What to Eat When You're Pregnant and Vegetarian : Planning a healthy diet (part 3) - Planning meals

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3. Fluids

During pregnancy you need to drink around eight glasses or mugs of fluid a day, and more if it’s hot or you’re exercising. Your fluid intake can include water, tea, coffee, juice or milk, although caffeine intake should be limited  as should fruit juice and fizzy drinks (see above). Plain water is an obvious alternative, but you could also try decaffeinated tea or coffee or fruit teas.

Sometimes pregnant women are tempted to restrict their fluid intake in order to avoid going to the toilet so often, or they think it might ease problems with water retention. However, needing to wee frequently is caused by hormonal changes in early pregnancy, so not drinking isn’t likely to help. Also, restricting fluid intake can actually make water retention worse. If you have swollen ankles and wrists, drinking more might actually improve matters. Drinking plenty will also help you avoid constipation. Increasing the amount of fibre you eat without having a good fluid intake can make constipation worse, as dietary fibre needs to absorb water to help it move through the intestines. A good fluid intake will also dilute your urine, which will help to protect you from urinary tract infections.

4. Choosing fortified foods

We generally think the healthiest foods are unprocessed and just as nature intended. On the whole this is true: highly processed diets certainly contribute to many of today’s health problems. However, eating a few fortified foods alongside unprocessed ones can change a deficient diet into a very healthy one. This applies to everyone to some extent, but for vegans fortified foods are particularly important to ensure a good intake of calcium, and vitamins D and B12. It is good to look out for fortified foods generally, for example if you’re buying a vegeburger mix, but it’s particularly important to find fortified foods that you like and can eat every day, such as breakfast cereals and milk-alternatives. Most nutrients are better absorbed if in small amounts, so getting them from different foods throughout the day is better than having them all at once in a supplement pill.

There are so many cereals available that it can be tricky to find a healthy one. Wholegrain products that are low in salt and sugar are best, and choosing one with added iron can make a real difference to your overall iron intake. The average adult (including meat-eaters) gets 44% of their iron from cereals and cereal products. For vegans and lacto-ovo-vegetarians who don’t have much dairy, it’s good to look for one that is also fortified with vitamins B12 and D. Some ‘healthy’ cereals, such as bran flakes, have added vitamins and iron, but others, like muesli and Shredded Wheat, don’t. Organic cereals never have these nutrients added, as this is against the UK’s organic certification rules, though it is allowed in the US. Often ‘free from’ products don’t have them added either, for example gluten-free cereals. Some budget brands, such as supermarkets’ own ‘basics’ ranges, have one nutrient added but not another, while some cheaper cereals are fortified better than expensive brands. There doesn’t seem to be any pattern, so you just have to read the labels. If you don’t want to eat products fortified with vitamin D3 , then it’s still a good idea to find one with added iron and vitamin B12.

If you’re looking for a milk-alternative then try to find one with added calcium and vitamins B12 and D. Most soya milks are fortified with these, but organic ones aren’t. Likewise rice and oat milks tend to have all three micro-nutrients added, but coconut milk may have calcium but not vitamins B12 or D. Another good source of vitamin B12 is yeast extract, although not all brands are fortified . Other fortified foods to look out for are orange juice with added calcium, and many soya products.

5. Planning meals

If you’re not a very adventurous cook, now is a good time to start experimenting with different ingredients. By eating a variety of pulses, nuts, starchy foods and vegetables, you’re more likely to get all the nutrients you need. Making your own meals is usually healthier and cheaper and needn’t take any longer than cooking convenience foods. If you usually live on pasta, baked potatoes and cheese, you can find inspiration by getting a new cook book or looking online for recipes. The Vegetarian Society and the Vegan Society websites both include great recipes and ideas for easy meals. When you have a bit more time, you can make meals in bulk, such as dahl, chickpea curry, quorn chilli or pasta sauce with lentils; then you can still have a healthy meal when you’re in a hurry.

The one-week meal plans below show how you can get all the nutrients you need from meals and snacks if you are a lacto-ovo-vegetarian or a vegan. They aren’t meant to be carefully followed, but they give you an idea of what a healthy balanced diet looks like. Each of the weekly menu plans meets the recommendations for the essential minerals: calcium, copper, iodine, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and selenium; as well as the important vitamins: folate, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, and vitamins A, B6, B12 and C.

The menu plans don’t mention fluids, though these are also important and it is assumed drinks would be included throughout the day. Also, like most diets, they do not provide enough vitamin D, and although you should get some vitamin D from going out in the sun, you should also take a supplement in order to meet the recommended intake.

Vegan – one-week menu plan

Breakfast Wholemeal toast with almond butter and a glass of orange juice*
Lunch Lentil soup, granary roll with margarine* and an apple
Dinner Stir-fried tofu, broccoli and red pepper (with kombu) and white rice
Snacks Banana and oat milk* shake, slice of toast with margarine* and Marmite*
Breakfast Grapefruit, bran flakes* and oat milk*
Lunch Baked beans on granary toast with margarine*, couple of satsumas
Dinner Baked potato with margarine*, veggy sausages with gravy, peas and carrots
Snacks Flapjack, handful of brazil nuts and raisins
Breakfast Hot oat cereal* made with soya milk*, sprinkled with chopped nuts and seeds
Lunch Lentil cutlet and salad in pitta bread, milkshake made with oat milk*
Dinner Chickpea biryani with chapatti and mango chutney, fruit salad
Snacks Carrot cake (homemade with margarine*), handful of dried apricots
Breakfast Fruit and fibre* with oat milk*, glass of orange juice*
Lunch Wholemeal pitta with houmous and carrot sticks, slice of melon
Dinner Pasta with lentil and tomato sauce, apple pie with vegan cream*
Snacks Handful of brazil nuts, oaty biscuits
Breakfast Nutty muesli, hemp milk* and sliced strawberries
Lunch Wrap with houmous, falafel, avocado, lettuce and tomato
Dinner Mixed bean and vegetable chilli (with kombu and Marmite*) with rice, pear
Snacks Handful of mixed dried fruit and nuts, slice of cake (homemade with margarine*)
Breakfast Bran flakes* with hemp milk* and sliced banana
Lunch French bread with vegan cheese, pickle and tomato, glass of orange juice*
Dinner Beanburger, chips and ketchup, corn-on-the-cob with margarine* and salad, raspberries and soya yogurt*
Snacks Breadsticks with lentil dip, dried prunes
Breakfast Granary toast with margarine* and Marmite*, mixed berries with soya yogurt* and a sprinkling of mixed seeds
Lunch Vegetable soup and wholemeal roll with margarine*, slice of vegan chocolate cake
Dinner Shepherd’s pie made with soya mince, rhubarb crumble and custard made with oat milk*
Snacks Crumpets with peanut butter and jam, an apple

*These foods and drinks are fortified and this makes all the difference between reaching the recommended amount for certain nutrients or not, particularly for vitamin B12 and calcium. You’ll also notice the odd sprinkling of kombu for iodine and some brazil nuts for selenium – without these, this menu plan would be deficient in these two minerals.

Lacto-ovo-vegetarian – one-week menu plan

Breakfast Bran flakes with milk and chopped banana
Lunch Cheese and tomato toasted sandwich with wholemeal bread, an orange
Dinner Chickpea curry with basmati rice, yogurt and mango chutney; a crème caramel
Snacks Apricot flapjack, handful of brazil nuts
Breakfast Porridge topped with honey and chopped nuts and seeds
Lunch Wholemeal pitta bread filled with houmous, avocado and red pepper salad and a glass of orange juice
Dinner Stir-fried tofu, broccoli, carrot and baby corn with egg noodles
Snacks Date and walnut cookie, a pear
Breakfast Wholemeal toast with peanut butter and mashed banana
Lunch Lentil soup, granary roll with margarine; slice of banana bread
Dinner Vegetable lasagne, salad and a fruit yogurt
Snacks Homemade milkshake (strawberries and milk), a cereal bar
Breakfast Weetabix-type-cereal with chopped banana and almonds
Lunch Baked potato with baked beans and a spoonful of grated cheese; a peach
Dinner Vegetarian sausages and gravy, oven chips, peas and carrots
Snacks Wholemeal toast with scraping of margarine and Marmite, small fruit smoothie
Breakfast Nutty muesli with milk
Lunch Egg mayonnaise sandwich with wholemeal bread, small packet of crisps and pot of fruit salad
Dinner Vegetable and bean chilli, basmati rice; mixed berries with yogurt and honey
Snacks Dried prunes, chocolate biscuit
Breakfast Bran flakes with milk, glass of orange juice
Lunch Wrap with falafel, lettuce, tomato and yogurt dressing
Dinner Vegetable pizza with mixed salad, ice-cream
Snacks Mixed nuts and raisins, a fruit bun
Breakfast Scrambled eggs, toast, mushrooms and tinned tomato
Lunch Quorn fillet, new potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower cheese and carrots; apple crumble and custard
Dinner Roast vegetable soup, rye bread with cream cheese and grapes
Snacks Chocolate-coated brazil nuts
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