegetables, protein won’t be a problem. But, as a vegan or vegetarian, your protein intake will probably be a concern for those around you, from family members to friends, and maybe even your doctor. In fact, eating too much protein can be harmful to your health as it can strain your liver and kidneys, and store excess protein as fat. Legumes (e.g. chickpeas, black beans and kidney beans), nuts and seeds, whole grains and soy are examples of plant-based foods high in protein. But protein is found in everything, even carrots, so a balanced diet will most certainly meet your protein requirements.