Vegan and Pregnant Q&A — Four Weeks To Go!

Currently at the stage where everyone seems to think I’m about to ‘pop’ when really there are about four weeks left. I don’t mind…just getting excited! I can’t imagine this bump getting much bigger though! It feels the same size now as Roen’s did at birth. And baby does NOT stop moving. He or she moves so much more than Roen did.
The past two months have been a bit rough thanks to an SI joint dysfunction. I didn’t even notice the injury when it happened — there was no specific incident. But thanks to loose pregnancy ligaments, something in the rear pelvic region is out of whack making it feel like I have a tailbone/pelvic stress fracture. I have an amazing physio but am horrible with stretching and rehab so it’s taking a long time to heal. Darren has been extra helpful with Roen/everything and Effie and Suri have been going on epic off-leash beach walks daily with The Woofpack — this has really helped keep my stress levels in check! I’ve been missing working out a lot, though, for mental health as much as physical. Besides the injury, I’m feeling good. No symptoms or issues.
Today, I’m answering 15 of your ‘vegan pregnancy‘ questions. If yours isn’t below, please check this post, this post or this post. Feel free to share this info with anyone who questions the safety of a vegan pregnancy. I can’t imagine doing it any other way and have felt amazingly healthy on this nutrient-dense diet.
vegan and pregnant erin roen
vegan pregnancy

Q: Can you suggest some good ways to get protein? I’m in my first trimester and all meat subs (even tofu) sound unappetizing.

Sorry to hear this — food aversions are not fun! But here’s some good news: protein is found in most foods besides junk food, fruit and the odd low-protein item like the cassava. We’ve been conditioned to think protein is only found in things like meat, tofu and beans, but just about every vegetable and grain contains protein. It’s actually really hard to not get enough protein in a day if you’re consuming an appropriate number of calories for your body weight. In fact, I read in the book Diet For a New America that scientists actually have a hard time creating mock diets that are deficient in protein. The meat and dairy industries have spent billions of dollars to make sure we are focused and worried about our protein levels…and it’s worked! Most of our moms and grandmas raised us to focus on protein, so I don’t blame you at all (I used to try to eat nothing but lean animal protein). Think about this: have you ever met anyone with a protein deficiency? I have not. If you really want to boost your protein for peace of mind you could add a scoop of plant-based protein / nutrition powder to your morning smoothie? (My husband uses Vega regularly and loves it.) Or you could add tofu and lentils to your grain bowls? Or eat chickpea ‘egg’ omelettes for breakfast? (Details in my story highlights.) Chances are, you may already be getting enough protein!

Q: I’m deeply craving carbs. How to get your fix but still get in the greens and veg?

Oh girl, I feel you. I live off carbs and so many other mamas I’ve spoken to tell me they also survived off nothing but carbs during their pregnancies. We definitely need a lot of them! Sounds like we’re on the same page, but for anyone who is scared of carbs: they are not the enemy! Embrace the cravings! As for how to get the greens in…could you get them in separately rather than combining them? As great as greens would be at every meal, I personally don’t find this feasible (especially when I’m craving some lemon greek potatoes or a thick piece of buttered toast! LOL). I get my greens in through a daily, one-litre green smoothie that’s packed with tons of organic spinach (or whatever leafy green you prefer), frozen banana, ground flax, hemp hearts, soy milk, ice, cinnamon, vanilla, 1-2 dates, peanut butter (optional). It’s delicious!! One way I sneak greens into my daughter’s meals is to blend spinach or broccoli into marina sauce that I add to pasta. Could that help?

Q: How has exercise changed throughout your pregnancy?

Two months ago I suffered from an SI joint dysfunction and it’s still not better (probably because I’m horrible at stretching, resting and doing the rehab exercises recommended by my physio). It’s ruined all my pregnancy work-out plans. First pregnancy, I worked out until almost the end, mainly doing circuit classes at Tight Club, and I loved it. When not pregnant, my main work-out is running (with Effie and friends in the forest) but I wasn’t able to continue this due to severe pelvic pain before the three month mark! This round, I worked out like usual up until the SI joint dysfunction (5-6 months pregnant). I was even able to run this pregnancy when I realized all I had to do was slow my pace and reduce my distance to avoid pelvic pain. At this point, I’m still not able to walk comfortably so it’s not looking like I’ll be able to work-out (the way I like to) again before baby comes. It’s not fun, especially when you rely on that endorphin release for stress relief. As for how the SI joint dynsfunction happened — I’m not even sure! I didn’t notice the injury in the moment. My physio tells me it couldn’t been something as simple as a mis-step. Apparently it’s pretty common among pregnant women.

Q: Any tips on exercising while pregnant? At 5.5 months, I get tired so fast and don’t like the idea of jumping around, but I want to stay fit and active.

This may not be helpful, but…I say don’t push it! If you’re really tired, listen to your body…it’s trying to tell you something. Your body is making a tiny human…that is a lot of work! Rest is so important during this magical phase of life. If you have the energy for (long) walks, I think they can be great. Not only do they keep you mobile, but towards the end of pregnancy walking (and wiggling your hips a la Tahitian hip shake) can get baby into a better, lower position for labour and birth. I did a lot of this and I swear it helped our speedy labour. But again, I wouldn’t push it. It’s truly one of the time’s in life where you should feel good and guilt-free about putting your feet up, relaxing and simply doing less.

Q: Any easy meal ideas to feed me and my one-year-old when I’m exhausted and don’t want to cook? Meal prep ideas, please!

I try to share the easy meals that we are eating on a daily basis — check my Instagram stories! A lot of what we make doesn’t come with a recipe since it’s nothing fancy — I’m literally just ‘cooking’ things and then adding a sauce or seasoning. You could also check out Tons of easy meal ideas. And don’t feel like you need to think up new meals every week! Jot down five easy meals you and your family like and eat them on repeat. Lastly, you could consider a meal delivery service? Planted Meals is my kitchen neighbour and they sell five meals per week for $45. There’s also Gomae Meal Prep who offers plant-based, zero-waste

Q: Thoughts on maternity clothes? Have you bought any new clothing for this pregnancy?

Luckily lots of my regular clothes are flowy enough to fit the bump! And since I’ve been pregnant in the warmer months I’ve been living in loose dresses, comfy onesies and running tights. I didn’t buy a single maternity item during my first pregnancy and during this second pregnancy I did cave and buy one pair of maternity jeans and one pair of maternity overalls. I regretted buying the jeans instantly because they bagged out and lost their shape so quickly after I put them on. Since the overalls are looser, they were a good purchase. It is nice wearing something other than the aforementioned baggy items, but I highly recommend sourcing hand-me-down maternity clothes if at all possible since you’ll only be wearing them for a matter of months!

Q: What kind of supplements do you take?

During pregnancy I take a prenatal vitamin (I use a variety of brands but right now am on Garden of Life — Rainbow Lights are also good) and B12 (liquid form from Garden of Life). I recently started taking a plant-based Omega 3 pill (this one from NutraVege) because I never have before (I’ve been vegan for about six years) and figured I’d see if I noticed any differences. Typically, I get omegas from foods like hemp, chia, flax and walnuts. So far I haven’t noticed any differences in how I’m feeling.

Q: What do you say when people tell you that you’re killing plants to eat? What’s the difference between killing plants and animals?

I remind them that animals have central nervous systems…plants don’t. Animals have families…they are sentient beings who experience joy and fear. Plants aren’t sentient. Also, if you’re worried about killing plants, know that livestock consumes a vast amount more plants than humans. So, if you’re really worried about plants, a vegan diet is for you!

Q: How do you get enough calories in while eating lots of fruit and veg? I find it difficult to do without feeling bloated!

Have you tried eating probiotics daily? A few bites of sauerkraut or a scoop of good coconut yogurt could help! (Yoggu yogurt contains billions of probiotics per jar…it’s expensive stuff but compare it to the price of probiotic pills and I’d say it’s worth it). You could also do a vegan probiotic pill (Garden of Life has a good one that’s prenatal specific). I don’t focus on calories. I just eat when I’m hungry. I wouldn’t say I eat too too many fruits and veg. I try to but to be honest, my plant-based diet is quite carb-heavy (eg. oatmeal with fruit for breakfast, sandwiches, grain & veg bowls, leftover pasta for lunch, noodles, sushi etc).

Q: Which group fitness classes do you recommend during pregnancy?

I find working out is so personal…so, what I like may not work for you, BUT…before my injury I was loving Sessions Athletics drop-in circuit classes which are held Monday, Wednesday, Fridays from 7-8am in the basement of Ache Capoeira Academy on Broadway (you enter through the alley) and you don’t have to sign up (love that)…just bring $20. They’re not prenatal specific, but the trainers, Brett and Phil, are great at suggesting modified exercises for anything you’re uncomfortable with. Also, I find the classes are as hard as you want to make them. It all depends on how hard you push yourself (which I guess could go for any work-out!).
For my first pregnancy I loved group work-out classes at Tight Club. I went multiple times a week. And I hear that nowadays they have a mom-centered work-out class called Postnatal Fitness Club which could work for pregnant women, as well.
When it comes to being pregnant and working out in general, my main tip would be to try to stick to the type of work-out you’re used to and modify as you need. You don’t need to find something ‘pregnancy specific’. The only changes I’ve made to my work-out classes are avoiding ab work. Everything else has felt fine for me.

Q: What to eat post-partum while breastfeeding to maintain milk supply on a vegan diet?

For me, I felt eating a nutrient dense diet with lots of grains, fruits, veg, seeds really helped my milk supply. Also, how much I was eating and drinking seemed to affect things. I’d say there was a direct correlation with quantity of food/calories and water I consumed and the breast milk I made. Luckily, I had an oversupply (that I gave to friends’ babies), which perhaps was thanks to the fact that I love to eat! Breastfeeding is a great time for large portions! Your body is working hard and you’re burning lots of calories — you can afford it!

Q: Any differences between this pregnancy and Roen’s?

They’ve been very similar! I didn’t experience nausea or vomiting during either of them. My food aversions and cravings were probably stronger during Roen’s pregnancy. This round I’ve had zero strong aversions, which is really nice. The bump looks the same and most people guess we’re having a boy. I think boy, too!

Q: Were you able to find an OBGYN who is supportive of your vegan diet?

For both pregnancies, I’ve gone to South Community Birth program where you receive support from a group of midwives, not just one individual. I’ve loved seeing a variety of midwives and getting a range of perspectives. By chance, the main midwife I’m seeing this round is vegan! All of them have been supportive of my vegan diet, though. Even the government states on their website that “a vegan diet can provide all the nutrients you need”, and goes on to say that, “In general, people who don’t eat meat weigh less than people who eat meat, are less likely to die of heart disease, have lower cholesterol levels and are less likely to get: high blood pressure, prostate cancer, colon cancer and type 2 diabetes,” It’s too bad that there are still some health professionals who second guess the plant-based diet.

For Roen’s pregnancy, the first health professional I visited was my former GP. She’s older (sixties) and didn’t blink an eye when she learned I was vegan. Hopefully all doctors read the science and get on board soon!

Q: What’s the one thing you’d request from your midwife during the birth?

That we let nature take it’s course and we let my body do it’s thing. I hope to not have to be induced or undergo any other medical procedures. Since Roen’s birth was so quick, our hospital chart is flagged as a ‘high risk for a quick birth’…at the first contraction they said I could be admitted to the hospital. Knowing this, my hopes are high for a quick and smooth birth…I really hope this doesn’t jinx me!!! And like Roen’s birth, I need a water birth. For some reason, I can’t imagine not doing it in water. The water seems to ease the pain and lubricate. I loved it!!! Another small/silly request I have is that the midwife let us take our time right after baby comes out to stare at him or her and discover his or her sex on our own.





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