The Veggie Table: A Vegetarian Pregnancy

By: Janel Ovrut Funk
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raw egg in small bowl

Photo by: lnmark/Thinkstock

lnmark/Thinkstock

On April 16 th 2013, I gave birth to a healthy, happy, seven pound, two ounce baby boy named Zachary. Throughout my pregnancy, one of the most popular questions I got was, "Are you still going to be vegetarian?" I also heard a lot of, "Are you craving meat now?" and "If you crave meat, will you eat it?"

Truth be told, I was curious how my diet might change, if at all, while I was pregnant, since I had heard stories about crazy cravings and food aversions. I knew I could have a nutritious pregnancy if I focused on getting enough fiber, healthy fats and protein in my diet, which really isn’t any different from my non-pregnant diet.

There were a few changes I made or noticed in my pregnancy. The first was that I started eating eggs again for the first time in several years. I chose only cage free, organic, omega-3 eggs to help meet my protein and omega-3 fat needs. While in the past I had always enjoyed plant-based protein in the form of beans, legumes, tofu and tempeh, I couldn’t really stomach them in the first half of my pregnancy. Eggs were an easy way for me to get some good nutrients in, including choline for my baby's brain development, which is found in the yolk.  And when I had morning sickness weeks 8-16, eggs were one of the few foods I could tolerate. Hard-boiled eggs have also been a handy snack for me to eat with one hand while I'm carrying a wiggly newborn!

Much to my dismay, I wanted nothing to do with vegetables the entire first trimester. In fact, all I did want was bread! But knowing how important it was for me to get the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber from my once beloved veggies, I found that I tolerated them best when they were roasted. So in the heat of the summer I found myself cranking up the oven to roast broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant and any other vegetable I could get down. Fortunately this phase passed and my love for veggies returned by the second trimester.

With an increased need for calories, especially from healthy fats, I enjoyed an avocado or two each week. My favorite breakfast was mashed avocado on whole wheat toast with some hot sauce and a hard boiled egg on the side. The healthy fat, fiber and protein combo was the best breakfast to keep me satisfied.

When hunger pangs hit, I made sure to increase my protein intake. A few favorite protein-packed snacks were peanut butter on apple slices or hummus on crackers. And once I could tolerate tofu and tempeh, I'd bake slices in a teriyaki marinade. This made for a quick dinner along side veggies and pre-cooked brown rice when I was too exhausted to cook (which, truthfully, was my entire pregnancy).

Now with a newborn, my focus has shifted and my goal is to whip up insanely easy, nutritious, one-pot meals. Have any suggestions for me?
TELL US: If you've been pregnant, did you have any food cravings or aversions?

Janel Funk, MS RD LDN, loves experimenting with vegetarian and vegan cooking. Read her food blog, Eat Well with Janel, and follow her on Twitter @DietitianJanel. Catch up on her previous posts here.

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