Before I begin I would like to just clarify that it’s Michelle writing this post…Steph specifically said I should mention that so no one gets any funny ideas 😉 Secondly, I would like to also say that I am in no way a nutritionist nor do i have any qualifications that would allow me to give any advise to other people. I am merely speaking from my own personal experience.
Now that we have that clear….I thought it might be a good idea to write a bit about what it’s like to be pregnant on a plant-based diet. I have had quite a lot of questions from people regarding it so I thought I could answer everyone right here. At the moment I am 31 weeks pregnant, which I believe is the start of the 8th month (these things get so confusing). I still cannot believe that in a couple of months I will have a baby..but that is another blog post altogether.
Let’s start with the first trimester. As far as I understand I have been extremely “lucky” in my pregnancy. I use the word “lucky” lightly as I personally believe that my lifestyle plays a huge role in that. I had already been plant based for awhile before I got pregnant. I was also quite active, I practiced yoga and did pilates as much as i could. I would say on average i worked out about 3 times a week for about an hour each time. It is this active, plant-based lifestyle that I honestly believe helped me to conceive so quickly. And when I say quickly I mean within the first month of trying. The only form of morning sickness I had was a little nausea which only lasted 2 weeks. And it was never so bad that i couldn’t eat and i never threw up. I basically ate toast mostly but I did manage smoothies as well, which was great because how much nutrients can you really get from toast? I had a few food aversions such as oatmeal and curries…which i hated because oatmeal is my staple breakfast and I love curries (especially being a Durbanite). Once the nausea went away I craved avocado and would eat 1 a day. I have always loved avocado but for some reason i just had to eat 1 everyday. This probably lasted a few weeks. Funny thing is avocado is packed with folic acid, calcium and vitamins. This may sound cheesy but I honestly think that being on a clean plant-based diet helps you get more in tune with your body. Your body knows what it needs and will tell you by means of cravings.
The worst thing about the first trimester for me was the fatigue. Especially when you are so energetic usually. Feeling tired..no scratch that….feeling exhausted all the time sucks! All i wanted to do was sleep. But I thought, my body knows what’s best so I just surrendered to it and slept as much as I wanted. It was tough because it meant other things had to be sacrificed but it lasted a few weeks and then once I reached the second trimester I was back to normal again. So the second trimester began and i got my energy back, I also stopped having food aversions to curry and oatmeal (yay). I ate exactly as I did before I got pregnant. I never had any strange cravings and much to the disappointment of some people I did not ever crave a hamburger or any meat at all. A few people said to me “oh wait till you’re pregnant and all you want to eat is bacon or a hamburger” …well that never happened and in fact i think I became even more disgusted by meat. To the point where the neighbours would cook souvla (braai / BBQ) and the smell would make me feel ill. I didn’t have any strong cravings either. I craved things like fresh and crunchy fruit and vegetables. Fresh tomatoes, lettuce, apples, pears…etc. Then it got to a stage where all I wanted to eat was Arabic food. Fattoush, Hummus, Muhammara, Tabbouleh, Falafels…etc. I even said to Rami, my Jordanian husband, that this is definitely his kid cause all i wanted was Arabic food. I ate the same as usual but a little more. I gained weight slowly and steadily. I never over indulged in anything either. I didn’t use pregnancy as an excuse like I think a lot of people do to eat junk food and sweets and chocolate…etc. I didn’t even want to. Once you have been on a plant-based diet for awhile your taste changes and things like Macdonalds or Burger King actually sound gross (and lets be honest, they are gross). I also continued to workout as much as I could.
Now for those of you wondering about how healthy this diet is for pregnancy, let me ask you this…why is it that you would question someone on a clean vegan, plant-based diet who eats fruit and veg and pulses and whole grains but you won’t question the woman whose eating Macdonalds and chips and chocolates everyday? Which diet do you really think is healthier? Yes i get enough protein, and I get a lot more nutrients than the junk food fanatic…or even the average omnivore. I also happen to get tons of fiber…so you know what that means right? It basically means I’ve never had a problem with constipation or haemorrhoids during pregnancy…is that TMI? Sorry, but it is the truth. And just to put everyone’s mind at ease, all my blood tests have come back with great results.
The third trimester, so far, has been like the second…except fatigue is starting to creep in again. And my new favourite cuisine is Asian / Oriental. Vegan sushi, Pad Thai, Edamame….yum!
So I thought maybe to get a better idea of how you can have a healthy plant-based diet while pregnant I would let you in on an average meal plan for a day:
Breakfast usually consists of a bowl of oatmeal with raw cacao, homemade peanut butter, a banana, flax seeds / chia seeds, dates (for natural sweetness) or maple syrup and soya milk fortified in folic acid and calcium. This is my go to oatmeal recipe but I like to change things up a bit every now and then, by adding frozen berries or dessicated coconut…etc.
Another great quick and easy breakfast is a green smoothie. Almost the same ingredients as the oatmeal but I would add some spinach to the mix as well. Then just blend it and drink!
Morning snack is usually a piece of fruit like a pear or an apple or even a couple of rice cakes with marmite. I love marmite and its full of folic acid and B vitamins. I’ll only eat a snack if i feel hungry though.
Lunch would usually consist of some leftovers from the night before…but most days I will have a sandwich with lettuce, tomato, avocado with hemp seeds or this chickpea salad sandwich filling I like to make. I have also been enjoying some Instant Miso Soup with my sandwich.Plus a sandwich is the easiest thing to take to work.
Another piece of fruit or a handful of mixed nuts or maybe a few blocks of dark chocolate. Again, it depends on whether im hungry or not. I also like making energy bars from dates and nuts or homemade ice lollies.
Dinner is where I get more adventurous. This could be anything from Cottage Pie to homemade Vegan burgers and roasted potatoes, stuffed veg or a Buddha Bowl. The options are endless here. After dinner if i’m craving something sweet i’ll usually have a few blocks of dark chocolate or an energy ball or an ice lolly.
I’m quite boring…have been for awhile but all I ever drink is water. I might have a cup of coffee in the morning ( I try limit coffee to maximum 2 cups a day, usually its just 1) Then all i drink is water all day long. I love water…there is nothing better! I also like making homemade Ice Tea from Rooibos. Its delicious!
So that is the gist of what I eat on average. Honestly not different at all compared to before I was pregnant. I try stay away from refined sugar as you will notice I try use natural sweeteners like dates or maple syrup. I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts and if anyone has a question, leave a comment below!