In all stages of life, including pregnancy and childbirth, a plant-based diet is beneficial. Not only is it beneficial to the mother’s wellbeing, but it also has a significant effect on the baby’s growth, though, the key is to eat a well-balanced plant-based diet in order to meet the body’s nutritional needs.

Is it safe to follow a Plant Based Diet in Pregnancy?

 Plant-based eaters have perfectly stable pregnancies and infants. However, it is still advisable to contact your OB/GYN during your first trimester. Since the first trimester is so important for laying a healthy foundation for the baby, always seek professional advice.

You should follow the below mentioned things to have a safer pregnancy:

  1. Always take Prenatal Supplements on time
  2. Have a balanced diet with all the essential nutrients
  3. Always discuss any signs and symptoms with your physician to regularly evaluate yourself and the baby.

Essential Nutrients During Pregnancy

Even though many nutrients are essential for pregnant women, some of them are important for the proper nutrition of the fetus too. When you’re pregnant and following a plant-based diet, protein, calcium, iron, vitamin B12, and vitamin D are all nutrients to keep in mind.

  1. Protein: Protein is more important than ever for pregnant women because it helps develop cells and produce hormones for your developing baby. If you’re concerned about not having enough protein, consider adding vegetable-based proteins to your diet.

Sources: tofu, soymilk, oatmeal, quinoa, chickpeas, green peas, kidney beans, walnuts, almonds, and cashews

  1. Calcium: Calcium is essential for the development of baby’s bones, muscles, heart, and nerves during pregnancy, particularly in the third trimester. It’s so important to the baby’s growth that if he doesn’t get enough calcium from your food, he’ll get it from your bones, and eventually put you at risk for osteoporosis later in life. Dairy though is not the only source of calcium, which is good news for plant-based eaters. Calcium can be obtained in ample amounts from a variety of plants too.

Sources: calcium fortified orange juice, tofu, soymilk, and green leafy vegetables

  1. Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12, in conjunction with folic acid, aids in the proper growth of the fetal brain, as well as the production of red blood cells and the construction of genetic material. Neural tube defects and an increased risk of preterm labor have been attributed to a deficiency. To avoid this, there are a number of plant-based alternatives too.

Sources: Fortified cereals and meat substitutes, Soymilk fortified with vitamin B12

  1. Iron: During pregnancy, your blood volume rises almost 50% to sustain you and your growing baby, and iron is needed to generate more red blood cells. Anemia is a result of low levels of iron, which can lead to preterm labor and low birth weight if left untreated. So, its always better to get sufficient amount of iron from the sources mentioned below.

Sources: beans, pumpkin seeds, seaweed, spinach, quinoa, edmame

  1. Vitamin D: Vitamin D aids in the development and maintenance of strong teeth and bones. Severe deficiency can lead to complications in newborns, including congenital rickets and bone fractures. Vitamin D can be obtained in ample amounts from a variety of plants too.

Sources: sunlight, carrots, almonds, cereals, fortified soy milk

3-Day Plant Based Meal Plan for Pregnancy

 This is a sample 3-day meal plan for plant-based diet in pregnancy.

Day 1

  • Breakfast: Mashed avocado and a fruit of choice
  • Lunch: Bowl of burrito
  • Dinner: Lentil soup, Bolognese spaghetti

Day 2

  • Breakfast: Soy Yogurt with berries
  • Lunch: lentil curry with rice
  • Dinner: Vegetable burger with side sweet potato

Day 3

  • Breakfast: fortified soymilk and almond milk smoothie
  • Lunch: Sandwich with mashed chickpeas, tomatoes, hummus
  • Dinner: Baked Tofu with quinoa

Snacks

  • Bowl of berries
  • Carrots and hummus
  • Walnuts and almonds
  • Cucumber and hummus
  • Fruit smoothie

Plant Based Diet and Breastfeeding

A plant-based mother can safely breastfeed her child without fear of depriving him or her of essential nutrients. Researchers believe plant-based moms can effectively breastfeed as long as the baby gets all of their essential nutrients. So, make sure your diet contains enough iron, calcium, zinc and vitamin b12, and your baby will be healthy.

Since a breastfeeding child obtains all of her nutrients from her mother’s milk, it’s important to be aware of what you eat while nursing. However, you can consume enough calcium-rich foods or take calcium supplements to preserve your own safe and solid teeth, bones, and overall health. (Murray, 2021)

When pregnant or breastfeeding, some doctors women recommend switching to a meat-free diet simply to make having good nutrition easier. If you don’t want to, consult with a health professional to ensure that you and your baby are getting the nutrition they need.

Plant Based Diet for Kids

Getting your children to eat a certain diet can be difficult at times. Children are prone to mimicking what they see, such as television advertisements encouraging them to eat junk foods high in saturated fats and other unhealthy ingredients. But, if you eat a plant-based diet as a parent, your children will almost definitely eat a plant-based diet as well.

Some parents, on the other hand, find it extremely difficult to keep their children away from junk foods containing meat and other unhealthy foods.

To counter that, make a serious effort to persuade your children to follow a plant-based diet by preparing a variety of recipes that include more vegetables and less meaty items. It is also preferable to make a gradual transition rather than rushing through the process.

Is Plant Based Diet Safe for the Kids?

Parents are often concerned about the health effects of a plant-based diet on their children. Children who eat a plant-based diet are as healthy as those who eat a variety of other diets. Plant-based eaters are less likely to develop diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and some types of cancer going forward.

Plant-based diets are perfectly healthy for people of all ages, including kids and teenagers.

Essential Nutrients for kids on a Plant Based Diet

  • Vitamin D: sunlight, fortified cereals
  • Zinc: potatoes, hummus, nuts
  • Iron: broccoli, lentil, kale, cabbage
  • Vitamin B12: soymilk, nutritional yeast

Tips to make your kids follow a Plant Based Diet

You can follow certain tips and tricks to bring your child towards a plant based diet without much difficulty.

  1. Always start slowly
  2. Gradually replace the ingredients on the plate with more vegetables
  3. Look for different tasty recipes for your kids
  4. Teach your kids about the importance of plants and their health benefits
  5. Don’t force them towards it. Loosen the rope if they are reluctant and start over again few days later.
  6. Talk about how unhealthy junk food and its impact on the health of kids
  7. Always consult a pediatrician if your child shows any signs and symptoms

Plant Based Recipes for Kids

Recipes that are kid-friendly can be difficult to come by because each child’s taste in food is so different! But the good news is that your taste buds will adapt and improve over time. Even as children, the more we are exposed to unique, fresh tastes, the more we come to appreciate them.

  1. Plant Based Pizza: Yes, this recipe is basic and uses market-bought pizza crust. But it’s topped with vegetables and in the form of a pizza, so the kids can enjoy it. You can improvise the vegetables according to your kids liking.
  2. Enchiladas with black beans: Enchiladas are filling, flavorful, and soothing. When adding vegetables to recipes like this one, its better to dice or mince them because most kids would not notice or pick them out if the vegetables are cut too small.
  3. Sweet Potatoes: Sweet potatoes have higher fiber content than white potatoes. Fiber is important for feeling satisfied and keeping energy and sugar levels in check. Roasted sweet potatoes are delectable addition to meals or a tasty snack on their own.
  4. Protein Bread Toast: There are delicious toast ideas made with plant-based protein sources such as nut and seed butters and nut and seed toppings.
  5. Blueberry Muffins: A gluten-free baking mix may be used to make these muffins gluten-free. The fiber and good omega 3 fats in ground flaxseeds are considered to help brain and heart health.
  6. Jelly Oats: Oatmeal is a fun way to prepare and eat oats. This recipe also contains a no-sugar-added homemade strawberry chia jam.
  7. Strawberry Peanut Butter Smoothie: It has a creamy flavor. Increase your vegetable intake by adding a handful of spinach.
  8. Fruit Cookies: These are a delicious way to fulfill a sweet tooth while also providing fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein, and healthy fats thanks to the nut butter.
  9. Fruit Waffles: Waffles are loved by people of all ages. These gluten-free, plant based waffles are fast and easy to create.
  10. Vegetable Rolls: Seaweed snacks are a favorite among children. For your children, you can make a variety of vegetable rolls.

Bottom Line

A plant-based pregnancy can be both healthy and enjoyable. You’ll want to make sure you’re getting enough calcium, fatty acids, folate, iron, vitamins B12 and D, and zinc, just as you would during any other pregnancy.

Pregnant plant-based eaters who eat a well-balanced plant-based diet can choose to take a prenatal vitamin to help fill in any nutritional gaps, particularly for Vitamins B12 and D.

Children who grow up eating a plant-based diet are less likely to develop chronic diseases later in life. However, it is important to make the move as soon as possible because the sooner they become used to consuming a plant-based diet, the better off they will be in the long run.

Reference:

 Murray, D., 2021. Tips for Breastfeeding on a Vegetarian, Vegan, or Similar Diet. [online] Verywell Family. Available at: <https://www.verywellfamily.com/breastfeeding-and-vegetarian-diets-431861> [Accessed 29 April 2021].

 HealthyChildren.org. 2021. Plant-Based Diets: Are They Good for Kids?. [online] Available at: <https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Plant-Based-Diets.aspx> [Accessed 29 April 2021].

 Healthy Grocery Girl. 2021. 30 KID FRIENDLY PLANT-BASED RECIPES | Healthy Grocery Girl. [online] Available at: <https://www.healthygrocerygirl.com/blog/30-kid-friendly-plant-based-recipes/> [Accessed 29 April 2021].

 MamaSezz. 2021. Pregnant and Vegan: Here’s What I Ate During My Pregnancy (3 Day Meal Plan). [online] Available at: <https://www.mamasezz.com/blogs/news/pregnant-and-vegan-meal-plan> [Accessed 29 April 2021].

 Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. 2021. Nutrition for Kids. [online] Available at: <https://www.pcrm.org/good-nutrition/nutrition-for-kids> [Accessed 29 April 2021].

 Nationwidechildrens.org. 2021. Are Plant-Based Diets Safe for Kids?. [online] Available at: <https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/family-resources-education/700childrens/2020/01/are-plant-based-diets-safe-for-kids> [Accessed 29 April 2021].