My sister is vegetarian and is thinking about having a baby. Before getting pregnant she wants to make sure that her vegetarian diet will meet the needs of a growing baby. She is planning on speaking to her doctor and a dietitian but would like to do some research on her own as well. She is also open to trying fish and eggs, if she has too. But her first choice would be to continue to maintain an entirely vegetarian diet during her pregnancy.

Does anyone have any experience with being vegetarian and pregnancy? Can you suggest some resources (either online or books) for the pregnant vegetarian?

asked 03 Feb '10, 02:20

cat_g's gravatar image

accept rate: 25%

I do! I am a lacto-ovo vegetarian, and have had two children. I did not find that it was all that difficult to meet my RDA's of nutrients while pregnant. I had previously started using to do a nutritional analysis of what I ate, and continued it through my pregnancy. If she eats well, with a good balance of healthy food, I don't think she will have much to worry about.

She should likely ensure that her prenatal vitamin meets the RDA for any hard to get vitamins/minerals in her diet (in my case it was B12, zinc and iron). If she doesn't do a lot of dairy, a calcium supplement might also be a good idea. I take one regularly, and my OB had me double mine during pregnancy.

If she is worried about protein, there are many good sources of protein for vegetarians - cheese and nuts being my favorite.


answered 03 Feb '10, 02:56

Krista's gravatar image

accept rate: 18%

edited 04 Feb '10, 01:48

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Tammy ♦♦

+1 for doing a nutritional analysis of what you ate. I think this would be useful for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians.

(03 Feb '10, 13:04) cat_g

Like Krista, I'm a lacto-ovo vegetarian (though I don't like eggs) and I never had trouble meeting my nutritional requirements. In addition, both my mother and mother-in-law are vegetarian and never had any trouble when they were pregnant.

Both Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and the Cleveland Clinic have nice entries on eating vegetarian while pregnant.

One cookbook I found helpful was The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook by Cathe Olson. Most of the recipes in it are vegan or can easily be adapted to be vegan. Truthfully, the actual recipes weren't my favorite but I found it relatively easy to adapt and she has a lot of good ideas for meeting various needs. For instance, there are appendixes in the back listing specific recipes that are high in protein, calcium, and iron. Note: Olson suggests some natural remedies for things such as ginger for morning sickness which I would clear with your doctor before using (there are conflicting studies about its safety while pregnant). She also uses flaxseed for some recipes which the Mayo Clinic suggests avoiding during pregnancy (though when I asked my obstetrician about this she gave me a blank stare).

I found NutritionData to be a helpful resource as one of the features it has is the ability to look for foods high in a specific nutrient. However, I don't recommend their recipe interface as the last time I tried, it was pretty clunky. If you're looking for something like that, I preferred SparkPeople (though I haven't tried it in years).


answered 03 Feb '10, 05:38

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Kiesa ♦
accept rate: 26%

+1 for the great links. Thanks!

(03 Feb '10, 12:59) cat_g

Also, it's great that you have both your mother and mother-in-law for support. My sister is concerned that her in-laws may not be very supportive of her vegetarianism while pregnant.

(03 Feb '10, 13:02) cat_g

I was a lacto-ovo vegetarian + fish when I became pregnant. I quickly found that it was hard for me to get enough protein. Fish wasn't always easy to come by, cheese was too fatty and greasy, and I started to crave chicken and even beef sometimes. I think that if I'd had more time, I could have been more careful about my diet and gotten all the nutrition I needed through vegetarian sources. But with a full-time job and being tired all the time, this was pretty tricky. Also, I was getting iron deficient, even with supplementation. It's hard for the body to absorb iron in non-animal forms.

Just wanted to throw another data point out there -- not meant to discourage her in any way. But she shouldn't beat herself up if she finds herself slipping at some point.


answered 03 Feb '10, 12:52

Anne's gravatar image

accept rate: 17%


+1 for "not beating herself up for slipping". I think this is good advice for some women. However, my sister has not eaten meat in 15 years and I don't think there is any chance of her "slipping". :)

(03 Feb '10, 12:58) cat_g

To increase iron absorption from non-animal sources, try consuming with vitamin C. NutritionData covers this here -

(03 Feb '10, 13:55) Krista

Yeah, pregnancy does weird things to the taste buds. I've never had meat so I didn't crave it but I went through a phase where I couldn't stand root vegetables and chocolate!

(03 Feb '10, 14:46) Kiesa ♦
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Asked: 03 Feb '10, 02:20

Seen: 3,546 times

Last updated: 04 Feb '10, 01:48