WellSpan Home

Pregnancy: Vegetarian Diet

Topic Overview

A balanced vegetarian diet can provide all the nutrients you need for a healthy pregnancy. If you eat a vegetarian diet, pay special attention to getting enough protein, vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D, zinc, and iron while you are pregnant and breastfeeding. These nutrients are vital to your fetus's cellular growth, brain and organ development, and weight gain.

Consider working with a registered dietitian to be sure you are eating a balanced diet, particularly if you plan to eat a vegan diet.

  • Protein. Protein is made of building blocks called amino acids, which are essential to fetal cell growth and development. Dairy products, eggs, fish, seafood, poultry, and meat are excellent sources of the essential amino acids. While a vegetarian menu that includes eggs and dairy provides quality protein, a plant food–only vegan diet requires careful planning. A variety of plant-based protein sources must be included in your daily diet.
  • Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is found only in foods from animal sources, such as milk, eggs, and meat. To support a vegan diet, be sure to eat foods fortified with vitamin B12 (such as fortified soy milk) or take a supplement that contains vitamin B12.
  • Iron. Iron from plant foods is not absorbed as well as iron from meats. Include beans, lentils, and leafy green vegetables in your diet. Try not to rely too heavily on cheese (a very poor source of iron) for protein. Eat foods that contain vitamin C to improve the absorption of iron from a meal.
  • Calcium. If you don't use milk or milk products, be sure to get calcium from other sources. Soy milk fortified with calcium is a good source. Nonmilk sources of calcium include calcium-enriched tofu, calcium-fortified orange juice, corn tortillas made with lime (calcium carbonate), almonds, turnip greens, broccoli, mustard greens, kale, and blackstrap molasses.
  • Zinc. Zinc from plant foods is poorly absorbed by the body, so make an effort to get enough zinc in your diet. Good sources of zinc include leavened whole grains (such as whole-wheat bread), legumes (beans and lentils), soy foods, vegetables, and milk and yogurt.
  • Vitamin D. If you don't use milk or milk products, be sure to get enough vitamin D from other sources. Soy milk is often fortified with vitamin D, as are some cereals. Your body can also produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight on a regular basis. You may need a supplement if you don't consume a source of vitamin D and don't get adequate sunlight.

Prenatal vitamins are very important for pregnant women who are on a vegan diet.

Talk to your doctor about how to get all the nutrients you need with a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Related Information

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerSarah A. Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerKirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology, Reproductive Endocrinology

Current as ofNovember 21, 2017


Are you sure you would like to cancel?

All information will be lost.

Yes No ×

About the provider search

This search will provide you with WellSpan Medical Group and Northern Lancaster County (Ephrata) Medical Group primary care physicians and specialists. If we don’t have a WellSpan Medical Group physician to meet your criteria, the search will expand to include community physicians who partner with WellSpan Medical Group physicians through the WellSpan Provider Network or provide care to patients on the Medical Staffs of WellSpan’s Hospitals.

×

Schedule Your Next Appointment Online with MyWellSpan

Use your MyWellSpan patient portal any time to view available appointments, and pick the date and time that best suits your schedule.

Go to MyWellSpan

New to this practice?

If you don't have a WellSpan primary care provider and would like to schedule a new patient appointment with a provider who is accepting patients, just log into your MyWellSpan account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to see the offices that are accepting new patients in relation to your zip code. If you are not enrolled in MyWellSpan, go to https://my.wellspan.org, call 1-866-638-1842 or speak with a member of the staff at a participating facility to sign up. New patient scheduling not available at all practices/programs.

Already a patient at this practice?

If you already have a relationship with a WellSpan practice, simply log into your account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to schedule an appointment with any provider or practice that already counts you as a patient. Online scheduling varies by practice/program.

×