Plant-Based Guide for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women
A plant-based diet is a healthful choice at every stage of life, including pregnancy and breastfeeding. A healthful, well-planned plant-based diet provides all the nutrients you and your developing baby need.
Calorie needs increase only modestly during pregnancy. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, it works out to about 340 extra calories per day in the second trimester and about 450 extra calories during the third.
Maintain a steady rate of weight gain. How much weight should be gained depends on prepregnancy weight status. In general, aim for about 3 to 4 pounds total during the first trimester and then about 3 to 4 pounds each month during the second and third trimesters.
During pregnancy, your nutrient needs increase. For example, you will require more calcium, more protein, and more folic acid, even though your calorie needs increase only modestly. Limit empty calories found in highly processed foods and sweets.
Pregnant women should aim for about 70 grams of protein per day during the second and third trimesters. It’s easy to meet this requirement by eating a variety of plant-based foods, including beans, lentils, quinoa, tempeh, tofu, whole grains, and vegetables.
A day’s menu could include oatmeal with fruit, walnuts, and chia seeds for breakfast; lentil soup and a hummus sandwich for lunch; a brown rice, almond, and chickpea bowl for dinner; and a slice of whole-wheat bread with peanut butter for a snack.
Include plenty of calcium-rich plant-based foods in your diet, like tofu, dark green leafy vegetables, beans, figs, sunflower seeds, tahini, almond butter, and calcium-fortified soy milk, cereals, and juices.
The natural source of vitamin D is sunlight. If you do not get regular sunlight, vitamin D is also available in vitamins and in fortified foods. Many brands of cereal and plant milks are fortified with vitamin D.
Vitamin B12 is not found in most plant foods. To get enough of this important nutrient, be certain to include a supplement. Vitamin B12 is found in all standard multivitamins and in prenatal vitamins.
Iron is abundant in plant-based diets. Beans, dark green vegetables, dried fruits, blackstrap molasses, nuts and seeds, and whole-grain or fortified breads and cereals all contain plenty of iron. However, women in the second half of pregnancy sometimes need to take a supplement regardless of the type of diet they follow. Your health care provider will discuss iron supplements with you.
The guidelines for breastfeeding mothers are similar to those for pregnant women. Milk production requires even more calories than pregnancy, so you will need to boost your food intake a little bit. During the first 6 months of breastfeeding, you need 500 calories more than you did before you became pregnant. This drops to 400 additional calories during the second 6 months of breastfeeding. Protein needs are the same as during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.
Humanized Health - NEW!
Learn about personalized health from top experts! Check out our fascinating new shows every week, available as videos, podcasts and transcripts.:
Paula is a highly qualified and experienced nutrition counselor on the staff at Village Green.
Margo's impressive knowledge base is the result of a unique blend of educational and professional experience.
Dr. Neal Barnard
Dr. Barnard leads programs advocating for preventive medicine, good nutrition, and higher ethical standards in research.
Dr. Joseph Pizzorno
Dr. Joseph Pizzorno, ND is a pioneer of integrative medicine and a leading authority on science-based natural medicine.
Debi is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition, a personal trainer, and whole health coach.
Teri is a is a Certified Coach Practitioner with extensive certifications and experience in holistic medicinal practices.
Dr. Rav Ivker
Dr. Rav Ivker is a holistic family physician, health educator, and best-selling author.
Susan writes about the connection between plant-based diets and a reduced risk of chronic diseases.
Dr. Rob Brown
Dr. Brown's blended perspective of healthcare includes a deeply rooted passion for wellness and spiritual exploration.