Pregnant and Dairy-Free: How to Meet Your Nutritional Needs
When you’re pregnant and dairy-free, ensuring that you meet your nutrient needs is extra important because what you eat feeds the baby growing in your womb. If you don’t consume good, nutritious foods, your baby won’t receive what it needs to grow and develop properly. Dairy products do contain several important nutrients that your body needs. So, if you decide to pursue a dairy-free lifestyle, getting those nutrients from other sources is even more essential.
The good news: Your body was designed to get what you need during pregnancy without relying on a bovine beverage. If you’re not consuming cow’s milk, you want to ensure you’re getting the most important nutrients found in the beverage: calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. These nutrients are important to you while you’re pregnant, so you want to pay particular attention to ensuring you get enough of them from other food sources.
Sizing up your calcium needs during pregnancy
Pregnant women need about the same amount of calcium in their diets as they do when they’re not pregnant. How much is that? About 1,000 milligrams per day. The figure stays the same when they’re breastfeeding, too.
Still, whether they drink cow’s milk or not, meeting recommended levels of calcium intake is a challenge for most women. When you’re pregnant, however, it’s important that you try. That’s because calcium is an important component of bones and teeth for you and also your growing child.
Scientific evidence suggests that your body becomes more efficient at absorbing and retaining calcium during pregnancy, so you may have some built-in help to protect you and your baby if your calcium intake isn’t quite up to recommended levels. Don’t count on it, though. Your goal is to be as well nourished as possible before, during, and after pregnancy. It’s best to aim for the 1,000 milligrams goal without relying on your body to work overtime.
Watching your vitamin D intake while pregnant
Vitamin D is a close partner to calcium — it helps your body absorb the calcium you take in. So getting enough vitamin D during pregnancy helps ensure that you absorb that bone-building mineral. When you get the proper amount of both, your baby’s bones and teeth develop normally.
Your primary nondairy sources of vitamin D when you’re pregnant include your prenatal supplement, exposure to sunlight, and any vitamin D–fortified foods you may eat, including soymilk, rice milk, almond milk, orange juice, and breakfast cereals. Whole foods that contain vitamin D include eggs, tuna, salmon, and sardines.
Beefing up your vitamin B12 stores during pregnancy
Vitamin B12 is found only in animal products like meat, milk, fish, and poultry. If you don’t eat any of these foods — because you’re living dairy- and meat-free — be sure to include a reliable alternative source of vitamin B12 to your diet. You can get vitamin B12 from supplements and fortified foods.