Eating 10 bananas a day sounds crazy—and even more so when you’re pregnant—but that’s what Australian blogger Loni Jane Anthony did as part of her vegan diet. And although many criticized her eating, the 25-year-old delivered a healthy baby boy—and only gained about 40 pounds during her pregnancy, telling news.au.com that she dropped 22 of those pounds two days after giving birth. So are her critics wrong? Is a vegan diet safe while pregnant?
Yes, says Mary Rosser, M.D., an ob-gyn at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. “But a plant-based diet should be well planned out to ensure you’re consuming all the important nutrients that meet your needs and your baby’s needs,” she adds.
While that is true for any woman who is pregnant, no matter her eating style, when you’re avoiding animal products, it can be easy to fall short on certain crucial nutrients such as iron, vitamin B12, folate, vitamin D, and calcium. Protein can also be a concern since doctors recommend that a 140-pound mamma-to-be consume about 70 grams of protein compared to the 50 grams she needs normally.
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Vegans can obtain these nutrients from plenty of plant sources such as beans, nuts, soy, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as well as fortified foods. However, food alone probably won’t net you enough of these nutrients, Rosser says. That’s why it’s important to take a prenatal vitamin during pregnancy and while breast-feeding. Your doc will probably also give you additional vitamin and mineral supplements and test your levels throughout pregnancy to make sure your stores stay up.
Post-birth, vegans could experience an easier slim-down, as Anthony did, because “they are usually very educated about their pregnancy and aware of what they’re eating,” Rosser says. “With that investment, they may be less likely to gain excess weight than another woman who thinks of herself as ‘eating for two.’” It’s no guarantee, but when you gain the appropriate amount of weight—Rosser recommends 25 pounds—you simply have less to lose after baby.
Bottom line, when it comes to having a healthy pregnancy (and losing the weight after), whether you eat meat or shun it matters less than consuming the right foods in smart portions, Rosser says.