Eating for a Healthy, Active Pregnancy

I’ve had a few questions about what I’ve been eating during pregnancy, so I’ll share! A great pregnancy nutrition resource, by the way, is The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition by Julieanna Hever, MS R.D. C.P.T., which contains some very detailed information on calorie and nutrient needs during this time.

At 8 months pregnant I’ve gained about 26 lbs; the recommended total weight gain for a woman of normal weight is about 25-35 lbs. If you’re underweight it should be slightly more, and if you’re overweight or obese it should be less. Unfortunately, I’ve read that weight gain during pregnancy is largely responsible for the female half of the obesity epidemic. I can understand the desire to treat yourself and to relax a bit from pressure to look fit, BUT in gaining excess weight you incur health and pregnancy complication risks for yourself as well as health and childhood obesity risks for your unborn child. Not to mention that if you already feel physically crappy and emotionally vulnerable, feeling like you also look like crap because you’re gaining too much weight is not going to help.

According to Julieanna Hever, your calorie needs don’t increase at all during the first trimester. During the second trimester you need about 340 extra calories per day, and in the third an additional 452 calories per day. Quality calories, for building a healthy baby, not calories in the form of doughnuts and breadsticks, vegan or not! You can accomplish this increase pretty easily with a fruit/vegetable/non-dairy milk smoothie, adding a tablespoon or so of almond butter later on in pregnancy to bump up the calories even more.

That said, I haven’t counted calories and I have allowed myself more fat and sugar in my diet than previously. I’ve been able to do this without fear of unhealthy weight gain or poor nutrition for a couple of reasons:

  1. I’ve continued to exercise throughout my pregnancy, lifting weights 2-4 times per week and dancing 5-6 hours per week. Judging by the constant surprised remarks I get at the gym and the dance studio I train at, that’s unusual!
  2. I never replace healthy snacks with treats devoid of nutritional value. Yes, I will sometimes have some hemp ice cream or a vegan chocolate chip cookie but when I do I still have my apple or sprouted pita with hummus snack.

I’ve had no issues with uncontrollable cravings or feeling starved as seems to be common among pregnant women – maybe it’s because I’m meeting my body’s increased nutritional needs with nourishing food rather than with unhealthy indulgences? I can’t know for sure, but I like to think so! I’ve also had no heartburn, leg cramps, or really any other common pregnancy issue but low back pain due to a former lifting injury. Also unusual are my iron levels, which are typically low in pregnant women. According to my midwife, pregnant women tend to be slightly anemic and have difficulty getting their iron levels above 11. I was at 12.5, well into the normal range, at my last test, and I take no special iron supplement beyond a standard prenatal vitamin without extra iron! I just eat a lot of green vegetables and lentils!

A typical day for me includes:

  • Breakfast: A smoothie with banana, soy or almond milk, Sun Warrior or Plant Fusion vegan protein, spinach, and frozen strawberries and a half cup of oat bran with blueberries and almonds
  • Snack: Varies among an apple with a sprouted pita and hummus, a bowl of Kashi Go Lean, or another fruit/vegetable/almond butter smoothie
  • Lunch: Usually buckwheat soba noodles with raw vegetables and tahini sauce, or a hummus/kale sandwich plus a salad. Sometimes I’ll have bean/vegetable fajitas on whole wheat or lentil soup with a sweet potato
  • Snack: Same as above
  • Dinner: I will admit that I’m so exhausted by the end of the day now that I’m not being terribly creative. We have more brown rice pasta and vegetable dishes and Gardein-based meals than ever. For a while I was huge on brown rice pasta shells “mac, broccoli & cheese” made with silken tofu/nutritional yeast/seasonings and a head of broccoli – kind of getting over it now!

Well – that’s the story of my pregnancy eats so far! I hope that answers your questions – three more weeks or so for me to go!


2 thoughts on “Eating for a Healthy, Active Pregnancy”

  1. I’m not a professional, but I feel like more sprouted things would be EXTRA
    beneficial, as would skipping the Nut. yeast in favor of kelps and mushrooms.

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