MS, RD, LDN, CBS
Janel holds a Master’s in Nutrition Communication from Tufts University. As the recipient of the 2010 Massachusetts Young Dietitian of the Year award, she believes in making healthy eating simple, sustainable, and delicious.
By this point, you have likely heard that what you eat during pregnancy can have a big impact on both your and your baby’s health. But did you know that there are certain nutrients that can specifically help with baby’s brain development? Choline, DHA, and Iron are all essential to baby’s brain development. However, many sources of choline, DHA, and iron are not plant based. So vegetarians need to be extra diligent about including the below sources of the brain boosting nutrients in their diets to ensure adequate intake.
is essential in pregnancy since your body cannot make it in adequate amounts.
It plays a role in infant brain development, learning, and memory function.
Pregnant moms need more choline since it is transferred to the baby. Vegetarian
sources include: milk, peanuts, beans, collard greens, brussels sprouts, swiss
chard, cauliflower, and spinach (and if you chose to consume eggs – egg yolks
are an excellent source).
Iron: We need extra iron during pregnancy to make more blood to supply oxygen to baby. Additionally, baby uses iron to build up stores that he relies on until six months of age . Too little iron can be problematic for baby’s brain development and leave you anemic. Our body relies on dietary intake as we cannot make iron. Vegetarian sources include: lentils, tofu, beans, dark leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fortified grains (cereals, breads, pastas). Try pairing these food items with a source of vitamin C to help with absorption.
DHA: DHA is an
essential Omega-3 fatty acid involved in the development of the brain, nervous
system, and retina – it’s especially important in fetal, infant, and early
childhood growth. DHA is found mainly in fish, particularly wild salmon,
sardines, mussels, and rainbow trout. If you do not eat fish, look for DHA
fortified foods as some foods are now being fortified with DHA, such as milk,
eggs, yogurt, and soy milk, but be sure to check the package.
Taking a plant-based DHA supplement while pregnant and
nursing will help to ensure you’re meeting your and your baby’s needs. Speak
with your doctor before starting any supplement.
Vitamin C rich foods (citrus, peppers, etc) will help your
body absorb iron. Make sure to also include Vitamin C rich foods in your diet.
Selecting meals and snacks from the below listed options will help you choose
vegetarian friendly foods that provide DHA, choline, or iron.
For more on this topic, check out the following articles:
Recipes & Meal Plans | Little Ones
Starting Solids | Little Ones
Recipes & Meal Plans | Mama
Recipes & Meal Plans | 7+ Months
Our Happy Family Organic Superfoods Cookbook for Baby & Toddler is chock-full of yummy, easy-to-prepare meals your whole family will love.