I'm sure getting enough protein was a daunting enough task when you weren't pregnant. Now you have the fear of your baby's health too. Well here's something to ease your mind. Yes everyone says you need protein, protein, protein, but unless you're a body builder, you don't need to load up on it. Of course, it's a whole different story when you're pregnant. Still, it's not impossible to get enough for you and baby.
Meat does have that more complete chain of amino acids, and protein from plant based sources don't. Imagine it as building blocks. When meat is involved, you need less blocks. When you rely solely on plant based sources, you need a few more. Remember, as much as certain people want you to believe it, even meat on its own isn't enough to give you complete, perfect protein.
You need to mix up your sources of protein. You can get it from beans, whole grains, soy products, and nuts. If you still eat fish it makes it a little easier on you. By mixing up these different foods, you can ensure that you're getting all the building blocks you need to complete that chain of amino acids. It doesn't all have to be in the same meal. As long as you have more than one source of protein with in a day, you and baby should be just fine.
My favorites for protein are:
Lentils - Great for protein and as a bonus, it's loaded with iron, fiber, folate and magnesium.
Quinoa - Is a super food. It has the most perfect string of amino acids out of all the grains. If you can include this in your meals as much as possible you're already ahead. It's a great addition to any meal and is extremely versatile. Antoher plus: it has lots of fiber too which is great for constipation caused by the pregnancy.
Trail Mixes - Nuts have always been known as an alternate source for protein. Trail mixes make, great healthy snacks that are easy for on the go mom-to-bes. They're great for that extra energy boost too.
Brown Rice - Doesn't necessarily kick butt on the protein scale but I like to mention it because it's such an easy switch rather than an "add-on" to your current diet. You up the protein by a bit but it's an everyday staple in most cultural cooking and pantries around the world. This goes for all grains. By switching to brown (whole grains), you'll get more protein and lots of other goodies that comes along with whole foods.
Whole grains are also great for filling you up and keeping you full longer. Because the carbs aren't refined, it takes your body longer to break them down. This gives you a steady stream of fuel rather than the sugar spike refined carbs give you.
Soy has to be one of the most versatile food in the world. It can be made into pretty much anything it seems.
Soy Milk - Not one of my favorite milks on it's own but the chocolate is delicious. Even making your own hot cocoa with it is great. It's one of the creamier milks when you use it in hot beverages but it's great cold when it's chocolate flavoured.
Tofu - Like some people out there, I'm not a huge fan of tofu. I force myself to eat it to get used to it and it seems to work. I find if you stick to the extra firm tofu, you'll enjoy it a lot more. At least I do. My fave way to have tofu is scrambled. It's a great alternative for scrambled eggs in the morning. I'll post my own recipe in the near future.
These are really the only products I personally have opened myself up to. Tempeh is great as well because it is made from fermented soy beans. I find it a little bitter but it can be helped depending on how you prepare it.
***Watch the amount of soy products you eat. Processed foods are already saturated with soy and too much of one thing is never good. It's been proven that soy can suppress hormones your thyroid produces causing health problems. Limit your soy products and when you can replace them from time to time with something else. (ex. bean burgers vs. soy burgers, rice milk vs. soy milk)
I also add protein to my morning fruit smoothies. It's great to balance out the natural sugars so you don't get the sugar high and then suffer from sugar cravings all day. Be careful with the protein you choose. Make sure it is safe for pregnant women. I use pure pumpkin seed protein powder. Pumpkin seed is great as a source of magnesium as well which can help you stay calm. I use Omega Nutrition's pumpkin seed powder.
Health food stores are a great place to get more info on how to stay healthy while being green. I always stay away from synthetic supplements unless certain vitamins can only be derived from non vegan sources other than fish. Health food stores always have knowledgeable employees who work in the supplement section. They can help you pick out the right, natural, vegan supplements for you.
Remember, you should only take supplements if you can't get certain vitamins and nutrients from your regular diet. ALWAYS try to get everything you need from food first. Supplements should only be an insurance plan and not a source of everyday nutrition. Your body absorbs nutrients and vitamins better from whole foods than a pill or powder.
***Remember, always consult your primary care provider and/or a nutritionist before taking any supplements other than ones that are specifically made for pregnancy. I am not a nutritionist or doctor. This is what I do based on the information from my own personal research and the information my nutritionist and midwife have given me. Every one is different. I put the ideas out there so you can ask the questions.