Colleen Venti’s four sisters all had morning sickness during their pregnancies. Venti didn’t.
"I felt great, actually," she said.
"I had no morning sickness, except for about a week of nausea in the beginning."
She didn’t have any junk food cravings, either. She wanted cold, fresh fruit, and was turned off by soda and ice cream.
Venti, of Mesa, credits her vegetarian diet, along with exercise, as key elements in keeping her well throughout her pregnancy. She gave birth to a healthy 8 1 /2-pound boy, Alex, in March, laying to rest the notion that women must eat meat during pregnancy to get proper nutrition for themselves and their babies.
As a graduate student, Venti worked with Carol Johnston, Arizona State University nutrition professor, to develop a vegetarian food guide.
Any woman can have a successful pregnancy without eating meat, according to the two researchers, if they get enough nutrients from other sources.
Venti, for instance, loaded up on garbanzo, kidney and black beans to get enough protein, and she ate ironfortified cereals and green, leafy vegetables.
Johnston said the biggest concern for anyone following a vegetarian diet — particularly pregnant women — is to get enough protein, vitamin B12, calcium, iron and zinc. Signs of deficiency will reveal themselves in hair, nails and possibly skin, she said.
Here are the basics on getting what you need:
• Protein. "Pregnant women need about 20 percent more protein than nonpregnant women," said Johnston. Ovolacto vegetarians — those who eat dairy and eggs — can get plenty of protein from nonfat milk, cottage cheese, yogurt and egg whites or Egg Beaters.
Another tip: Make "double milk." Take nonfat dried milk powder (available in the baking aisle) and stir a couple of scoops into a glass of nonfat milk. "You get twice as much protein without the added fat," said Johnston, "and it gives the milk a thicker, richer taste."
Also, stock up on beans, legumes, seeds, soy and nuts. But eat just one handful of nuts a day, because even though they’re a good source of protein, zinc, vitamin E and omega 3 fatty acids, they’re also high in calories.
Vegans — those who don’t eat any animal products — should consume plenty of beans, legumes and extra soy products.
• Vitamin B12. "B12 is not found in plant foods, so vegetarians need to consume products fortified with B12 like soy milk or the supplements," Johnston said.
• Minerals. Johnston recommends vegetarians take a basic multivitamin and mineral supplement. Pregnant vegetarians should take prenatal supplements, which contain extra doses of iron and zinc. They should also take an extra calcium pill.