Danielle Prado is the 34-year-old woman behind the vegan recipe site, Veganized. She’s expecting her first child this summer.
I first tried a vegan diet in 2010 as part of a 30-day challenge just to see if I could do it–and it was a huge learning experience. I went in pretty blind and assumed that I would be eating a lot of vegetables with no butter. But with time, I learned you can eat a lot of different foods on a vegan diet.
I learned how to go to restaurants and “veganize” the menu by asking things to not be cooked in butter but in oil, eliminate cream-based sauces or spreads, and substitute in veggies for meats. At first it seemed annoying and tedious, but I eventually became confident in ordering “no butter, no cheese, no meat, substitute sauteed mushroom cooked in oil”–and most places have no issue with making the adjustments.
I always planned to go back to my normal diet after the 30-day challenge, but…I didn’t. I realized that I felt really good on a plant-based diet. I wasn’t depending on a constant stream of caffeine to keep my energy levels up, and my digestion was better–I was more regular and less bloated than usual.
I had also dropped some weight. Weight loss wasn’t my goal, per se, but at the time of my challenge, I was working a minimum-wage job, so I lived off cheap junk food and fast food. Naturally, the extra weight came off.
Ten years later, I’m still a vegan. I’ve always had the mindset that I’ll just stick with veganism for however long I want, but this is my new normal now and it feels right for me. I’m now expecting my first child, and my veganism has come up a lot during my pregnancy.
Case in point: My obgyn sent me to a dietitian…twice.
At my first appointment while pregnant, the doctors started talking about the foods you can’t have while you’re pregnant, like soft unpasteurized cheeses, lunch meats, and soft-cooked eggs. As they started listing things off, I let them know that I’m vegan, so it didn’t make a difference anyway. From there, they had a lot of questions about what I eat, like where I was getting my protein from and how much iron I get in my diet.
But it seems there was no reason for all this concern: My blood work came back great, and I wasn’t deficient in anything.
Still, the doctors had me go to a dietitian–twice–to make sure I was getting enough nutrition to support a growing human. Before each visit, I had to do things like write out everything I ate in a day. Although I don’t know this for sure, I think they wanted to make sure I wasn’t making the baby malnourished.
I know that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that pregnant women get important nutrients like 400 micrograms of folic acid daily, eat plenty of iron-rich foods, and get lots of calcium in their diet–and I try to do just that. So… what’s the problem here?
My doctors eventually realized that I was eating plenty of food and snacks–they’re just different from what people who aren’t vegan eat. Instead of cow’s milk, I have almond milk. Instead of cheese and crackers, I have nuts and fruit for snacks. I still have junk food sometimes–it’s just vegan junk food.
I wasn’t annoyed by the dietitian visits, but I didn’t realize that this wasn’t a normal thing for pregnant women to do until one of my friends pointed it out.
I’ve gotten plenty of comments from other people about my diet during my pregnancy, too.For years, people have said things to me like, “Whoa! Where you get your protein?” That hasn’t changed during my pregnancy, but I’m used to it as this point.
I eat the same way now as I did before I was pregnant. I’m not deficient in protein now, and I haven’t been in the past. And, if I feel like I haven’t gotten enough protein on any given day, I’ll have a raw protein shake with powder. It’s that simple.
I get asked a lot if I have any random meat cravings, but nope, that hasn’t happened for me. I’ve also been a vegan for so long that my body craves the plant-based stuff I usually eat. So, if I’m craving a burger, it’s a vegan burger. If I’m craving bacon, I’m craving vegan bacon.
One big, annoying thing that keeps coming up is people asking if I’m going to “force” my baby to be vegan. Nope, I’m not going to “force” my viewpoints on my child. My fiance eats meat, so my kid is going to see different things when they look at my plate and Dad’s plate, and that’s okay. I’m going to be open-minded about my baby eats–it just has to be good, quality food.
My baby is totally healthy, TYVM.
Everything is checking out great. All of my blood work has been normal for the most part, I just needed to start taking some iron supplements in the second trimester to boost my levels. (That happens with some non-vegan pregnant women, too, BTW.)
Everything else has been perfect with my pregnancy–nothing has been off or alarming. Still, some people have asked if the baby is growing normally, given that I’m a vegan. That’s a little annoying–after all, I would never intentionally do anything to harm my baby. But I just simply say, “Yup! Baby is great! Nothing bad has been brought to our attention.” It’s just a stigma that comes with being vegan.
It’s hard not to get defensive sometimes.
I’ve learned that people love to give their opinion on all things about pregnancy and babies. I’ve heard how my labor should be, the type of diapers I should use, and whether I should breast feed or formula feed my baby. And, of course, I’ve heard plenty about my diet.
But I’ve learned that, as long as I don’t immediately get defensive, it’s easy to brush comments off and move forward. It makes no sense to waste time being defensive about my diet. Everyone is going to give their give their opinion, no matter what. So, if someone makes a comment about my diet or how they ~think~ it will negatively impact my baby, I just say, “Okay, thanks!” and move on.
And really, that’s all I can do.