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Vegan Pregnancy

Nutritious recipes to keep mom-to-be healthy on meat-free diet
By Gina Montefusco
November 29, 2005

Try being pregnant, battling morning sickness and having to eat nutritiously for two. Now try all that while being a vegetarian or vegan.

Veggie moms-to-be have the same nutrition needs as anyone else, but eating the right food can be more complicated with fewer choices.

"The requirements don't change at all," said local nutrition expert Katherine Tallmadge. "What changes in how attentive you need to be with your diet."

Tallmadge, who has a private practice in the District, is a national spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and the author of "Diet Simple: 192 Mental Tricks, Substitutions, Habits & Inspirations." She also is featured in "DC Baby: A Handbook for Parenting In (& Around) the Capitol City"(, which hit stores Nov. 11.

Whenever Tallmadge counsels a patient, she has the same basic advice: Get enough calories, and take folic acid supplements during child-bearing years. Her recommendations for other nutrients, vitamins and minerals vary depending on the mother's diet. In many ways, veggie moms can already have a one-up on nutrition.

"Vegetarians usually have a more nutrient-rich diet," Tallmadge said.

And that may be the gift that keeps on giving - Tallmadge said studies have shown women who eat lots of vegetables during pregnancy will give birth to babies who are more accepting of veggies and healthy foods.

While that battle might be easier, veggie moms, particularly vegans, need to pay special attention to getting enough protein and calcium.

"It's a little more challenging with vegans [to have a healthy pregnancy], but it's totally possible," Tallmadge said.

Protein is vital for the baby's growth and development, and pregnancy requires an extra 25 grams over the usual amount. To find out how much you need during pregnancy, divide your weight by 2.2, then multiply by 1.1 for grams of protein. Tallmadge recommends soy products, beans and whole grains. Especially look for calcium-fortified soy products, since calcium needs increase with pregnancy as well.

Tallmadge recommends taking a multivitamin supplement with folic acid, which reduces risk of birth defects, but it's also found in broccoli, spinach, lentils, beans, asparagus, beets, artichokes, orange, and enriched cereals and breads. Since almost all cereal and bread products (including white bread) are now enriched with folate, it's easier than ever for women to get enough.

There's only one thing veggie moms can only find in animal products - vitamin B12, which helps with a healthy nervous system and blood cells as the baby grows. Tallmadge recommends taking a supplement. Finally, try to eat foods that contain omega 3 fatty acids, like walnuts and flax seeds, every day.


Hearty Oatmeal

This filling hot breakfast is packed with whole grains for protein and fiber, dried fruit for vitamins, and flax seed and walnuts for omega 3 fatty acids.

1 cup oats (preferably not the quick-cooking kind)

1 3/4 cup water

1/4 cup dried fruit

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon flax seed

1/4 cup walnuts

1. In a small saucepan, bring water, dried fruit, honey, and cinnamon to a boil.

2. Stir in oats, return to a boil.

3. Reduce heat to medium, cook about five minutes or until most of liquid is absorbed.

4. Let stand for a few minutes. Stir in flax seed and walnuts. Serves two


Veggie burger grinder

Even carnivores might like this satisfying sandwich, which has plenty of nutrients, calcium, and protein.

1 veggie burger of your choice (Try Dr. Praeger's California Burgers or Trader Joe's Nirvana Burgers)

1-ounce cheese, like provolone, muenster, or Colby jack (vegans can use soy cheese)

1 egg (optional for vegans)

1 sub roll

Sandwich toppings (sprouts, lettuce, tomato)

1. Cook veggie burger according to package directions.

2. Preheat a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the veggie burger and sauté it until lightly browned, breaking it into small pieces.

3. Reduce the heat slightly. Whisk the egg gently in a bowl, then add it to the skillet with the veggie burger. Stir until the burger is coated with egg. Cook 3-5 minutes or until egg is no longer runny.

4. Add the cheese on top of the veggie burger/egg mix. Let it melt for 1-2 minutes.

5. Serve the burger/egg/cheese mix on a sub roll with sandwich toppings of your choice. Serves 1.


Pasta e Fagioli

This modified Italian soup is perfect for colder weather, and it's a nutrition homerun with protein, veggies, and folic acid.

2 15-oz cans of kidney beans or chickpeas, or a combination, drained and rinsed

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

1 medium carrot, peeled and chipped

1 celery rib, chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic, or 4 large cloves peeled and minced

1 28-oz can of crushed or diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning (puree beforehand if desired)

4 cups water

Salt and pepper to taste

6 ounces macaroni, fusilli, or other small pasta

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1 cup broccoli or cauliflower florets (optional)

1/2 cup Parmesan (optional for vegans)

1. Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and sauté, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender, about 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook briefly, 1 minute or less. Add the tomatoes, stir well, and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes.

2. Add the beans or chickpeas, water (you can start with less and add more), and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer on low for about 30 minutes.

3. Season with salt (start with 1-2 teaspoons) and pepper. Add the pasta and broccoli and cauliflower, if using, and simmer for another 10-15 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente (cooked through but not mushy). The vegetables should also be cooked through but not too soft.

4. Remove from heat and add pepper, parsley, and Parmesan. Serves 4-6.