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If you’ve been a vegetarian for a while, you’ve probably
learned what it takes to stay healthy when meat is absent from your diet. Tofu,
eggs, beans: These are all perfectly acceptable protein substitutes under
But what about when you’re pregnant?
We got to wondering, when you’re eating for two, do the same
healthy eating rules apply for vegetarians, or does eating meat become more
important? We decided to chat with the experts to find out.
Is it OK to skip
meat when you’re pregnant?
Turns out it is—as long as you’re healthy about it, but always check with your doctor. “The
same rules apply to vegetarianism that do when a woman isn’t pregnant,” says Dr. Vikas Sachar, a Maternal Fetal Medicine Expert and ob-gyn in Lynwood, Calif. “You
need to eat a protein with every meal, but whether that protein is animal or
plant derived doesn’t really matter.”
The problem comes in when vegetarians stick to a diet of
mostly carbohydrates. “Your brain doesn’t realize you’re full when you eat
carbohydrate-rich food like rice, tortillas and noodles, and there are no real
health benefits to those types of foods,” the doctor added. “Protein makes you
feel fuller faster, and it’s healthier for you because it produces enzymes,
hormones and other substances to resist disease and give you energy.”
Are all the same
protein sources OK to eat when you’re pregnant?
The most important thing is to focus on a balanced diet, and
as long as you’re getting a range of nutrients, including things like vitamins,
omega-3 fatty acids and folic acids, most vegetarian diets are fine for
pregnant women as well. “Being a vegetarian doesn’t necessarily mean that you
are not getting the vitamins and minerals both your body and the baby’s body
will need,” says Dr. Roseline Dauphin-Baptiste, an ob-gyn in Glendale, Calif. “As long as you’re
substituting what you’re missing from the meat group with things like beans,
fish, tofu and eggs—which are all fine to eat when you’re pregnant, as well—you
should be OK.”
Will I need to take a
It wouldn’t hurt to take a supplement, as long as you OK it
with your doctor ahead of time, but it might not be completely necessary,
either, says Dauphin-Baptiste. “In general, if you watch what you eat and
make sure you get enough protein, you could be fine without it,” she said.
Sachar agrees. “You just have to be careful which ones
you take,” he said. “There are so many options today, and during pregnancy is
not the best time to go supplement crazy. Things like fish oil, and a prenatal
vitamin with a minimum of iodine are good, as well as something with a low
grade of vitamin D. No matter what you take, though, the most important thing
is to run it by your doctor before starting any supplement routine.”