Tuesday, January 8, 2008
So to be honest, I don't know a ton about being vegetarian and pregnancy and breastfeeding, being as I was the biggest carnivore on the planet when I was pregnant (seriously, I could inhale a giant hamburger with bacon and cheese on it like I was paid to do it). So I'm going to go based off of what I know about nutritional deficiencies that can occur in vegetarians. But first let's talk about the different kinds of vegetarians and vegetarian wannabes.
The Fake-O Vegetarian: This is the person who finds it convenient to be vegetarian when presented with a meat option that looks unappetizing. They are often found on airplanes and at weddings taking the last pasta primavera from the true vegetarians. You know who you are.
The "I don't eat red meat" vegetarians: The Chick-Fil-A cows are cutting you a check as we speak. These people likely won't be suffering for lack of a chicken fried steak or kielbasa.
The lacto-ovo-pesco vegetarian: The only creature passing their lips are the ones that can swim. They are working down the food chain, but they can still enjoy their sushi (when not pregnant, of course)
The lacto-ovo vegetarian: Same as above minus the fish. They eat eggs and milk. Good thing too, because the holidays would really suck without eggnog.
Vegan: no animal products, whatsoever. That's right people (cue the music for the Battle Hymn of the Republic), no hot dogs on July 4th, no filet mignon at your college roommate's wedding, no hamburgers on Labor Day and no s'mores while camping (that's because most graham crackers have honey and honey comes from bees and bees are ANIMALS). I can understand the moral reasoning behind it, but I am also sitting here eating my bacon turkey Bravo sandwich from Panera, so pfffffttt (sticking my tongue out).
Fringe groups like fruitarians (only eat fruit), raw food people (don't eat cooked food), etc: get the hell off my blog. You are a too weird for me. Go back to your commune and weave a hemp bracelet or something.
So the main vitamin deficiencies that vegetarians can get are vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, zinc, iron and protein. If you are a "fake-o vegetarian" like one of my college roommates who believed that while she didn't eat meat, she was good eating Fritos and drinking gallons of Rice Dream, start popping your Flintstones vitamins now. Better yet, eat some chicken.
If you are a real veg-head and are interested in some good foods that can provide a well balanced diet in pregnancy and while breastfeeding, I would make sure that you eat a diet with plenty of the aforementioned nutrients. A fetus is like a parasite (okay, it is a parasite). If you don't take in enough calcium, vitamin D and iron, your baby will take it from your bones and your red blood cells, increasing your risk of fractures as an old lady and causing anemia.
If you're vegetarian with a poor diet, you are already at risk for anemia and vitamin D/calcium deficiency, so get your rear in gear and eat some of the food on this list and this list. Make sure to eat protein (found in nuts, beans, etc.) as it is the building block for many of the fun structures in your body.
Now pardon me while I go and cudgel a woolly mammoth for my dinner (grunt).