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Pregnancy Nutrition Tips for Vegetarians

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Ensuring you have a healthy dose of nutrients during pregnancy is important for the growth of your baby, especially if you're a vegetarian. According to the United States National Institutes of Health, you need approximately 300 extra calories a day during pregnancy. How you fill up on calories, though, matters to the child.

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Measuring the Weight Gain

It is perfectly fine to remain a vegetarian during pregnancy, but you'll have to maintain a healthy weight. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Women's Health, women at a healthy weight before pregnancy should gain 25 to 30 pounds while underweight women should gain between 28 to 40 pounds. Overweight women should gain between 15 and 25 pounds whereas obese women should gain 11 to 20 pounds. On average, women should gain 2 to 4 pounds total during the first trimester and 3 to 4 pounds a month for the rest of the pregnancy.

Replenishing Vitamin Fuel

Certain vitamins and nutrients may be deficient in the diet when a pregnant woman is a vegetarian, says Dr. Susan J. Dulkerian, Director of Newborn Services at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. Essential vitamins are abundant in animal products, such as fish, eggs and dairy products, says Dulkerian. She recommends speaking to your health care provider to discuss options to supplement the lack of those, especially B12. You and your physician can devise an efficient diet plan and vitamin regimen.

Ramping Up Protein Intake

All pregnant women must get enough protein, as well as omega 3s, to enhance fetal brain and vision development, says Dr. Kecia Gaither. Gaither is the Director of Maternal Fetal Medicine in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Brookdale University Hospital in Brooklyn, New York. She recommends a diet with walnuts, squash and green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach and broccoli. She also recommends cow or soy milk, yogurt, whole grains, beans, cheese and tofu for additional protein.

RELATED: Nutrition During Pregnancy for Vegetarians

Assessing Your Diet Plan

A pregnant women must have at least a three-day diet history to review with her OB/GYN says Dr. Clare Cardo McKegney. Cardo McKegney, a New Jersey-based pediatric nurse practitioner and co-founder of the Savvy Parent educational resources, says this is how a doctor can determine the specific diet needs of pregnancy. "Studies do suggest that many vegetarian diets are low in B-12, D, Calcium, protein and iodine," says Cardo McKegney. "Diets of a vegetarian should be assessed for those inefficiencies."

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