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Vegetarian and vegan diets in pregnancy

Eating a varied and balanced diet during pregnancy is important for your health and the development of your baby.

If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, make sure you get enough iron, vitamin B12 and calcium in your diet. You will also need to take supplements to get enough vitamin D and folic acid.

If you usually take a supplement, check that it is suitable for pregnancy.

Iron in your diet

Good sources of iron for vegetarians and vegans are:

  • pulses - such as beans, peas or lentils
  • dark green vegetables - such as broccoli or spinach
  • wholemeal bread
  • eggs (if you include them in your diet)
  • breakfast cereals with added iron
  • dried fruit, such as apricots

Vitamin D in your diet

You need to get vitamin D from your diet.

Vegetarian food sources include:

  • egg yolk
  • foods fortified with vitamin D, including some breakfast cereals and most fat spreads
  • dietary supplements

It's difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone. You should also take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms.

If you’re vegan, check the label to make sure your vitamin D is suitable for vegans.

Calcium in your diet

If you're a vegan, you need to make sure you get enough calcium. Non-vegans get most of their calcium from dairy foods.

Good sources of calcium for vegans include:

  • dark green leafy vegetables such as kale or spinach
  • pulses
  • fortified unsweetened soya, rice and oat drinks
  • brown and white bread
  • calcium-set tofu
  • sesame seeds and tahini
  • dried fruit

Talk to your midwife or doctor about how you can get all the nutrients you need for you and your baby.

Vitamin B12 in your diet

Vitamin B12 is only found naturally in foods from animal sources. If you eat dairy products and eggs, you probably get enough. But sources for vegans are limited. A vitamin B12 supplement may be needed

Vegan sources of food which are fortified with vitamin B12 include:

  • yeast extract, such as Marmite
  • some breakfast cereals
  • soya products

Adults need about 1.5 micrograms of vitamin B12 a day. Check the labels of fortified foods to see how much vitamin B12 they contain.

Read more about Vitamin B12 or B9 (folate) deficiency anaemia

Folic acid

If you're pregnant or trying for a baby, you should take a 400 microgram folic acid supplement daily until you're 12 weeks pregnant.

Read more about having a healthy diet during pregnancy

Page last reviewed: 10 November 2021
Next review due: 10 November 2024

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 8.