Thursday, January 10, 2013

Vegan eating for two: third trimester

Breakfast: decaf w/ soymilk + oatmeal w/ protein powder & dried cranberries

Vegan supplements: a multivitamin, an iron pill, and vegetarian fatty acids

Lunch: quinoa w/ olive oil & caramelized garlic + smoky tempeh strips

Lunch, continued: organic mixed salad w/ raspberry vinaigrette + fresh fruit

Snack: decaf chai w/ soymilk + popcorn + chocolate fudge cupcake + 1/2 banana

Dinner: penne w/ caramelized onions and organic basil

Postprandial hot chocolate w/ vegan marshmallows & fresh fruit
As we progress through the third trimester, I feel baby moving a lot more, and I eat a lot more food.

After being vegetarian since age 12, I went completely vegan at age 29, about half a year before getting pregnant.  The adjustment from vegetarianism to veganism was almost as radical as the shift from meat-eating to vegetarianism, because -- as silly as it sounds -- I was so used to relying on cheese.  (Very often, cheese sandwiches are the only vegetarian options in coffeeshops and cafeterias; my workplace sells pizza, whereas it sells exactly zero vegan lunch options.)  However, I could no longer accept the ethical compromise involved in the consumption of dairy products.

Fast-forward to the present, and eating enough for not one but two vegans (me + baby) has become second nature.  Contrary to popular belief, protein is the least of your concerns if you are already used to structuring your meals around vegan sources of protein such as grains, nuts, and beans, including soy products (and unlike non-veg protein -- meat, eggs, dairy products -- vegan sources of protein are basically all good for you).

When you first go vegan, it's easy to underestimate the quantity of fat and salt that you should add to your food in the cooking process, since you may have been used to getting a lot of both from animal products.  Salt and healthy vegan fats are both especially important in pregnancy.  Fats such as olive oil, the oils in flax and chia seeds, etc. are all important sources of nutrients (such as Vitamin E, and omega-3s + 6s, essential to baby's brain development), while pregnant women tend to have higher salt requirements than non-pregnant women, because of the altered fluid balance in their bodies.

I've seen blog posts from former vegans who went back to eating animal products when they got pregnant -- sometimes because of food cravings, sometimes because of hunger, sometimes because of fear, or because of a doctor's poor advice.  All of these problems can be avoided or alleviated if you keep this in mind:

1. Eat enough food.  That means getting enough vegan calories every day.  Pregnant women need more calories.  If you don't eat enough -- calories, protein, fat, salt -- you will get terrible cravings for animal foods.

2. Be proud, not afraid.  You're making a positive ethical choice that you will be able to explain to your child(ren) with pride -- and if you're afraid (that your diet is unhealthy, that others might judge you, etc...) the best remedy is to...

3. Educate yourself.  Learning remedies fear; knowledge remedies ignorance.  You can't argue with your family or your doctor about nutrition unless you're educated about the scientific facts -- and if you're vegan, the facts are in your favor.  Study what it is that you need to eat to get enough of the essential nutrients, and learn how to get those from a vegan diet.  New books on vegan pregnancy make this easier than ever.