Adding Leeks to Your Menu

Leeks are a little known but very flavorful cousin of the onion that deserve a place in modern cooking. With a mild flavor that lends itself well to all kinds of recipes, this delicious and healthy vegetable offers a great deal of nutrition. Although they appear to be a larger version of the green onion, a green onion actually has a much stronger taste. Leeks are a great choice for the onion flavor without overwhelming other elements of your food.

The Nutrition in Leeks

Leeks are a fantastic source of Vitamins A, C, and K, as well as folate, which is essential to brain and eye development in young children. They are also a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium. Leeks are low in fat and sugar, and provide dietary fiber.

How to Cook with Leeks

Unlike other members of the onion family, leeks aren’t particularly well suited to eating raw, and are usually cooked and used to flavor a variety of dishes.

Because leeks grow up out of the ground and have many layers like onions, they tend to collect a good bit of dirt and sand in between the layers. One of the first things you will need to do with fresh leeks is to wash them thoroughly. Make sure to get through all the layers to remove all of the dirt. The best way to do this is to cut through the middle of the leek and fan it out under running water. Discard the dark green portion of the leek and cook with the white and light green parts for the best flavor.

There are many soups that use leeks, some of them quite famous, including cock-a-leekie soup, a Scottish dish made from leeks and chicken stock, and the French-named vichyssoise. Although this leek and potato soup is often thought to be of French descent, it likely has its roots in America, and may be one of the best known uses for leeks. As one of the national symbols of Wales, the leek appears in a number of traditional Welsh dishes as well.

You can use leeks in just about any recipe where you might use onions, but be aware that it will change the taste. This can be a good thing if your kids aren’t a fan of the strong taste of onions, adding the nutrition without the overpowering flavor. Leeks are also a great choice for a lightly flavored dip for vegetables or even chips (go for vegetables for a healthier choice, though!).

Add leeks to stews, or throw some into the slow cooker with a roast or chicken. They are also a great addition to quiche, again offering a more mellow flavor than onions. Consider mixing leeks in with mashed potatoes to add a kick of savory flavor as well as extra nutrition. They are an excellent substitution for green onions (also known as scallions) or chives.

With a delicious mild flavor that is kid-friendly and a good dose of important vitamins and minerals, leeks are a great addition to your cooking routine, and will add new flavor to old dishes. Easy to find in most supermarkets, be sure to give leeks a try the next time you are looking to add a little more taste and a lot more nutrition to simple meals like soups or stews.

The Healthy Perks of Pumpkin

If you have never thought about pumpkin beyond your jack-o-lantern or Thanksgiving pie, you are missing out on a great ingredient that brings more nutrition to the party than you’d think. Cooked pumpkin has a number of great culinary uses in more than just pie. It is surprisingly versatile, and easy to use.

Although most people buy pumpkin canned, it’s very easy to cook your own from a fresh pumpkin. Pumpkins are a fall crop, but cooked pumpkin puree freezes wonderfully to be used any time you need it. Canned pumpkin is a quicker option, however, and still offers all the nutritional benefits, so don’t skip pumpkin just because you don’t have time to cook and puree it!

The Nutrition in Pumpkin

Pumpkin is an incredibly good source of Vitamin A, and also provides Vitamins C and E as well as many B vitamins including folate. It also offers calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron.

Low in fat and cholesterol, pumpkin adds a lot of nutrition for very few calories, making it a great food for those looking to fill up on a calorie-restricted diet.

How to Cook with Pumpkin

Look beyond your pumpkin pie; cookies, muffins, quick breads and scones are all a great place to use pumpkin. You will turn a sweet treat into something with a much bigger nutritional value simply by adding pumpkin to the batter. Baked goods involving pumpkin are often less sweet than other choices because pumpkin pairs so well with spices like nutmeg and cinnamon, which add a lot of taste without a lot of calories.

That’s not all you can do with pumpkin, though! Make a delicious pumpkin soup or stew, or add pumpkin to chili – it will work great with the spices and adds creaminess and a distinct flavor. Add pumpkin to pasta sauces and use it to top noodles or layer in a lasagna. It makes a great addition to vegetarian lasagnas, adding flavor and texture without meat.

Pumpkin is also perfect in risotto and other creamy dishes; a smooth pumpkin puree gives substance and thickens a sauce. It brings a nutritional boost to dishes not always known for being healthy!

Although any pumpkin will do for cooking, there are certain pumpkins you should look for depending on what you are planning to make. Pie pumpkins are the best choice for pumpkin pie of course, but also better for baked goods due to a smoother texture and slightly sweeter taste. Most supermarkets will have them, as well as farmer’s markets. They are smaller than the pumpkins used for carving jack-o-lanterns.

Pumpkin is great at breakfast too! Try pumpkin pancakes, or pumpkin oatmeal. With the right spices, you will think you are eating pumpkin pie for breakfast – and so will your kids!

Pumpkin doesn’t always have to be pureed. You can use chunks of pumpkin in much the same way you might use other types of squash. Roast it and mix it with other vegetables, or add it to a skewer with meat heading to the grill.

With its bright orange color, distinct flavor, and versatility, pumpkin can liven up many dishes and also add a great dose of vitamins and minerals. Keep some on hand in the freezer so you will have it available whenever inspiration strikes! Take pumpkin beyond Halloween and Thanksgiving for a great tasting, nutrition packed option that is perfect any time of the year.

Cooking with Cranberries: Healthy Treats

Although cranberries don’t get the same kind of buzz as other fruits, they are nutritional powerhouses that deserve a second look. Many people pass up cranberries due to their tart taste, which can make it difficult to convince children to eat them. But the tart flavor is perfect for taking the sweet edge off of other berries and fruits, and makes a great addition to a number of recipes your kids will love.

The nutrition in Cranberries

Cranberries are an excellent source of Vitamins A, C, K, and E. They also provide calcium, potassium and phosphorus. They are low in fat and provide a good source of dietary fiber. Compared to many other fruits, they are low in sugar as well. Cranberries are one of the best sources of antioxidants, which are known to fight cancer, offer anti-aging properties, and generally promote good health.

Cranberry juice has long been popular as a preventative as well as a treatment for urinary tract infections, as it helps to fight the bacteria that cause the infection and prevent them from sticking to the inside of the urinary tract.

Great Ways to Eat Cranberries

While raw cranberries are by far the best choice, the most popular format for consuming cranberries is via cranberry juice, or the sweetened, dried version of the berry. Use caution with either of these last two options, as they will usually have extra sugar added, especially the dried version. Cranberry sauce or jellied cranberries are particularly popular around Thanksgiving as they are usually served with turkey.

100% cranberry juice is a good source of all the nutrition cranberries have to offer, but kids might find it too tart. Try a mixed juice like cran-apple or cran-grape, as long as it is still 100% juice and doesn’t have added sugar. Remember that one serving of juice per day is enough for a child.

Sweetened dried cranberries can be used anywhere you might usually use raisins. Add them to hot cooked cereal like oatmeal or cream of wheat, or simply offer a handful as a snack. Remember that they do have added sugar, however, so use them in moderation.

Raw cranberries are a very versatile berry, and the tart flavor compliments many other fruits in baked goods. Cranberries are a great addition to berry smoothies, and can also be added to muffins, pancakes, and other baked goods. For a delicious treat, an apple-cranberry pie can’t be beat.

Cranberries are also a wonderful addition to applesauce that can be served with pork or even just eaten as a snack. Use raw cranberries to make a homemade cranberry sauce you can serve not only with your Thanksgiving turkey, but with chicken or other poultry at any time of the year. You can also make cranberry preserves at home, for a tasty and healthier alternative to store-bought jams.

Adding cranberries to your diet as well as your child’s will add a real punch of nutrition with a unique flavor that is versatile in both sweet treats and with meat dishes. The tart cranberry is a great way to steer your child away from foods that are too sweet and full of sugar. Although they are probably too tart to eat the way you would other berries, by the handful, they compliment many other flavors and are well worth the effort for the incredible health benefits they offer.

Introducing Baby to Yogurt

Yogurt is a delicious, healthy snack for all ages, and makes a great early baby food. Learn what to look for in a yogurt to serve to your baby and how to introduce it.

The Benefits of Yogurt

Yogurt is full of vitamins and minerals that are an important part of a healthy diet. On top of being a great source of protein and calcium, among other nutrients, yogurt also provides probiotics. These are the good bacteria that help to keep the digestive system running smoothly and provide immune support to keep your baby healthy. Probiotics have been linked with fewer digestive problems such as gas, constipation and diarrhea in babies. They are also known to help fight yeast infections and shorten the duration of gastrointestinal illness.

Choosing a Yogurt for Your Baby

When selecting a yogurt for your baby, avoid those labeled low fat or fat free. Your baby needs the fat for brain and eye development, so look for a yogurt made with whole milk. You should start your baby with plain, whole milk yogurt, to which you can add fruit purees that you have already served and are sure baby can tolerate.

There are yogurts on the market that are intended for consumption by babies, but they usually carry a hefty price tag. You can get all the same benefits by purchasing a large tub of whole milk yogurt and mixing in your own fruits for flavor while avoiding the added sugar many of these yogurts contain. As your baby progresses, you can also add vanilla yogurt for a different flavor.

When to Introduce Yogurt

Although you may have heard the “no dairy before one year” rule, this doesn’t apply to dairy products such as cheese and yogurt. Doctors recommend against cow’s milk as a beverage before one year old because it can replace breast milk or formula and deprive baby of needed nutrients. Too much can also cause anemia. There is no risk of this with yogurt, however, as it won’t replace breast or bottle feedings.

Yogurt also does not carry the risk of a reaction to lactose, because the process by which it is made breaks down the lactose and makes it easier to digest. The same culturing process makes the protein in yogurt easy on your baby’s stomach. It is safe to introduce yogurt as one of baby’s first foods, although 7-8 months old is usually the recommended age.

Start with small amounts of yogurt, plain at first, and then start adding different combinations of fruits and even vegetables to the mix. You can also blend in some infant cereal along with the fruit for a complete, balanced meal in one. Fruits that go great with plain yogurt include applesauce, peaches, pears, blueberries and bananas. Although it seems strange to an adult palate, babies may enjoy a vegetable mixed with yogurt as well! Try sweet potatoes or pumpkin.

Plain yogurt provides a healthy base for creating all kinds of flavorful combinations for your baby to enjoy. As your baby grows, you can add chunkier fruits and even create smoothies from yogurt and fruit for baby to enjoy from a sippy cup and eventually a straw cup. Yogurt is a versatile baby food full of nutrients and other healthy components, and is a great early addition to baby’s diet.

Dealing with Lactose Intolerance During Pregnancy

If you are lactose intolerant, you have probably already found ways to deal with it on a daily basis. However, when you become pregnant, a new set of challenges presents itself. Getting all the calcium you need can be a challenge without milk or milk products, but there is no reason it can’t be done.

What is Lactose Intolerance?

Lactose, a form of sugar found in dairy products, is broken down in the digestive system by lactase, an enzyme produced in the small intestine. When the body has a deficiency in production of lactase, lactose can’t be digested properly, resulting in painful abdominal problems. This is known as lactose intolerance.

Lactose intolerance is not the same as being allergic to milk products although they are often confused. Lactose intolerance generally does not develop until later in life, unlike milk allergies which are common in infancy.

What are the Symptoms?

Not all people who are lactose intolerant have noticeable symptoms, but for some they can be quite severe. Symptoms occur about 30 minutes after consuming milk products and can include gas, abdominal pain and bloating, diarrhea and nausea.

Getting Enough Calcium

The solution to lactose intolerance sounds like a simple one; those suffering from it need only stop consuming dairy products to avoid the symptoms. This is true, but unfortunately dairy products are the best source of calcium in our diets. When you are pregnant, calcium becomes even more important than ever, and your need for it increases. This can make it even more difficult to obtain enough from non-dairy sources.

It might be difficult, but it’s not impossible to get enough calcium, especially with some help from fortified foods. Many juices, especially orange juice, are fortified with calcium and vitamin D. The vitamin D is important because it helps your body to absorb the calcium. Read the label to make sure your choice contains both. Leafy green vegetables and some fish can also be good sources of calcium. Soy milk is a good replacement for cow’s milk that can also provide your body with calcium.

Some people with lactose intolerance use special medications that allow the body to digest lactose. These are generally considered to be safe during pregnancy, but as with any medication, it should be discussed with your doctor first.

Concerns About the Baby

Luckily, lactose intolerance in the mother is not likely to do any damage to the baby, as long as you make sure to find enough calcium sources to make up for not eating dairy products. Lactose intolerance does seem to have a genetic link, which means there is a possibility you could pass it on to the baby. It won’t likely affect the baby until later in life, however, but you should consider breastfeeding as opposed to milk-based formulas as a precaution.

Premature babies are considered to be at a higher risk for lactose intolerance, so if you want to protect your baby as best you can, take every possible precaution to avoid a premature delivery.

As long as you get enough calcium to support the baby as well as your own body during pregnancy, no matter what the source, lactose intolerance won’t be detrimental to your pregnancy. There is no reason you can’t have a perfectly normal and healthy pregnancy, and a very healthy baby!

A Healthy Eating Plan for Pregnancy

When you are pregnant, good nutrition is more important than ever before. Your baby is depending on you to provide everything necessary for normal growth and development. Because the baby will draw on your body’s stores of important vitamins and minerals, you must be sure to replace them through your diet. It’s important to be extra-cautious with those nutrients that the body isn’t able to produce or store on its own; these must be replaced on a daily basis.

A Balanced Diet

Eating a balanced diet from a variety of food choices in the best way to ensure adequate nutrition for yourself and for baby. Fill up on healthy choices such as fruits and vegetables, and avoid empty calories from sugary choices. You will need to eat from all of the food groups every day, in the appropriate amounts, so it will require close attention to what you are consuming.

Nutrients of Special Importance During Pregnancy

The job of growing a little person in your womb requires certain nutrients more than you might previously have been consuming them. Make sure you are getting enough of these key nutrients for a healthy baby:

  • Folate or folic acid: Found in leafy greens such as spinach and kale, folate has been shown to greatly reduce the likelihood of a number of birth defects, including spina bifida. Pregnant women should increase their intake of foods rich in folate early on – in fact it’s a good idea when you are just starting to try to conceive.
  • Calcium: Your baby is developing his new bones, and this will require a great deal of calcium to make them grow strong. Pregnant women should get extra calcium to prevent the baby from depleting their body’s stores.
  • Iron: Women often become anemic during pregnancy as the baby draws on the body’s iron supply.

Of course, these are just a few of the many nutrients vital to a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. Every vitamin and mineral should be represented in your diet, as well as the proper balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat.

Prenatal Supplements

Almost every woman will be told to take a prenatal supplement throughout their pregnancy. Especially when you are feeling ill in the first trimester, this can help your body to continue feeding the growing child. Making sure you are getting everything your baby needs by taking a supplement is a good safeguard against oversights in your diet.

While prenatal supplements are available over the counter, you can also ask your doctor to write you a prescription. These supplements may be of higher quality, and as an added bonus, your insurance plan will likely cover the cost.

Weight Loss and Pregnancy

During pregnancy, your body will naturally gain weight. It is never a good idea to cut calories or attempt to lose weight while you are pregnant. If you are concerned about your weight gain, talk to your doctor. Avoid high-calorie, low-nutrition foods and replace them with healthy choices to keep from putting on unnecessary pounds. If you are eating a balanced diet during your pregnancy, you should not gain weight at more than the normal rate. If you feel this is the case, it is possible you have gestational diabetes. Most women will be tested for this during pregnancy, but if you have not been and are concerned, ask your doctor.

Eating right during pregnancy is vital to a healthy mother and baby too. Throughout your pregnancy, take extra care to ensure your diet contains everything your baby needs.

Vital Minerals for your Pregnancy Diet

There are a number of minerals that are essential to life, and they should already be a part of your diet prior to becoming pregnant. However, once you have a baby growing inside you, there are a few minerals that become extra important to support that baby. Getting more of these minerals in your pregnancy diet will ensure your baby is growing and developing right on track.

Some minerals can be stored in the body, while others can not. Those that can be stored will offer a supply for the baby to draw on throughout the pregnancy. You will need to replace them daily, however, so that your own needs are being met as well. Those that the body does not store are even more crucial to your daily diet. You need to replace them every day through the foods you eat to make sure there is enough for you and your baby too.

Make sure that you are getting enough of these two absolutely essential minerals during your pregnancy, along with all of the minerals your body needs.

Calcium for Bones and More

Well-known as the mineral that supports healthy bones, calcium also does a lot more. It also supports the muscles, circulatory system, and the nervous system as well. It’s an essential mineral for a healthy body, and it becomes even more essential during pregnancy. As the baby draws on the mother’s calcium supply through the placenta, the mother must continue to replace it. Otherwise, the baby will draw on the stores of calcium from the mother’s bones, which can result in problems such as osteoporosis later in life.

Consume calcium along with vitamin D to ensure it is absorbed well into your system. Dairy products are the best source of calcium, but other foods such as leafy greens can provide it as well. This mineral becomes especially essential during the second and third trimesters, but you should go ahead and increase your intake right when you find out you are pregnant.

Iron for Your Blood

Because the volume of blood in your body increases dramatically during pregnancy, iron becomes more important than ever before. Iron helps to create red blood cells which carry oxygen throughout the body. Too little can result in anemia which is unhealthy for mother and baby too. Iron is also responsible for helping baby’s muscles to develop properly.

Iron rich foods such as red meat, poultry, and fish are great sources of this important mineral. Beans, green vegetables such as broccoli and berries like raspberries and strawberries also provide iron. If you are at risk of anemia or have already been diagnosed, your doctor may prescribe a supplement. You will likely be tested for anemia during your pregnancy as a precaution.

Like calcium, iron will become even more important in the second and third trimesters of your pregnancy. But making the right changes to your diet as soon as you know you are pregnant will make it easier to get all of the iron you need for yourself and baby as well.

These two minerals are the most essential to your baby, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the minerals in your prenatal supplements aren’t important. You need a complete and balanced diet, along with the help of a supplement, to make sure you are getting everything you need.

Nutrition: The Role of Minerals

Minerals are compounds that come from the earth. The are inorganic, but are absorbed by plants, allowing us to consume them. Minerals are very important to good health, and play a number of roles in keeping the body strong and functioning properly. Because many minerals are not made by the body, a daily intake of them from food sources and supplements is necessary.

Get the appropriate minerals in your diet by learning what they are, why you need them, and which foods you should eat to provide your body with what it needs.

What are minerals, and what do they do?

  • Calcium: In addition to its most well-known role in maintaining healthy bones, calcium is also necessary for the secretion of hormones and enzymes as well as playing a role in muscle and blood vessel contraction and expansion. Calcium is most commonly found in dairy products such as milk and cheese, but leafy greens like kale and spinach are also excellent sources.
  • Chromium: The body needs this mineral to metabolize fat and protein. It is also involved in maintaining glucose levels in the bloodstream. You can get this mineral from broccoli, grape juice, potatoes and wheat germ.
  • Iron: This mineral is necessary for transporting oxygen throughout the body as it is a vital part of hemoglobin which is responsible for carrying oxygen in the bloodstream. It also plays a vital role in cell growth. Chicken liver is the best source of iron, but other meats also provide it. Non-meat sources of iron include many types of beans.
  • Magnesium: Playing many roles in the body, this mineral strengthen bones, supports the immune system and aids in muscle, nerve and heart functions among other things. Magnesium is found in many nuts such as almonds, cashews and peanuts, as well as spinach, soybeans, and halibut.
  • Phosphorus: Vital to healthy bones and teeth, phosphorus also plays a role in the growth of cells and tissues, as well as maintaining and repairing them. The main source of phosphorus is meat and dairy products.
  • Potassium: This mineral is important to muscle growth and development, as well as synthesizing proteins. Good sources of potassium include meats, poultry and fish such as salmon. You can also find it in broccoli, peas, and bananas.
  • Selenium: Although the body doesn’t require a large amount of this mineral, it creates antioxidants that fight free radicals, and also supports thyroid health. You can find selenium in brazil nuts, tuna, cod, and beef.
  • Zinc: This mineral is important for normal growth and development as well as for our sense of taste and smell. In addition to this it supports immune health and healing of wounds. Zinc can be found in seafood such as oysters, crab, and lobster, as well as beef, pork and chicken. Non-animal sources include beans, chickpeas and almonds.

While there are more minerals that the body needs and uses, these are some of the most important.

Getting Enough Minerals

Most multi-vitamins on the market also contain the necessary minerals. Taking one of these a day will help to fill the gaps in your diet, but eating balanced meals is still crucial to getting everything your body needs. Some mineral deficiencies, such as a lack of iron, are easy to spot, but there are many that we don’t get enough of without knowing it. Support your body’s health by ensuring you provide daily sources of all of these minerals.

Necessary Nutrients for Pregnant Women

Although every nutrient is important to a pregnant body and a growing baby, there are a few that need extra attention. Add extra foods containing these vital nutrients to your diet for a healthy baby, and mom too.

Up Your Protein Intake

A pregnant woman needs more protein than prior to pregnancy to support the baby’s growth. You should increase your protein intake by about 10 grams a day during pregnancy. Great sources of protein are meats and poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts and nut butters as well. This may be especially important for vegetarians or vegans whose diet does not include many of the common sources of protein. Remember that you can’t get protein from a prenatal supplement, so make sure it’s present in your diet.

Pump Up the Iron

A pregnant woman needs double the amount of iron to prevent anemia due to the higher volume of blood in your system. Low iron has also been linked to preterm birth as well as low birth weight. Make sure you are getting all the iron you need with iron-rich foods such as lean red meat, poultry and fish, beans or leafy greens like spinach. Your doctor may also prescribe an iron supplement during your pregnancy for extra insurance. A blood test during pregnancy will check your iron levels to make sure you are not anemic.

Increase Your Calcium

Calcium is vital to growing healthy bones and teeth. Because calcium is stored in your bones, the baby will draw on this supply if you aren’t providing enough in your diet. It’s important therefore to increase your intake of calcium during pregnancy so that your stores are not depleted by the baby. You need healthy bones and teeth too! Dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt are the best sources of calcium. If you can’t eat dairy products due to dietary restrictions or lactose intolerance, look for foods fortified with calcium such as orange juice. Foods such as salmon and leafy greens can also provide calcium.

Folate for a Healthy Baby

Even when you are just trying to conceive, you need to increase your intake of folate or folic acid. This important nutrient protects your baby from serious neural tube defects and may also ward off preterm labor. Because folate is so vital even in the early weeks of a pregnancy, getting extra is important when you are trying to become pregnant. If you are already adding it to your diet, your baby will get the benefits from the time you conceive. Get folate in citrus fruits, leafy greens, and dried beans. You should also take a prenatal vitamin containing folic acid.

The Right Fat

Fats are extremely important for your baby’s eye and brain development, but make sure you are eating the right kind. Look for foods containing unsaturated fats and healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, such as nuts, oils like olive and canola, and fish like salmon and tuna.

Fill Up on Fiber

Fiber will keep you full, give you sustained energy, and also help prevent the constipation that plagues so many pregnant women. It has also been linked with a lower risk of gestational diabetes. Get fiber in foods like fruits and vegetables and whole-grains such as oatmeal, whole wheat bread, and brown rice.

Make sure you are eating a balanced diet that includes these and all the other important nutrients throughout your pregnancy.

A Vegetarian Diet During Pregnancy

If you are a vegetarian, there is no reason not to continue following your diet during pregnancy. As with any pregnancy diet, you should make sure that you are consuming enough of all of the required nutrients and enough calories to support your growing baby. Depending on the type of vegetarian diet you follow, you may need to make a few adjustments to ensure that the baby is getting everything required for normal development.

Some of the challenges to vegetarians can be getting enough protein, calcium, iron and vitamin D. It is possible to obtain most of these through a vegetarian diet, but during your pregnancy you will have to be even more vigilant to ensure that you are ingesting adequate amounts.

Getting Enough Protein

If you have been following a vegetarian diet for some time, you have probably already adjusted your intake to provide good sources of protein. Include nuts, soy products, legumes and tofu in your diet. Contrary to previous recommendations, the AAP no longer recommends against eating peanut butter during pregnancy to avoid allergies. New evidence indicates this is safe, and vegetarians can use peanut butter as a good source of protein during pregnancy.

Calcium and Vitamin D

If you follow the strictest of vegetarian diets, veganism, then getting calcium and vitamin D from milk and other dairy products are not an option for you. Look for orange juices fortified with both, as well as other foods that may have these two vital nutrients added. Calcium can but obtained through a number of foods other than dairy, such as spinach and broccoli, but vitamin D is needed to help your body use the calcium. Vitamin D can be obtained via sun exposure, but use caution. Your skin may be more sensitive to the sun during pregnancy due to elevated levels of estrogen. You may need a supplement to ensure you are getting enough vitamin D.

Iron and the Vegetarian Diet

Getting enough iron during pregnancy is vital to both your health and that of your baby. If you don’t plan to eat any meat to provide iron, you should be sure to include other iron rich foods in your diet. Look to leafy greens, peanuts, beans, peas and iron fortified foods. You may need an iron supplement during your pregnancy if your doctor finds your levels to be too low during a routine test.

Other Important Foods to Include

Some vegetarian diets include fish, an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids. If you do not consume fish, look for these important fatty acids in other sources such as almond and olive oil. Because it can be hard to get enough of this vital nutrient without fish, you might consider taking a supplement. Another important vitamin that might be lacking in a vegetarian diet is Vitamin B12. Because it is mostly found in animal products, you should take a supplement to make sure you get enough.

As with any diet, you should use caution during pregnancy to make sure that you are getting the right number of calories. After the first trimester, you will require additional calories to help your baby grow. Use caution, however, as consuming too many calories can lead to excess weight gain and other problems. Eat a balanced diet with a variety of foods to make sure you get all the vitamins you need.

If you have concerns about your vegetarian diet during your pregnancy, talk to your doctor to help determine whether or not you need supplements.

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