FOOD, HEALTHY EATING, MUM GUILT, PREGNANCY, Proactive Parenting

Is a vegan diet healthy when you’re pregnant?

Becoming vegetarian is something I’ve thought deeply about recently. When coaching clients, removing meat from ones diet and eating more fruit and veg is something I always promote for health, weight loss and longevity. But one question I was recently asked by a soon to be mum was –

‘Is a vegan diet healthy when you’re pregnant?’

So to answer this question is Louise Palmer-Masterton, founder of multiple award-winning restaurants Stem & Glory. Warning – there’s mouth watering food pics from Stem + Glory throughout this post!

Veganism on its own tends to attract advice and comment from family, friends and so called ‘experts’, albeit largely well-meaning. It’s interesting that when you throw vegan pregnancy into the mix, and suddenly it becomes about moral choices. Veganism is ok it seems when it’s our own choice, but can be questioned when we are dealing with an unborn child.  The idea that we are omnivorous and therefore a vegan diet cannot be safe in pregnancy is a fairly widely held view.

This is a view that I, and many others, wholeheartedly disagree with. My own experience with being vegan during pregnancy is that it was completely normal. I was almost 40 when I became pregnant with my first daughter. I was very fit and healthy. My diet at that time consisted of mainly vegetables, small amounts of (mainly) wholegrains, lots of tofu, lentils, nuts, seeds and beans, and I continued eating in exactly the same way throughout my pregnancy. I had no morning sickness, no cravings, no complications, no deficiencies and delivered both my children safely at home. I said to myself when I first became pregnant that if I craved something in pregnancy, then I would eat it. Fortunately, I didn’t have any cravings. 

Sea Spiced Tofu

When writing this article I started wondering if my experience was an isolated one, or if in fact many vegan women experience completely problem-free pregnancies. I spoke to seven women who had been vegan through pregnancy (sometimes multiple pregnancies), and here is what they told me:

Can you get the right nutrition?

All of the vegan women I spoke to were very well researched on the subject of vegan nutrition. They were all aware of the need to increase protein intake in pregnancy by 10-20%, and did so with greater attention to eating balanced meals. Not all of them ate protein rich foods such as tofu, with many preferring natural, pulses, grains and vegetables. One of the women had a pre-existing iron deficiency which was managed through pregnancy, but none of the others developed an iron deficiency. One of the women not taking supplements increased her iron levels during pregnancy.

It is recommended in pregnancy for all mothers to take folic acid. With regard to vegan pregnancy it’s also recommended to take B12 and vitamin D. For both pregnancies, I did take a pregnancy multivitamin, and the recommended folic acid. Half of the women I spoke to did take supplements, but half did not, only taking the recommended folic acid. 

S&G Tacos

Angie, who was pregnant twice 33 and 40 years ago, and has raised four vegan children, says she “just ate sensibly, mainly fruit and veg. I’d been vegan for 13 years before I became pregnant and had never been unwell so assumed all was ok.”

This was echoed by Lee who has been through two pregnancies; “Didn’t even think about nutrition, I just followed what my body craved and had zero nutritional issues.”

Helen, who has been vegan for many years, said: “I always try to follow a balanced diet.  Supplements are recommended to pregnant people of all persuasions.  I took vegan vitamins and iron before, during and after my pregnancy.” 

Emma, who had been vegan for five years and continued to be vegan throughout her entire pregnancy said: “My iron levels were tested as standard and I was told the results were fantastic (without supplementation). I only supplemented folic acid, an algal oil omega 3, spirulina (for B12) and a probiotic, all of which would be useful to supplement in any pregnancy, whatever the diet. The omega 3 was a ‘top up’ since I was already consuming foods such as walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds etc.  Throughout my pregnancy I ensured I was receiving the correct nutrition in the same way anybody would, I consumed a healthy diet. I don’t like the way people like to make out that vegans are thinking at every meal about where they are going to get certain nutrients from, it’s nonsense, no one does that.”

Neither myself nor any of the women I spoke to reported any nutritional issues during their pregnancies.

Perfection on a plate – Katsu curry.

What are good vegan foods in pregnancy?

The women I spoke to also all followed a wholefood natural diet during pregnancy. None experienced cravings! Two of the seven experienced severe morning sickness and lived on toast for the first trimester. Two were diagnosed with gestational diabetes in the second trimester which they managed successfully on a wholefood vegan diet.

Soups and stews were frequently mentioned as ‘go to’ meals. Often mentioned were Marmite, tofu, tempeh, brown rice, aduki beans, lots of fresh organic veg, nuts, miso soup, peppermint tea and ginger.

Buffalo Cauliflower wings

Helen opted for bland but healthy: “When I had morning (all day) sickness I ate a lot of baked potatoes, as I didn’t fancy much else.  Luckily potatoes have vitamins in the skin, and so I felt they were better than other bland things.  I supplemented potatoes with vitamins and iron.  I also remember eating dried mangoes, cucumber, and miso at some points, and drinking orange juice.  When I recovered from the morning sickness, I ate a lot of everything.” 

For Holly who was also diagnosed with gestational diabetes in her second trimester, nut butters were a life saver due to their high fat/protein and low carb content. 

Danielle developed cholestasis in her second trimester which meant she could only eat low fat foods “so the vegan diet was great for this”.

Tracey who had severe morning sickness treated it with “lots of miso soup, peppermint tea, fennel seeds & crystallised ginger”.

Raw mango ‘cheese’cake

Atma was vegetarian when she became pregnant, but took the decision to go vegan. “Now I was carrying my own child it brought the ethics of the dairy trade to the forefront of my mind, I was unable to ignore it any more” Atma had previously studied macrobiotics, and when diagnosed with gestational diabetes in her second trimester was able to control the diabetes by applying macrobiotic principles. Not only did her bloods stabilise, but she felt happier, healthier and more clear headed than ever before.

Do pregnant vegans feel healthy?

They do! None of the women I spoke to had any issues with energy levels, and outside of the complications already mentioned, without exception all the women felt healthy during pregnancy. They felt the gestational diabetes was easier to manage on a vegan diet.

Emma said she continued to be vegan whilst breastfeeding and had a wonderful pregnancy with no issues whatsoever: “I wasn’t sick once, I had no cravings, I felt great the whole time, had energy, my skin was the best it’s ever been and I continued to work-out throughout the entire pregnancy. Postpartum I was told I had great colostrum, since my baby only lost 70g initially and I had a plentiful supply of milk, the health visitor actually said I had too much!”

Danielle: “I am very strong and the muscle of the household, even when pregnant if something needs lifting, I’m your girl”. I echo this and was practising and teaching ashtanga yoga until days before I had my first child, and full of energy throughout both pregnancies.

What do the health professionals think?

Now this really did give me a pleasant surprise. Every single one of the women I spoke to remarked on how helpful and understanding their health care team were of their vegan diet. Not one of them, including those with gestational diabetes, was advised to eat animal products.

Helen’s experience was consistently positive: “Two health professionals guessed I was vegan and were highly supportive. My first midwife appointment went something like this: ‘Have you read the list of things you need to stop?’ ‘Yes.  I don’t smoke or drink or eat those things anyway.’ ‘Are you a vegan then?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Excellent, I won’t need to persuade you to eat more fruit and vegetables.’ The second was a health visitor at my child’s one-year review.  The conversation went something like this: ‘What is your child’s favourite food?’ ‘Tofu.’ ‘Are you a vegan then?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Please tell me which cheese to buy.  What is the best milk?  Where do you eat out?’

Pulled Mushropom ‘Duck’ Pancakes

Emma: “I didn’t tell the midwives that I was vegan because I expected a negative response that I didn’t want to have to deal with at that time. However, in hospital after the birth the team were very supportive in providing me with decent vegan food.”

Says Che; “in my first pregnancy one of my Midwives was vegan herself and brought vegan biscuits to the antenatal classes. Second time the midwife was very supportive and unphased by the veganism. If anything, my GP and Midwives said ‘well, you don’t eat any of the stuff you have to avoid anyway so that’s good’.”

City Bowl

Two out of the seven women I spoke to however remarked on how terrible the vegan options were whilst they were in hospital!

So, if you are vegan or vegetarian, don’t let the myth that we need animal products put you off sticking to your plant-based diet. Eating a healthy vegan diet during your pregnancy can be good for you and your baby – and as there aren’t any vegan foods that are on the ‘no go’ list during pregnancy, you won’t have to give anything up either.

Louise Palmer-Masterton

Thank you for contributing this very interesting piece Louise.

Louise Palmer-Masterton is founder of multiple award-winning restaurants Stem & Glory; hip and trendy but accessible plant-based restaurants, serving delicious gourmet vegan food from locally sourced ingredients, 100% made on site. Stem & Glory also offers click-and-collect and local delivery in London and Cambridge.  www.stemandglory.uk  Lets hope these restaurants find their way to Wales, the food looks amazing.

If you enjoyed this blog post or any of our other posts this year then- please, please nominate us in the – Online Influence Awards 2020 in the parenting category 😊 you’ve got until Friday Night 9/10/2020 to enter here below-

They will ask you for our Twitter (@EmmaGrantAuthor) and Instagram (@emgrantauthor) handles in brackets.

Thank you so much,

😊

love and best wishes Em x

Behaviour, CHILDMINDING, MUM GUILT, Proactive Parenting, U Time, WORKING PARENTS

WORKING FROM HOME- PARENTING GUILT

As a childminder I can relate to this mum guilt. Both of my children were born into my childminding business so from day one they had to share me with other babies and children.

MUM GUILT

I suffered from this- ‘mum guilt’ constantly, especially when my children became older and more independent as, they could see me every day caring for babies and other people’s children and I felt they mustn’t have felt special, as I tried to treat all the children equally. So, if another child wanted to play with my childrens toys, in their house, my children were encouraged to share. Sharing your toys with other children is tough enough when you are a baby or toddler but it’s harder sharing your Mum. When they can see you spending your time and energy doing other things or on others, and not putting your attention on them, they can feel unimportant.  

That’s how I can relate to all those working parents who now have to adapt to working from home, whilst also caring for their children. Multitasking the two is very difficult to say the least. When we are visible but inaccessible to our children, it’s like saying to them that they’re lower down on our list of priorities or second best to whatever else has captured our attention.

WORKING FROM HOME

While we are physically around them, they can actually see what is more important to us at that time other than them. Whether it’s working on the computer, taking phone calls, Zooming a meeting or writing up that report, at that moment, they are not as important to us as the thing or the person we are currently occupied with. Most young children don’t understand that we have to work, or even what work really is for, they just physically see us occupied elsewhere, so they do all they can to make us conscious by demanding our full attention, any way they can.  Usually this is seen as misbehaving and we tell them off, adding to our guilt further. But at these challenging times you should go easy on yourself, no one can expect you to do the same job as you would at work while caring for your child, and the bottom line is, none of this is you or your child’s fault so try to enjoy this time together as much as you can.

If you make them feel involved while you are working, you’ll get more done than constantly fighting off their attempts at vying for your attention. If you have to write that report for your boss, give your child some paper and crayons and ask them to write a report with you and  turn it into a fun game, they wont notice you are distracting them if they are enjoying the distraction in your company. When we include them, we are not multitasking them if they are involved and enjoying the process, so let’s get them involved.

Most people can do what we do, with the exception of being a parent to our child. All these things that keep us busy seem important at the time, but it doesn’t matter what we have or achieve in life—it’s all a waste of time. It’s who we are with and the time we give that counts in the end!

Luckily, my children never got jealous (that I know of anyway?) they always felt involved and they have embraced all the children I’ve cared for over the past sixteen years as part of their family, even referring to some as bothers and sisters, but I feared it could have gone the other way too and they could have ended up resenting the other children or me, for the business I chose to be in, ironically to be ‘there’ for my kids.

But over the years I’ve reasoned that there were lots of benefits also for my children, and had I gone out to work commuting and working late and not around at all, equally they would have felt neglected. It’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t. All parents worry or feel anxious on a daily basis (more so now while we are faced with the Coronavirus, Covid-19 pandemic).

That’s why I created my Guilty Buster and The Worry Buster Technique exercises in my books, to address guilt and worry. So whenever I was feeling the- ‘Mum guilt’ -I would do the following exercise, one is from book one.

And the other from book 2.

GUILTY BUSTER

Guilt is a waste of time and an emotion that’s draining. Instead, we are better off channelling our energy into doing something to resolve issues that cause us guilt.

We can start by trying this guilt busting exercise and writing our answers down;

  • Think of the thing that makes you feel guilty. For example, not reading a story to your child before bedtime.
  • Ask yourself how long and how often have you spent your time feeling guilty about not doing it?
  • And how long are you going to continue feeling guilty and punishing yourself over it?
  • Then ask yourself why you just don’t do it in the first place?

You may find the reason for not doing something that’s making you feel guilty is lack of time?

Therefore, it may be just as quick, and feel a lot better, to just do the very thing, that you have no time to do, rather than waste the time and energy feeling guilty about not doing it.

  • Make a list of anything and everything that is making you feel guilty right now and go through each thing on your list and try and turn it into your guilty pleasure. Ask yourself what good reasons can you find for doing/not doing it?

For example, you may feel guilty because you have to work and miss playing with your child.

But your good reason for working is to pay the bills and buy your child the experiences and things they need to grow and develop.

Maybe you feel guilty over a long soak in the bath or reading a book in peace alone?

But you can reassure yourself that time away from your child is exactly what you need to relax and be you again. Giving you the chance to miss them and enjoy their company more when reunited afresh.

This exercise can help you to understand that to regain your sense of self, you need this guilty pleasure.

As a consequence of using your time to do things you want to do, you will feel happier, making you a calmer, more content and relaxed parent.

We all need time and space away from our children occasionally if only to feel refreshed and able to cope with their everyday demands.

The truth is, even if we could give them a hundred hours a day, it would never be enough. Our children’s need for our time and attention is insatiable, and can never be constantly met, no matter how hard we try or how much time we dedicate to them.

It’s not selfish to satisfy our own needs or do what we have to do to provide the best life for our family. It’s the one thing that prevents us feeling resentment toward our children for taking up all our time and energy. Therefore, it’s the most loving thing we can do for ourselves and our children. 

THE WORRY BUSTER TECHNIQUE

  • First, think about something that is worrying you at this moment regarding your child.
  • Now, write down all the reasons why it is worrying you, and note how worrying about it has helped the situation or how it has made it worse.
  • Then, work out how long you have been worrying about it, and decide how much longer you want to keep on worrying about it.
  • Next, write a list of all the possible ways that you can try to help solve the problem or make it less of a worry. Brainstorm as many ideas as you can think of, regardless of how unrealistic they may sound at first.
  • Now, choose one way that you can take action on the problem today.
  • Finally, go and take some action and do something to change the situation now.

Can’t find a solution right now?

Then just decide to relax and step back and accept, for now, the way things are.

Clear your mind of the problem and do something else until a solution comes to mind. Busy yourself with chores or exercise and let the solution bubble away in the back of your mind unhindered by you.

You’ve proactively looked at the issue by doing the ‘Worry Busting Technique’.  Now the only thing you can change is to stop worrying about something you cannot change because if there is nothing you can do about it, then why waste time and energy worrying?

SHARE YOUR LOCK DOWN PARENTING PROBLEMS & EXPERIENCES

Worrying will not help or change anything. After all, most of what we worry about never actually happens anyway, and if we are doing all that we can do right now, then there is no need to worry about anything else.

I hope these simple exercises will help you at this difficult time, as much as they have helped me and the countless other parents that I have worked with in the past in overcoming guilt and worry.

Thanks to those of you that have emailed me for sharing your thoughts on Lock down and parenting, please keep your stories and experiences coming in so I know what to blog about each week that will be most beneficial at this time.

 You can email me;

emma@happychildcare.club

Stay Present, Stay Safe,

Em x

Photo’s by Joshua Eckstein  Vicky Summer  NeONBRAND  Picsea and  Senjuti Kundu on Unsplash