As the founder of a raw and vegan home delivery food service in Buenos Aires, I’m a big advocate for healthy and conscious living. For me, that means a diet rich in plant foods, a large percentage of which are raw, ensuring that the foods are full of live enzymes, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals, all of which are essential to healthy living.
After years of study in nutrition and holistic health, I know that it is possible to get the nutrients needed from a diet that doesn’t include animal products. However, right before or during pregnancy, many have asked me how to either start or continue on a diet of this nature without harming the baby. As most would expect, pregnancy in particular, is a time of life when a woman’s lifestyle and diet choices can make a huge impact on her own pregnancy experience as well as the health of her newborn. A plant based diet, even if you’re not vegetarian or vegan, is essential to ensuring the healthiest possible start to life for your new baby. Even so, it’s more important then ever to make sure that your diet is balanced if you choose to limit or not consume animal products during pregnancy.
In my viewpoint, many of the recommendations made by the American Pregnancy Association, support general health guidelines in line with a diet high in organic, plant based foods. For starters, they suggest avoiding raw meat, deli meat, fish with mercury, fish from contaminated waters, raw shellfish, raw dairy products (milk, cheese, eggs) as well as contaminates found on unwashed vegetables. They also suggest avoiding alcohol and caffeine, all of which are important steps to good health, whether pregnant or not.
As with any other time in your life, it’s important to get the right balance of nutrients in the diet. Protein is very important for the developing baby, but can be found in complete plant-based sources such as quinoa, flax seed, spirulina and chlorella. Other non-complete forms of protein include beans, nuts and seeds as well as the majority of fruits and vegetables. With the right variety of foods, and the inclusion of some complete sources of protein on a regular bass, getting enough protein on a vegan or vegetarian diet is not difficult.
Although not part of the APA’s recommendations, many natural health experts also advice against consuming soy products during pregnancy, even though soy is a vegan source of protein. The reasoning lies in the hormonal reactions soy can produce in the body, impacting brain development, the reproductive organs, cell growth and immune function.
Carbohydrates & Fats
The right amount of carbohydrates and fats is also important during pregnancy which can be achieved through the consumption of whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, amaranth, millet and sarraceno (gluten free grains) in addition to healthy fats such as avocado, coconut oil, non-refined extra virgin olive oil, nuts and seeds. Please keep in mind that if you or your partner have a genetic history of allergies or asthma, it may be wise to limit your intake of nuts, especially peanuts, although more research needs to be done in this area.