Vegetarian Diet Plan For Pregnancy


Are you looking for vegetarian diet plan for pregnancy? While pregnancy is a beautiful time, at times it can also be a bit challenging when you have to bear the extra weight of your body. Pregnancy problems are attributed to several reasons like hormonal imbalance and other issues like poor food habits or nutrient deficiencies. Learning about them would surely help you in managing them well and enjoy this phase of your life with an ease.

What is a vegetarian diet?

Vegetarians enjoy a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit, with some also choosing to include dairy products, including cheese (made using vegetable rennet) and eggs.

As a vegetarian mum-to-be, you need to focus on getting adequate amounts of key nutrients, including protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, calcium, iodine, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and folate.

Vegetarian Diet During Pregnancy

Vegetarian diet during pregnancy has been shown to provide many health benefits for women who choose it as an exclusive or mixed diet. Accurately assessing the nutritional needs of a pregnant woman requires an understanding of the impact of diet on fetal well-being and health, while also recognizing that fetuses vary in their sensitivity to dietary restrictions in utero.

Vegetarian Diet During Pregnancy – Food Resources and Menu Plan

Vegetarian diets have no meat in them, and many women make this choice either as a cultural consequence or that they just don’t want to consume meat for other reasons. During pregnancy when the body’s nutritional needs are high, a variety of vegetarian foods need to be included in the diet to get the nutrients required by the baby.

Does a Vegetarian Diet Have Optimal Nutrients for Pregnancy?

Yes, it’s possible to gain all the essential nutrients you need at optimal levels from vegetarian food during pregnancy. Your diet needs to be rich in a variety of food types every day, and you may even have to rely on fortified foods or take supplements to get enough nutrients on a daily basis. A diet consisting of fruits, legumes and non-dairy milk every day is what you will need during your pregnancy along with supplements for some of the critical nutrients.

Vegetarian Pregnancy Meals

Vegetarian pregnancy meals can be just as healthy for you and your baby as any other kind of diet. Vegetarians have a lower risk of osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and heart disease than non-vegetarians. They also have a lower risk of obesity and cancer.

Here are some food sources for making sure you get all the nutrients you need while being pregnant:

Nutrients Essential in Pregnancy With Their Vegetarian Food Resources

These are the essential nutrients your body needs during pregnancy:

1. Protein

Protein is highly essential to building the cells in the body and secretion of hormones for the growing baby.


If you are okay with dairy products such as milk, curd and eggs, you can get all the protein and amino acids you need from them. Vegans will have to add vegetable-based proteins and supplement the vitamins.

Per Day Intake

75 grams

Vegetarian Resources

Some of the protein-rich vegetarian food during pregnancy includes:

  • Chickpeas, split or green peas
  • Kidney, navy, black and pinto beans
  • Quinoa
  • Oatmeal
  • Buckwheat, bulgar, whole wheat couscous
  • Whole-grain cereals and bread
  • Whole-wheat pasta
  • Walnuts, pistachios, cashews, almonds, pine nuts, Brazil nuts and nut butter
  • Soy milk
  • Tofu

2. Calcium

Calcium is needed for building bones and the functioning of the nervous system, heart and muscles, especially during the third trimester.


Calcium is so important that when the diet is deficient, the body naturally takes calcium from the mother’s bones to nourish the fetus which puts the mother at high risk of osteoporosis.

Per Day Intake


Vegetarian Resources

  • Milk, Yogurt, cheese
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Soy milk
  • Tofu
  • Calcium-fortified citrus juices

3. Iron

Iron is needed to form the red blood cells in the blood that transport oxygen.


Pregnancy increases your blood volume by about 50% to support your baby’s growth. Deficiency of Iron can lead to anaemia, and low birth weight of babies or in some cases cause preterm labour. Both vegetarians and meat eaters need plenty of Iron and should take supplements if they are found to be deficient.

Per Day Intake


Vegetarian Resources

Here are some iron-rich vegetarian foods during pregnancy:

  • Quinoa
  • Beans
  • Edamame
  • Soy products
  • Oat Bran
  • Barley

4. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is a critical nutrient needed especially in the first trimester for the proper development of the brain and formation of genetic material and blood.


Deficiency of B12 can lead to neural tube defects and increased risk of preterm labour. Since Vitamin B12 is abundant in non-vegetarian foods, vegetarians and especially vegans are at a higher risk of deficiency. Vitamin B12 goes along with folic acid which is another critical nutrient can be supplemented in the prenatal vitamin prescribed by your doctor.

Per Day Intake

2.6 mcg per day

Vegetarian Resources

  • Vitamin B12 fortified cereals, soy milk and meat substitutes
  • Nutritional yeast

5. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is critical for the absorption of calcium by the body.


Deficiency of Vitamin D leads to complications such as congenital rickets, a condition where the bones of newborn babies are improperly formed, weak and fracture easily.

Per Day Intake

5mcg per day

Vegetarian Resources

  • Vitamin D supplements
  • Milk
  • Sunlight

6. Zinc

Zinc is essential as building blocks for DNA in the baby’s body.


It helps in the building new cells and the replication of DNA during pregnancy. It also supports tissue growth and normal development of the body in babies. Zinc is often added to the prenatal vitamins as vegetarian sources of zinc does not allow for good absorption of the mineral.

Per Day Intake


Vegetarian Resources

  • Sprouted grains and seeds
  • Legumes

7. Iodine

Iodine is essential for the development of the baby’s brain and nervous system.


It also plays a role in the regulation of the thyroid gland function and the metabolic rate. Lack of iodine is linked to a risk of preterm delivery, miscarriage and stillbirth.

Per Day Intake

220 mcg

Vegetarian Resources

  • Potatoes
  • Milk
  • Navy beans
  • Iodized salt

8. DHA

DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that is deficient in vegetarian diets as a rich source of these comes from flaxseeds, fish, fish oil and algae.


It is important for the development of the baby’s eyes and brain.

Per Day Intake


Vegetarian Resources

  • Prenatal supplements
  • Algae derivatives
  • Green leafy vegetables

Vegetarian Food Types With Servings Requirement for Pregnant Women

Vegetarian food types can be very beneficial for pregnant women. They are often low in fat and sodium and high in fiber which will help the mother-to-be to feel fuller for longer.

Pregnant women should avoid foods that have a lot of salt, high amounts of fat, or are high in calories. These can cause a woman to gain weight during pregnancy and may also increase the risk of developing gestational diabetes.

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans should be consumed daily if possible. This will also provide you with more vitamins and minerals which are essential for your health during pregnancy.

To get all the essential nutrients from a vegetarian-only food source for the healthy development of the baby, pregnant women need to follow a diet consisting of these food items:

1. Vegetables

4 or more serving of vegetables is needed every day. Each serving consists of 1 cup of cooked or raw vegetables that have at least one dark green vegetable.

2. Fruits

Fruits can be taken raw or in some types, cooked. 4 or more servings every day with each serving consisting of a ½ cup cooked fruit and 1 cup raw. Also add ¼ cup dried fruits, ¾ cup of fruit juice and 1 piece of fruit.

3. Whole Grains, Bread, Cereals

9 or more servings every day. One serving consisting of a slice of bread, or half a bun. ½ cup of cooked rice or other cereal or pasta. ¾ or 1 cup of fortified ready-to-eat cereal.

4. Nuts, Seeds, Wheat Germ

1 or 2 servings a day is good enough. Each serving has 2 tablespoons of seeds or nuts, 2 tablespoons of wheat germ and 2 tablespoons of nut butter.

5. Legumes, Soy Products, Non-dairy Milk

You’ll need 5-6 servings of this every day for good protein intake. One serving is ½ cup cooked beans, tempeh or tofu, 225 grams of fortified soy or other non-dairy milk and about 85 grams of meat analogue.

Pregnant Vegetarian Meal Plan

There are a lot of pregnant vegetarian meal plans out there, but all of them have one common flaw, they lack nutritional value. Pregnant women need to eat balanced meals, and if you’re not doing that then you’re missing out on important nutrients. I was a vegetarian before becoming pregnant and the best part about being late in my pregnancy is that I didn’t even have any problem getting enough protein!

Here is a vegetarian pregnancy diet plan that offers you all the nutrients your body needs in a day:

Breakfast1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal Vit B-12 fortified, top it with ¼ cup raisins and 1 cup of fortified soymilk. Whole-wheat toast 2 slices with 2 tablespoons of almond butter.¾ cup of any fruit juice that is calcium fortified.
LunchSandwich with 2 slices of whole-grain bread, lettuce and ½ cup baked tofu.2 cups tossed salad sprinkled with herbs. Lemon juice and 1 piece fruit.
Dinner½ cup rice with 1 cup red beans.½ cup of cooked broccoli with nutritional yeast. Spinach salad 1 cup. Fortified soymilk 1 cup.
Snacks2 tablespoons of nuts1 bowl of mixed fruit3-4 whole-wheat crackers

You can obtain all the essential nutrients by combining a wholesome vegetarian diet with prenatal supplements.

What to eat for a vegetarian pregnancy

Being vegetarian and pregnant can be a healthy choice, but you do need to ensure your diet is balanced and provides all the nutrients you and your baby need. Dietitian Emer Delaney explains how…

What nutrients are important for a vegetarian pregnancy?

Protein is essential for the growth and development of your baby’s muscles, tissues and cells. There are plenty of plant source proteins including:

• beans and pulses
• nuts and seeds
• meat alternatives such as Quorn and soya mince

Depending on the type of vegetarian diet you follow, you may also include well-cooked eggs, dairy or neither. If you do eat dairy be sure to choose products made from pasteurised milk.

Aim to include a protein-rich food at every meal.

1. Omega-3 fatty acids

Sardines on toast

These are essential, which means you need to include them in your diet because your body cannot make them. Sources of omega-3 fats include:

• oily fish, like salmon, mackerel and sardines
• omega-3 enriched eggs that are well-cooked
• soya
• linseeds, chia seeds and walnuts

During your pregnancy omega-3 fats are important for the development of your baby’s brain, eyes and central nervous system. More recent studies also suggest that a higher intake of omega-3 may reduce the risk of allergies.

Evidence suggests plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids are not as rich as oily fish or algal forms of omega-3 fatty acids, so speak to your GP if you are concerned.

2. Iron

Kale salad

During pregnancy, your body produces more blood to help deliver nutrients through the placenta to your baby. Following a vegetarian diet doesn’t necessarily mean your iron intake will be low because there are many valuable plant sources, including:

• dark green vegetables
• pulses like beans, lentils and peas
• fortified breakfast cereals
• well-cooked eggs
• dried fruits
• wholemeal bread

Vitamin C enhances absorption of iron, so it’s a great idea to have a glass of orange juice (150ml), a couple of satsumas or an orange with or after a meal.

Lentil salad with tahini dressing

3. Calcium

Vital for your baby’s bones, teeth and cells, ensuring your diet includes adequate amounts of calcium is key. Dairy foods, including milk, cheese and yogurt, are useful sources. Plant-based alternatives can be equally good but do check labels to ensure they are enriched with added calcium.

Other food sources include:

• pulses like peas and lentils
• set tofu
• sesame seeds and tahini
• dried fruit

Salmon Tray Bake

4. Iodine

During pregnancy and breast-feeding you have a higher need for the trace element, iodine. This mineral is essential for the correct function of the thyroid gland and for your baby’s brain development. The main sources in the diet are fish, seafood and dairy foods – if you have a pre-existing thyroid condition or you follow a plant-based diet you may need to supplement.

Some plant-based ‘milk’ alternatives are fortified with iodine, but check labels because not all products are, and amounts may vary – look for ‘potassium iodide’ on the ingredients label.

5. Vitamin D

Regardless of how much calcium you eat, if you have low levels of vitamin D, your body won’t be able to absorb and use the calcium from your diet. A large number of us living in the UK have low vitamin D levels because we produce vitamin D through the action of sunlight on the skin, and from March to October, the sun’s rays aren’t strong enough. We can get some vitamin D from food – the best sources being meat, oily fish and eggs.

All pregnant women, regardless of their dietary choices, are advised to take a vitamin D supplement to ensure they have enough vitamin D for their baby.

6. Vitamin B12

This is found naturally in animal foods, and is needed for growth, development and repair. If you regularly include eggs or dairy, you probably eat enough, however, if you avoid all animal products you should look to fortified foods as a reliable source. As a vegetarian or vegan you may obtain B12 from fortified yeast extract and breakfast cereals, fortified plant-based ‘milk’ alternatives or B12 supplements.

7. Folate

This is found in vegetables, in particular leafy greens so as long as you are eating a balanced, vegetarian diet you should be obtaining folate in your diet. However, during pre-conception and the first 12 weeks of pregnancy your need for folate is greater. For this reason all women who are hoping to conceive or are in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, whether vegetarian or not, are advised to supplement with 400mcg of folic acid

Vegetarian Diet Plan For Pregnancy

Eating healthy foods during your pregnancy can take a little bit more thought, as your body needs more nutrients and energy. And if you already follow a certain way of eating, like a plant-based vegetarian diet, there are even a few more nutrients to consider. To make meal planning easier, we created this one-day plan of healthy vegetarian meals for pregnancy to help you get the nutrition you need.

We made sure to hit the daily recommended amount for each of the important nutrients during pregnancy-protein, folate, iron, and calcium. You’ll find a variety healthy foods that give your body and growing baby what it needs, while keeping your taste buds happy. The recipes meet our Healthy Pregnancy nutrition parameters, meaning they deliver healthy nutrients moms-to-be need more of and they don’t have any off-limit foods like alcohol or unpasteurized cheese. This meal plan is set at 2,200 calories, but you may need more or fewer calories depending on your unique nutrition needs. Talk with your doctor and a registered dietitian about altering this meal plan to best suit your needs.


Breakfast(478 calories)

Avocado Toast with Pumpkin Seeds

• 2 slices whole-wheat bread

• 1/2 avocado, mashed

• 1 1/2 tsp. fresh lime juice

• 2 Tbsp. pumpkin seeds

Toast the bread slices then top with the mashed avocado. Squeeze lime juice over avocado and top with pumpkin seeds.

• 1 cup blueberries


A.M. Snack (335 calories)

• 1/2 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt

• 1/2 cup sliced strawberries

• 1/3 cup granola

Top Greek yogurt with the strawberries with granola.


Lunch (496 calories)

  • 1 servingTempeh Chicken Salad
  • 1/2 oz. whole-grain crackers (to scoop up any leftover salad)
  • 1 medium orange


P.M. Snack(238 calories)

  • 1/4 cup plain hummus
  • 1/2 whole-wheat pita (6-1/2-inch), cut into triangles
  • 1 cup carrot sticks


Dinner(664 calories)

  • 1 servingSpaghetti Squash with Roasted Tomatoes, Beans & Almond Pesto
  • 1 whole-wheat dinner roll with 1 tsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups grapes to enjoy after dinner.
  • Daily Total: 2,211 calories, 88 g protein, 52 g fiber, 647 mcg folate, 20 mg iron, 943 mg calcium, 2,203 mg sodium

Please Note: This meal plan is controlled for calories, sodium, protein, folate, iron, and calcium. If you are concerned about any nutrient in particular, talk with your doctor and a registered dietitian to alter this meal plan to better suit your needs.

Health Benefits Of A Vegetarian Diet

The health benefits of a vegetarian diet are significant. Studies have shown that vegetarians may have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. There is some evidence that they may also be less likely to suffer from certain types of cancer than meat-eaters.

There are many benefits to a vegetarian diet when it’s followed correctly. If you’re avoiding meat but only eating processed breads and pastas, excess sugar, and very little vegetables and fruits, you’re unlikely to reap many of the benefits of this diet.

1. Good for heart health

Vegetarians may be up to one-third less likely to die or be hospitalized for heart disease. Of course, food choices matter — vegetarian or not.

If you want the heart-protective benefits of the diet, be sure to choose:

  • high-fiber whole grains
  • legumes
  • nuts
  • vegetables and fruits
  • other low-glycemic foods

The idea is to consume soluble fiber and choose foods that’ll help keep blood sugar levels stable. By doing so, you may reduce your cholesterol and overall risk of heart attack.

2. Reduces cancer risk

While the benefit isn’t significant, vegetarians may have a slight edge with lowering cancer risk.

One study found that, in low-risk populations, a vegetarian diet reduced the risk for cancer in general. Additionally, the study found that certain types of animal-free diets reduced the risk for specific types of cancer:

  • a vegan diet was found to reduce risk for cancer more than other diets
  • a vegan diet was also found to offer the most protection against female-specific cancers
  • a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet was found to offer the most protection against cancers of the gastrointestinal tract

However, another study found only a nonsignificant decrease in risk for colorectal cancer among people following a vegetarian diet.

Many studies claim that a diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables may be the key. Being vegetarian may make it easier to get in the daily recommended five servings.

Being exclusively vegan isn’t absolutely necessary either because a plant-based diet with heavy fruit and vegetable intake can also be beneficial.

3. Prevents type 2 diabetes

Following a healthy vegetarian diet may help prevent and treat type 2 diabetes and associated complications. It goes back to choosing low-glycemic foods that keep blood sugar levels steady, such as whole grains, legumes, and nuts.

In one study, vegetarians had half the risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with nonvegetarians.

4. Lowers blood pressure

Long ago, researchers started noticing that people who don’t eat meat may have lower blood pressure. Studies have shown that vegetarians, particularly vegans, have lower blood pressures than their meat-eating counterparts.

Plant foods tend to be lower in fat, sodium, and cholesterol, which can have a positive effect on your blood pressure. Fruits and vegetables also have good concentrations of potassium, which helps to lower blood pressure.

5. Decreases asthma symptoms

An older Swedish study suggests that a vegetarian diet, specifically vegan, may decrease symptoms of asthma. Twenty-two out of 24 participants who ate a vegan diet for a year saw improvements, including less dependency on medications.

It’s thought that certain animal foods may produce an allergy or inflammation response, so removing these foods from the diet can reduce these responses.

6. Promotes bone health

Osteoporosis rates are lower in countries where people eat mostly vegetarian diets. Animal products may actually force calcium out of the body, creating bone loss and osteoporosis.

In one study, people who followed a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet for 20 years or more had only 18 percent less bone mineral by the time they reached age 80. Omnivores, or meat eaters, in this study had 35 percent less bone mineral at the same age.


What nutrients are important for a vegetarian pregnancy?

Protein is essential for the growth and development of your baby’s muscles, tissues and cells. There are plenty of plant source proteins including:

• beans and pulses
• nuts and seeds
• meat alternatives such as Quorn and soya mince

Depending on the type of vegetarian diet you follow, you may also include well-cooked eggs, dairy or neither. If you do eat dairy be sure to choose products made from pasteurised milk.

Aim to include a protein-rich food at every meal.

Will a vegetarian or vegan diet affect my baby?

As long as it’s well-planned, a vegetarian or vegan diet can support your baby’s healthy development throughout pregnancy. Be sure to focus on getting enough protein, iron, vitamin B12, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, iodine, and DHA in your diet.

Because these nutrients are found more easily and/or plentifully in animal foods, you may become deficient if your vegetarian or vegan diet doesn’t regularly incorporate foods (or supplements) that fill your needs. Severe deficiencies in these nutrients can lead to developmental and growth problems for your baby as well as preterm birth and other serious pregnancy complications.

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Concerned you might not be getting enough of one or more nutrients? Consider working with a registered dietician to ensure you’re eating a balanced vegetarian or vegan diet.

Can I stay vegetarian or vegan while I’m breastfeeding?

It’s definitely possible to stay vegetarian or vegan while you’re breastfeeding. Many of the same nutritional principles from pregnancy apply when you’re nursing to help your body keep up with the demands of milk production.

Again, the nutrients you’ll want to target include:

  • Protein: 70 grams per day
  • Calcium: 1,000 mg per day
  • B12: 2.8 mcg per day
  • Iron: 10 mg per day
  • Zinc: 13 mg per day
  • Vitamin D: 600 IU per day
  • DHA: 200 mg per day
  • Iodine: 290 mcg per day

You can get many of these nutrients by continuing to take your prenatal vitamin – and by eating the same foods that you focused on during pregnancy.

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