Vegan/Plant-Based Meal Plan for Pregnancy

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When looking online for a meal planner for pregnancy, I found a lot of information about what to eat, but not much to suggest how a normal person might get all of the required nutrients in a day. The diet plans I did find (like the one in Skinny Bitch: Bun in the Oven) were very, very specific, naming the brand of bread that you should eat with the brand of peanut butter you should spread on it, or whatever. I wanted to create something that was flexible, and would allow me to make sure I was meeting my nutritional requirements while eating seasonally.

So I made a chart with the following in the top row:

Whole Grains and Legumes (6 servings)Calcium (1000 mg)Yellow, Green, and Leafy Veggies and Fruits (3-4 servings)Vitamin C (85 mg)Protein (70 g)Iron (27 mg)Other veggies and fruits (1-2 servings)Fats (~4 servings)

Then the planning begins!

For me, there were a few things that I would get without even thinking about it: the fats and the whole grains/legumes. All of the other categories required some forethought. 

During the summer, my plan would look something like this:
Whole Grains and Legumes (6 servings)Calcium (1000 mg)Yellow, Green, and Leafy Veggies and Fruits (3-4 servings)Vitamin C (85 mg)Protein (70 g)Iron (27 mg)Other veggies and fruits (1-2 servings)Fats (~4 servings)
1 cup almond milk 450 mg 184 mg   1
Calcium supplement 600 mg      
Bagel2   11 g3.6 mg  
Smoothie: mango, tahini 60 g1602.6 g1.3m g 1
Yellow Fruit  1     
Grain-based snack (e.g. pb&j)       1
Quinoa black bean salad with a veggie1   66 g9.7 mg11
Yellow fruit  1     
Non-yellow fruit      1 
Supplement     18 mg  

By dinner, all I needed were some more carbs, my favorite thing! 

As the weather got colder, I started to have breakfast quinoa cooked in a cup of almond milk, with a serving of black bean soup for lunch. Instead of eating yellow fruits, I've been having more leafy veggies, which are in season now (like kale and brussels sprouts.) 

What I found is that the hardest things to get in a plant-based/vegan diet are calcium, protein, and iron. However, with a cup of almond milk, a cup of quinoa, and a cup of beans every day, those needs will be mostly met, and the supplement will take care of loose ends. If I'm careful about planning my meals and snacks for breakfast and lunch, by dinner I can eat pretty much whatever I want without having to worry about mixing in high-calcium veggies or any other specifics. 

If you want to be completely reliant on food for all nutrients, I think it's do-able, it would just require a lot of almond milk smoothies, and maybe a cup of edamame and lentils.  I don't mind trusting the prenatal vitamin as a dietary supplement, but some women feel very strongly that all nutrition should come from whole foods. I admire anyone who can do it, I already feel pretty fatigued with the amount of cooking that I've done during pregnancy, so I'm happy to take some help where I can. 

One thing to keep in mind, of course, is that women have been having babies for thousands of years, and the vast majority of them didn't count up how many green and leafy veggies they were consuming, yet humankind has managed to survive and evolve. I know that counting up exactly how many milligrams of iron are in each food item is *probably* overkill, but it was kind of fun, it felt like an early act of love for the baby, and for what it's worth, I've had a very happy and healthy pregnancy. And a note to the veggie doubters: my doctor said that my iron levels are through the roof and my blood-work in general is excellent, so yes, you can be safe and healthy during pregnancy without eating meat and dairy!

Growing the baby with delicious food!

Marina Gafni

Marina Gafni is a 28-year-old speech pathology student. She lives with her husband in San Jose, CA.


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