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Veganism & Pregnancy

the pregnant vegan

Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Clinton, Ariana Grande, Peter Dinklage, Jennifer Lopez, Alec Baldwin, Stevie Wonder, Miley Cyrus, Jared Leto, Brad Pitt, and Madonna all have something in common. Yes, they’re all famous, but they are all also known vegans.

5% of people in the United States identify themselves as vegetarian. 2% consider themselves vegan. Now, two percent doesn’t sound like a big deal, until we note that two percent of the U.S. population is an estimated 6 million people.

Vegetarians are those who avoid meat, while vegans avoid meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, and other dairy products altogether, opting for a strictly plant based diet (fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, seeds, and nuts).

The term “vegan” was coined in England in 1944 by Donald Watson and five other non-dairy vegetarians when they gathered to create a new word to describe this new subcategory of the vegetarian diet and lifestyle. Dairyban, vitan, and benevore were all early candidates, but ultimately the group settled with a combination of the first three letters and last two letters of the word vegetarian — “vegan.”

The Vegan Society describes Veganism as “a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”

Main Street Vegan notes that we are currently in a boom time for veganism with the rise of popular vegan related publications like Skinny Bitch and The China Study timed with the release of influential documentaries like EarthlingsVegucated, Forks Over Knives, Fat, Sickly & Nearly Dead, and Cowspiracy. Not to mention the exponential growth attributed to the rise in vegan blogs, podcasts, and social media.

Veganism is at an all time high, but with substantial popularity comes substantial critique. Kat Von D, tattoo artist and cosmetic company founder of Kat Von D Beauty recently shared a glimpse of this while sharing her pregnancy with the online world.

This is my body. This is our child. And this is our pregnancy journey. -@thekatvond

“[I]f you don’t know what it’s like [to] have people around you think you are ridiculous, try being openly vegan. And, if you don’t know what it’s like to have the entire world openly criticize, judge, throw uninformed opinions, and curse you – try being an openly pregnant vegan on Instagram, having a natural, drug-free home birth in water with a midwife and doula, who has the intention of raising a vegan child.. ” Von D captioned under an Instagram photo of her cradling her pregnant belly.

Is it safe to eat vegan while pregnant?

The short answer, yes.

The longer answer is still yes. It is relatively safe for Mamas to be vegan during pregnancy, but like every pregnancy, there are risks that can occur when Mamas don’t pay special attention to their diet, with or without meat and dairy.

the vegan plate guide to healthy diet

Medical experts, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the American Dietetic Association (ADA), all greenlight plant-based eating. They believe that the diet can be healthy and nutritionally adequate with proper planning. They all heavily advise that vegan moms pay attention to their nutrition intake so that all the proper nutrients are being consumed as nutritional deficiencies are more pronounced during vegan diets because pregnancies require specific amounts of certain vitamins and minerals.

“There’s no stage in life where nutrition matters so much as it does during pregnancy. After all, you’re providing the nutrition necessary to support two lives,” writes Reed Mangels (PhD, RD) at the top of his vegan pregnancy diet guide.

Mangels notes that the nutrients a pregnant vegan woman should especially be aware of are: protein, vitamin B12, folic acid, iron and zinc, iodine, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and vitamin D. OB-GYNS will monitor these nutrients during pregnancy regardless of whether the person is vegan or not. The trouble being that the standard diet most doctors base their nutritional assumptions on include the regular consumption of fish, meat, and some dairy. Meaning those who eat a vegan diet need to scale up from the normal recommendations. Women who do not eat meat during pregnancy are especially at risk for iron and B12. The good news is that these nutrients as well as the others listed can all be fulfilled with the aid of supplements, fortified food, and high quality prenatal vitamins.

Iron, for example, is a mineral that helps red blood cells deliver oxygen to the fetus and also protects pregnant women from anemia, and is found in high concentration in red meat, pork, fish, and eggs. But plant based sources like prune juice, blackstrap molasses, spinach, raisins, and iron-fortified cereals are also great iron-rich options. To help absorb the iron contained in food it’s recommended to eat vitamin c-rich foods as well, such as red peppers, citrus fruits, strawberries, and sprouted grains.

Luckily, there are many guides available online to help Mamas find vegan alternatives to all the nutrient requirements. Always always always consult with your doctor about your dietary needs if there are any changes in your diet that you are unsure about.

To all our mamas out there who are vegan or thinking about the vegan pregnancy route, yes, a vegan pregnancy is possible! However, like every part of the pregnancy journey, be extra mindful and open to what your body needs.

Written by Joyce Torres

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Diet During Pregnancy

Food During Pregnancy

One of our favorite moments here at Mama Strut is when we get to collaborate with thought-leading mamas trying to help other mamas. There’s a lot of confusion around how to eat when pregnant and there is so much information to take in. That’s why we decided to ask an expert in nutrition and mama-to-be to help shed some light on diet during pregnancy.

“Natural, organic and unrefined foods speak a language your genes understand. And when your food communicates nicely with your genes, they’ll express themselves properly and healthily so you can begin feeling that you’re actually living and not just surviving.” ― Thorbjörg HafsteinsdottirIntroducing Anna

Welcome! My name is Anna, and I run the website and the Instagram @TeachEatRepeat. I am an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, and I help women reduce symptoms of inflammation, like bloating, stomach distress, and weight gain, through small food and lifestyle changes. I used to be a classroom teacher, and it was while teaching I discovered I had an autoimmune disease, and as a result, discovered the power of whole foods in my health.

When my husband and I were thinking about getting pregnant, I delved into the WIDE WIDE world of pregnancy nutrition, to see what I could do to get my body ready to conceive and also carry a healthy and happy baby. While there are MILLIONS of suggestions, and pieces of advice out there, I think there are a few main tenants that can really help put you, your baby, and your family on the road to success.

Did you know that the pre-natal environment you provide for your offspring through what you eat, drink, breathe, or stress about is what your child will come to expect of the world he/she is about to enter?

It literally shapes them for life.

Deep Breath. I said that, but I also want you to relax. Millions of healthy babies are born to moms who are malnourished because of circumstance, eat fast food every day, and who don’t exercise. That said, when you know better, you do better. My goal with this article is to help you find the balance between ideal and sustainable—perfect nutrition and what’s workable in your real, everyday life.

Your motto during pregnancy should be: do YOUR best. (In fact, I would argue that pre-natal nutrition is perhaps MORE important than during your pregnancy). Don’t compare your fitness or diet to anyone else’s because everyone’s body handles pregnancy differently, depending on what her unique little baby needs. In your first trimester, you may not be able to stomach a lot of these foods, and that’s okay. Chronic stress about not eating a healthful diet is going to be WORSE for your baby than eating a pizza, or chicken nuggets, or a bagel (can you tell I speak from experience?)  Focus on what you CAN eat, and try to make it as high of quality as possible. Only want mac & cheese? Try the brand “Banza” which is made from chickpeas, so it contains more fiber, protein and vitamins than other pastas!

The Breakdown

There are so many ways you can consider pregnancy nutrition: by macronutrient values, by micronutrient values or even by categories of food. But I’d rather you focus on food quality. Focus on, real and whole foods, (closest to the way nature made them.) Think of skin, not package! If your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize it…don’t eat it! Here are the foods you should focus on:

  • Vegetables – nutrient-dense, low in calories, low in fat, loaded with water and full of phytochemicals (compounds in plants thought to have anticancer and anti-inflammation properties). Vegetables give us LIFE. (Organic is best)
  • Fruits – loaded with many beneficial compounds, nutrients, flavonoids, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and polyphenols (micronutrients that we get in plants that can help with digestion, weight management and lifestyle disease prevention). They are nature’s sweet treat. (Organic is best)
  • Whole grains and starchy vegetables – a major source of complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, minerals, and B vitamins. They help stabilize our blood sugar and provide all kinds of benefits to the body and brain
  • Legumes (beans) – supply our bodies with many important nutrients, antioxidants, fiber and phytochemicals. They are high in protein and when combined with grains, they make a complete protein.
  • Nuts and seeds – loaded with fiber, phytochemicals, protein, healthy fats, and polyphenols.
  • Unprocessed foods – the more natural the better. Stay away from boxed foods as much as possible. They are loaded with all kinds of junk.
  • Organic – (meats, eggs, fish, vegetables, fruits, milk, nuts, beans, etc.) Organic is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.
  • Fermented foods rich in probiotics – For example Kefir, miso, kimchee, sauerkraut and yogurt. Be careful of added sugar in flavored yogurt or kefir.
  • Meats from grass-fed animals and eggs from cage-free, organically fed chickens – higher in omega 3, rich in DHA, vitamin A, D, E, K, higher in CLA (fat- burning) and higher in tryptophan, which helps with sleep and mood.
  • Good fats – cold pressed olive oil, wild fish, virgin coconut oil, avocado, nuts and seeds. If you have a hard time digesting nuts or seeds, you can soak them for 6-7 hours. Get your omega 3’s!
  • Fiber-rich foods – 20-30 grams a day from complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables.

This is a huge list. When composing your meal, try to think….Do I have a…

  1. Protein
  1. Green veggie
  1. Starchy veggie or fruit
  1. Source of healthy fat

If you do, your meal is healthy, and you don’t need to worry about counting anything. I wish you a healthy, and happy pregnancy! For more information, please visit my website or email me at I look forward to hearing from you!

The materials and content within this blog post are intended as general information only, and are not to be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This article is going to focus on real, whole-foods, rather than supplements or individual nutrient recommendations. Your dr. can tell you how much of each nutrient he or she recommends, as the recommendations are generally standard, but only your dr. can read your blood tests and know what you’ve got enough of or what you’re lacking.