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NUTRITION FOR A
HEALTHY PREGNANCY

Morning sickness

Morning sickness is not just limited to the early hours. It can last all day. If you are bothered by nausea, try eating several small meals. Eat often enough so that you never have an empty stomach. Munching on high carbohydrate foods like crackers, bread, bagels, and cereal can help. Try sour or salty foods--which give you back some of the salts you lost when you lost your lunch. Though it may sound weird, sucking on a lemon before eating really helps.

Many women actually become vegetarians while pregnant because they find meat makes them nauseous. On the other hand, some women crave meat while pregnant. These changes in appetite could could reflect either an erroneous concern that eating a vegetarian diet is nutritionally deficient, or a perceived need for a higher protein, higher calorie diet. If you think you are craving meat or protein, be sure that you are eating enough food! For meat-free protein, try beans, tofu and other soy foods, soy milk, and whole grains.

Pregnant women are often warned against certain foods that have a greater chance of contamination. "Pregnant women are more susceptible to food-borne illnesses due to changes in their immune function," says Dr. Winston Craig, PhD, RD, professor of nutrition at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, and author of the pamphlet "Eating Vegetarian for a Healthy Baby." The vast majority of cases of food poisoning are caused by animal foods. Excessive amounts of fresh water fish might expose you to local mercury contamination. By now we all know about e.coli bacteria contamination in ground beef and salmonella in pountry. Keep food safety in mind. Be sure to thoroughly wash all produce, avoid unpasteurized dairy products, and quickly refrigerate leftovers.

The Second Trimester

(Months Four to Six)

You should now be gaining about 1 pound a week. Though morning sickness usually subsides your sense of smell may be working overtime. If smells bother you, try eating only cold food. Keep the kitchen well-ventilated or have someone else do the cooking. Cold main dish salads with beans will give you the protein, vitamins, and fiber your baby needs.

The Third Trimester

(Months Seven to Nine)

Your baby is getting bigger. At this point, some women get heartburn. To avoid heartburn, always sit up after meals and avoid caffeine and greasy foods. Again, eating smaller meals several times a day may keep you more comfortable than just eating three meals. Calcium-based antacids are safe to use, and provide some extra calcium. If you are bothered by constipation or hemorrhoids during this time, eat lots of fiber. Whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables will provide the fiber you need and important nutrients too. Prunes are a great iron-rich source of fiber. Also be sure to get enough fluids. Fruit juices and good old-fashioned water are excellent choices. You may find it helpful to keep conveniently packaged (aseptic or bottled) water and juices in the car and next to your bed.

A common and dangerous complication of pregnancy is toxemia, called preeclampsia or pregnancy-induced hypertension, which can cause premature delivery. A study in the Southern Medical Journal revealed that vegan mothers had a much lower incidence of preeclampsia than would have been found in a similar group of non-vegetarians . While about 10 percent of women typically develop this condition, only one out of the 775 vegan women studied did. A vegan diet, the study concluded, could alleviate most, if not all of the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia."

Your baby's birth weight is not singularly determined by diet. Factors such as your body size and weight gain come into play. Take this from a vegetarian whose smallest child was 9 lbs 3 ounces at birth, and whose largest was 12 lbs 4 oz. Many women actually had larger babies after they became vegetarian.

Be sure to get plenty of rest. You are growing a whole new person and that is exhausting. Besides, after the baby comes, sleep may be just a distant memory. While all this talk about nausea and constipationmay make it seem like pregnancy is a drag, many women actually report that they were never healthier than when they were expecting. The joy of creating a new life, and the anticipation of seeing your baby, make pregnancy a special and rewarding time.

Nutritional Requirements

Protein

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein increases by 30% during pregnancy. However, most American women, even vegetarians, already eat that much prior to pregnancy. There's no need to stuff yourself with protein. A good rule of thumb is to eat one protein food at each meal.

Calcium

The RDA is 1200 mg, which translates to about 4 glasses of milk. You can also drink calcium-fortified soy milk, rice milk, or orange juice. Green leafy veggies, blackstrap molasses, and figs are also good sources of calcium. Some mineral waters contain up to one third the RDA for calcium. If you are unable to meet the RDA through food, take a calcium supplement. Do not take it the same time as an iron supplement, however, as they compete for absorption. Instead, take it with a juice that is high in vitamin C like orange, tomato, or strawberry. Vitamin C helps you absorb both calcium and iron.

Iron

It has become almost universal for practitioners to give women iron supplements while pregnant. Although the iron in red meat is well-absorbed, you can obtain plenty of iron from a vegetarian diet too. Pregnant vegetarians are no more likely to be anemic than non-vegetarians. Whole grains, beans, dried fruits, and blackstrap molasses are all good sources of plant-based iron. Don't take your iron with coffee or tea however; the tannins in these beverages reduce iron absorption. A 1985 report in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that, during pregnancy, many vegetarians had aversions to coffee and tea anyway.

While some women feel iron supplements are constipating, most are not bothered by them at all. If your iron supplement upsets your stomach,you don't have to suffer. A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed thatyoucan improve your iron status to the same degree through a single high potency supplement once a week or a lower dose every day. Consult your practitioner about your best options. Take care not to overdo on the iron; high doses can interfere with the absorption of zinc and copper.

B12

It is now thought that only recently absorbed B-12--not B-12 stores-- may be available to your baby. Be sure to get some B-12 daily. Fortified cereals, soy milk, or nutritional yeast (Red Star T6635) are good sources. If you are vegan, be sure to ask to have your B12 level in your blood checked.

Vitamin B12 works hand in hand with folate. A recent report by the National Institutes of Health suggests B12, like folate, may also have a hand in preventing some birth defects.

For Further Reading:

"Eating Vegetarian for a Healthy Baby" by Winston Craig, PhD, RD is available from The Health Connection. Call 1-800-548-8700 to order.

"Raising Vegan Kids" by Reed Mangels, PhD, RD, FADA, is available from the Vegetarian Resource Group. Call 1-410-366-8343 or e mail them.

A set of fact sheets on vegetarian nutrition including: Vegetarian Diets in Pregnancy, Calcium in Vegetarian Diets, and B12 in Vegan Diets is available from the Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group of the American Dietetic Association for a small fee. For more infomation, write to:

Carol M. Coughlin, RD VN DPG 191 Baldwin Street Leicester, MA 01524


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