DiscoverVege
Discovering Vegetarian/Vegan Diets and Recipes

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

It’s never too early to think about good nutrition

Optimising your diet during pregnancy and your infant’s diet early in life can help to protect their health into adulthood. A totally plant-based diet can meet everyone’s nutritional needs, including those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Ideally, pregnancy planning should include a review of your diet. As a starting point, read this to check your understanding of general healthy eating for vegans. The next step is to look into special considerations for pregnancy. Here are some basic tips:

  • Eat plenty of foods rich in iron, such as lentils, chickpeas, beans, tofu, cashew nuts, chia seeds, ground linseed, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, kale, dried apricots, dried figs, raisins, quinoa and fortified breakfast cereal
  • Eat plenty of calcium-rich foods, such as calcium-fortified foods and calcium-set tofu
  • Ensure a reliable daily intake of vitamin B12 from fortified foods or a supplement
  • Ensure a reliable iodine intake by using a supplement
  • Whilst trying for a baby and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, take a daily folic acid supplement
  • Take a daily supplement containing vitamin D
  • Consider microalgae omega-3 fat supplementation
  • Limit caffeine to 200 milligrams per day, which equates to a mug of filter coffee, two mugs of instant coffee, or two mugs of tea
  • Follow advice about food safety during pregnancy
  • Keep active
  • Monitor weight gain

Need more information about pregnancy? Read our detailed PDF.

Breast is best

Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first six months of your baby’s life. It is also recommended that you continue to breastfeed until your child is at least two years old. Here are some basic tips about eating well during breastfeeding:

  • Drink plenty of fluid
  • Breastfeeding requires extra protein and zinc, so make sure that your meals contain good sources, such as beans, chickpeas, lentils, tofu, cashew nuts, chia seeds, ground linseed, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds and quinoa
  • The calcium requirement for breastfeeding is nearly 80% more than the general requirement for adults, so it is strongly recommended that you include plenty of calcium-rich foods in your daily diet, such as calcium-fortified foods and calcium-set tofu
  • Ensure a reliable intake of vitamin B12 from fortified foods or a supplement
  • Ensure a reliable iodine intake by using a supplement
  • Take a daily supplement containing vitamin D
  • Consider microalgae omega-3 fat supplementation

If breastfeeding is not an option, infant formula is recommended. Soya-based infant formula can be fed to vegan infants when breastfeeding is not an option, but please speak to your health visitor or doctor before using it.

Need more information about breastfeeding? Read our detailed PDF.

Further information

  • Go here for NHS advice about food safety during pregnancy
  • If you need advice on talking to people about your vegan pregnancy, read our blog
  • Try Cooking Vegan by Dietitian Vesanto Melina and Chef Joseph Forest for nutritionally analysed recipes for all ages.
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