Special Diets During Pregnancy

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Whether you are vegan or lactose-intolerant, what are some ways to be sure your diet is complete?

It can be hard enough to make sure you are getting everything you and your baby need when your diet is fairly “traditional”. But what about the mothers who have special diets and now must balance that with the needs of the baby and pregnancy? How does the mother who is lactose- intolerant make sure she gets enough calcium in her daily diet? What about the mother who is a vegan? Here are a few suggestions for mothers who have special diets during pregnancy.

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance is an inability to digest a sugar found in dairy products. Most of the time, when a person eats a milk product containing lactose, their bodies produce an enzyme found in the small intestine, called lactase, to break it down into 2 simple sugars called glucose and galactose. It can then be turned into fuel for our body.

People who suffer from lactose intolerance do not produce enough of the enzyme lactase, so the undigested lactose sits in their digestive tract, causing gas, bloating and diarrhea. The groups most affected by lactose intolerance are those from Asian, African-American, Native American and Latina descent. Research has also shown that there is a genetic link among people with lactose intolerance. It is estimated that between 30-50 million Americans suffer from lactose intolerance.

So what is the expectant mom with lactose intolerance to do?

Some dairy products are available that are lactose-free. There are also lactase enzymes (Lactaid) available to help those with lactose intolerance digest milk products. Goat’s milk contains less lactose than cow’s milk and digests faster and easier. Fermented dairy products may be easier to digest for those who are lactose-intolerant. Women can also look for other food sources rich in calcium such as broccoli, spinach, tofu (if packed with calcium salts) and sardines.

Be aware that the calcium in vegetables does not absorb as easily as it does in other food items such as milk products. Since the expectant mother needs 1300mg of calcium each day, (see Prenatal Vitamins.) it may be necessary for a mother with lactose intolerance to have a calcium supplement.

For additional information on organic milk products, click here.


There are many variations of the vegetarian diet, therefore they need to be discussed separately.


Don’t eat red meat, but do eat eggs, milk products, fish and chicken along with fruits and vegetables. Typically expectant women on a semi-vegetarian diet can easily get the necessary nutrients they need for a healthy pregnancy without needing to add supplements.


Will eat dairy products in addition to plant foods. It is possible that a lactovegetarian diet might be low in some of the foods sources that are rich in iron and zinc. Foods sources of iron that are compatible with this diet include whole enriched breads, deep green leafy vegetables, legumes and dried fruit. In order to add more zinc, women can eat more whole grains and drink milk while on a lactovegetarian diet.


re the strictest form of vegetarians and will only eat foods from a plant source such as vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. This diet is completely lacking in Vitamin B12 since this vitamin is only found in animal products. It is recommended that women on a vegan diet take a Vitamin B12 supplement or eat foods rich in B12 such as soy milk. Just like the other vegetarian diets, vegans may also need to increase their intake of calcium and zinc as well as iron since this special diet may be too low in these nutrients.


n addition, the vegan diet tends to be low in calories so protein sources may not be adequate. Make sure if you follow a vegan diet that you consume a variety of protein sources such as grains, nuts, legumes and seeds in order to give your baby enough protein. For serving sizes and tips in healthy eating, see Pregnancy Diet Plan. Also visit all of the Nutrition series.

Are you a vegan or lactose-intolerant? What are your tips for eating well during pregnancy? Share them.