“Protein needs during pregnancy…and adequacy of vegetarian diet?”

3 min read

“Are you Veg or Non-Veg?”! No, I am not talking about plants or animals (pun totally intended)! That is just Indian way of asking whether you are a Vegetarian or a non-vegetarian 😛

[ctt template=”3″ link=”Cgad5″ via=”yes” ]Approximately 1/6th of world’s population lives in India and about 1/3rd of those are Lacto-vegetarians…that is A LOT OF PEOPLE! [/ctt]Now, figuratively, say half of that population comprises of women and though not all these women are bearing a child at this very moment; still chances are almost all of them already have/ had/will bear a child in the future, right? So the question is, are these women and their unborn children at the risk of protein malnutrition?

What do we need protein for?

We need protein from diet to make structural proteins for the body (see those muscles…those are proteins!!). We need protein for making enzymes and hormones (think digestion, reproduction, temperature control…think any bodily function really and these two will be involved in it!). We need protein to make antibodies that fight infections. And last but most importantly proteins can also provide energy in emergency situations… In a nutshell, proteins are an irreplaceable part of our diet.

“Some sources of protein in typical Indian lacto-vegetarian diet are milk and milk products, lentils, nuts, soybean etc. Check out a comprehensive list of vegetarian proteins and delicious recipes by Vahrevah…”

How much protein do we really need?

Let’s see…according to the ICMR report protein requirement for healthy Indian adults on a well balanced cereal-legume-milk diet is 0.8–1 g/kg/day. So if you are a 50kg something, healthy and a non-athletic person, your daily protein needs will be ~40–50 gm. What does 40–50gm vegetarian protein looks like?

This is a typical pan Indian one day meal plan, and if your meals or part of your meals look similar to this (which is very likely); “you are meeting your daily protein needs (clap..clap!)

Now if you are pregnant, your protein requirements are slightly modified…

If you are an average weight Indian women, during your first trimester you need only 0.5g more protein each day! During your second trimester; you will need ~7 extra grams of protein every day. And during the third trimester; you will need ~23 gm extra protein every day for the synthesis of baby’s placenta and baby’s body proteins…

“So..is it possible to meet protein requirements during pregnancy with vegetarian diet itself or do I need protein supplements?”

During first and second trimester it is very much possible, but during the third trimester, the needs increase substantially. Thus with a solely lacto-Vegetarian diet, meeting the protein requirements will be difficult unless the milk and milk products intake is substantial!

Who else still hums that Amul ad “Doodh hai wonderful”??…lets make that “pee sakte ho Three glass full…”

“Yes, 3 glasses of milk or 3 servings of milk products per day will help you meet your protein needs”

*Quick fixes to add more protein to your Veg diet*

Nuts: “When in rush, my choice of snack is roasted and slightly salted peanuts”. Grab a handful, and you have awarded yourself with 6 grams of crunchy proteinecious deliciousness..

Seeds: Ever eaten roasted pumpkin seeds or roasted sunflower seeds? If not, you are missing out! These nutrient packed seeds are not just great sources of protein (handful=6–8g protein) but also contains good fats (think glowing skin and baby’s brain development..). Eat them roasted or throw them in a salad mix, or in a yogurt parfait.

Soy: Soy products are great alternatives for those who are lactose intolerant/has milk allergy or simply dislike milk. Opt for soy milk (try home made, recipe here). Soy chunks, I know some people don’t care for the texture really, but trust me and try this chili soy nuggets recipe and you will never regret it!!

Chutnies: Yes, you read it right…chutney! Groundnut chutney, flax seeds (alsi/jawas) chutney, hummus, podi or even metkut…most authentic chutneys contain lentils and nuts and are good sources of protein. So mommies, craving something salty and chatpata? Instead of going for ketchup, spicy mayonnaise or schezwan sauce, try one of these chutneys (even better ask your mom for the recipe, she will feel appreciated) 🙂

Sprouts: Eat them raw, make a sprout bhel, roast them slightly with light sprinkle of salt and turmeric or just make a good old sabji…they are good, nutritious and full of protein in all forms.

Protein Supplements: Are perfectly fine of an option; just consult with your care provider first

So my vegetarian mommies to-be, yes you need a little more protein during your special last 3 months of pregnancy…but achieving that is very much doable. Do not fret, just follow your traditional, well balanced meal pattern. Key is to eat balanced meals, include variety of protein sources and just enjoy the food! For any questions and explanations, leave the queries in the reply section down below. You can also get free nutrition consultation with me at DawaiBox.

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Soniya Nikam, MS, RD.

Soniya Nikam, MS, RD.

She is a Registered Dietitian who does not believe in dieting; She has a Master's Degree in Nutrition but she is not your "I know it all Nutrition Guru!"; She loves food but loves talking about food even more. Her articles are a direct reflection of her personal quest where nutrition science meets real life! Oh, and she is owned by a 3 m.o. naughty kitten :)

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