Despite all the rough press surrounding vegetarianism and veganism, it's a personal choice and one that many people find wholesome and satisfying. It's absolutely possible to keep a well-balanced menu while only eating veggies and while this might seem archaic and intimidating to the meat-lover, it suits others perfectly well. Being pregnant can throw a bit of a curveball into a normal vegetarian routine because now not only is mom working towards eating balanced meals for herself, but she also needs to consider the little one growing inside of her.
It's relatively easy to up one's intake of specific fruits and veggies, and even meat substitutes like tofu and soy are great in moderation. This is even easier if mom eats dairy as well since it's something that moms desperately need during pregnancy, but probiotic supplements can offer the same benefits. Eating well as a vegetarian during pregnancy doesn't need to be something that should be entered into with anxiety, it should be embraced and something to be excited about -- This is a chance to try out new recipes and become even healthier! A common misconception about vegetarian food is that it's boring which is definitely not the case, in any way, shape, or form. Plant-based foods are exciting and can be used in some pretty fascinating ways in order to transform something that was plucked out of a garden into a hearty, rich, nutrient-packed meal. Below are recipes I've collected over the years that are proven tried-and-true and pack a wallop of flavor, not to mention a healthy dose of vitamins!
20 Smoothie Bowls
You've heard of the term before and possibly rolled your eyes at all the hype surrounding smoothie bowls, but hear me out on this one -- They're an amazing way to start your day. You can choose from literally any fruit that you want, blend it together with some honey and Greek yogurt, and you have your base. This could even be prepped the night before which makes morning meal-planning a breeze. Once you've got that down, just top with your favorite berries or slices of your favorite fruits, add some nuts for protein, and even sunflower or chia seeds (which are superfoods) for extra hydration and a pop of energy. To spice your smoothie bowl up, add a dash of cinnamon to help with inflammation, sprinkle of ginger to help ease a queasy stomach or coconut for a flavor and vitamin boost. Pro tip: These are best enjoyed outside with some bouncy island music.
19 Zoodles Three Ways
If you haven't gotten yourself a zoodler (yes that's a technical term) yet, now is as good a time as any to invest in one! Zoodles are the food of the new generation, but also an excellent way to pack a ton of nutrients in the form of fiber and protein into one meal without incorporating heavy pasta. Zoodles became big during the Keto movement and have continued to increase in popularity; now you can even find them in the produce section of your supermarket, pre-zoodled (another technical term). You can have them several different ways, one of which is in butternut squash form. These are slightly sweet when roasted or sauteed, and are great with a parmesan-cream sauce, some peas (frozen are fine), shredded carrot, and diced red bell pepper -- Add some diced tomato on top for a little acid to cut through that creaminess. Two: Zucchini Thai peanut zoodles! Find a peanut sauce recipe online (or you can buy some, there's no judgment here), thinly slice a red bell pepper, some scallions, cilantro, and top with toasted peanuts...Yum. Three: Carrot zoodles are delicious when they're roasted and used with marinara sauce, with a little bit of crunch still to them, you can eat these just like you would al dente pasta.
18 Chickpeas For Lunch and Dinner
Contrary to popular belief, chickpeas are not boring at all. They're perfect when roasted in the oven with a little bit of salt, pepper, and paprika for snacking or a salad topping. However, they're even better when used as the main ingredient. Roasting transforms chickpeas in a bean with a slightly gritty texture, to a bean with a slightly crunchy and flavorful outside and creamy interior that will literally melt in your mouth. You can use plain 'ol taco seasoning on them and make chickpea burritos, tacos, or enchiladas, marinate them in some lemon juice, oregano, and garlic for a Mediterranean twist on a meatless pita (homemade tzatziki is a must and also super easy), or add them to lasagna or ratatouille for an extra bit of protein and richness.
17 Chickpeas For Dessert
We're like Planet Fitness here, this is a judgment-free zone, remember? You can absolutely have chickpeas for dessert and it's super easy to do so. They're similar to black beans in the sense that when blended, they become thick, creamy, and the perfect base for emulsifying (or blending together seamlessly). Rinsed, canned chickpeas can be food-processed until they've become a creamy paste and used in vegan cookie dough or even peanut butter brownies. Since they don't have too much flavor on their own, they'll easily take on whatever flavors you add to them. Both peanut butter and dark chocolate are great additions in moderation and are super beneficial when it comes to extra fiber, folate, and antioxidants.
16 Veggie Chili For Cold Days
Chilly winter days often make you just want to curl up on the couch with a good book, fleece blanket, and some hot chocolate. Unless you're pregnant, in which case you've probably wanted to do that every day. The good news is that this chili is ridiculously easy to make and can be adjusted according to your spice taste. It's an easy start by sauteeing down some onion and bell peppers as your base. Then, the stars of the show are black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, and cannellini beans -- Just drain them and throw them in a big pot with one can of diced tomato (with green chile if you're daring but beware the heartburn). At this point, you can add vegetable stock to just cover all of your delish veggies and add salt, pepper, paprika, a little garlic powder, and whatever other flavorings of your chili-choosing. If you don't like the heat, BBQ spice is a great way to incorporate smokey flavor into your chili without playing with intestinal fire, as well as add some roasted sweet potato to soak up excess heat.
15 Quiche For The Eggs
If you're a vegetarian, eggs might be hit or miss for you. It's totally okay if you're not a fan of omelets, fried, or hard-boiled eggs because today we're bringing you quiche. It might seem like a 1950's revival dish, but it's really nutritious and becomes a great vessel for all of the veggies you need. You can find literally any quiche recipe and add seasonal vegetables or your favorites, some good ones to eat while you're pregnant are spinach or kale, sweet potatoes, broccoli, bell peppers, carrots, and any type of beans. You don't have to use these all at once obviously, but a nice Spring veggie quiche will give you a ton of vitamins with a super hit of protein and calories from the eggs. The best part? Go crazy with your cheese topping! Add black beans and top with salsa and avocado! Throw in some artichokes with your spinach and top with mozzarella! The options are endless.
14 Loaded Baked Sweet Potatoes
Moved aside twice-baked, rubbery potatoes, sweet potatoes are coming in for the win. Packed with non-animal based vitamin A and beta-carotene, sweet potatoes are a wonderful, slightly sweet alternative to any type of white starchy potato. Simply wrap them in tin foil, poke some holes in each one with a fork, and roast them for 20 minutes in a 375-degree oven until they're soft. Be careful when you take them out because they'll most likely be steaming, then when cooled, unwrap and slice open the top. Rather than going with your first instinct and stuffing them with brown sugar or marshmallows, try some black beans, diced tomatoes, salt, pepper, and paprika, then roast again for another 10-15 minutes before topping with sour cream (the dairy is good for you) and fresh scallions. If you're daring, make a fresh tomatillo salsa to go with!
13 Black Bean Veggie Burgers
You can find recipes for these burgers all over the web which makes them a great asset to your list of pregnancy foods. Black beans are rich in folate, calcium, protein, fiber, zinc, and iron, which pretty much makes them a superfood for you and your growing baby. Homemade veggie burgers are way better than what you can buy in the store and you'll also know exactly whats going into them. Find a recipe you like and top with fresh pico de gallo, which is just diced tomatoes, diced red onion, a lot of cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper, avocado, and enjoy.
12 Cookies For Breakfast
Queue all the draws dropping because this is not a drill, I repeat, this is not a drill. As a society, we have done cookies an incredible injustice by making them out to be these sugary, calorically outrageous, sugar-coma inducing treats. In reality, a cookie is just a "small sweet cake". It tells nothing of what can go into it or that it needs to be filled with three different kinds of chocolate to be delicious, which brings us to our next healthy food: Breakfast cookies. There really is no wrong way to do this and you can start out with a vegan cookie base or a normal, dairy-included oatmeal cookie base. Use a recipe that calls for agave rather than sugar because it doesn't metabolize like regular sugar does, and then add your superfoods. Avoid too many dried fruits and instead throw in a tablespoon or two of chia seeds, your favorite nut, one dried berry variety, and maybe even a bit of dark chocolate. The oats will give you fiber, the chia seeds are a superfood and help aid in hydration while providing you with Omega-3, calcium, fiber, complex carbohydrates for energy, protein, and antioxidants. Dried berries give you that little bit of sugary sweetness and nuts aid in your protein healthy fats.
11 Have A (Whole Wheat) Pizza!
Yes, you can have your pizza and eat it too! Whole wheat is beneficial for fiber as well as calorie intake and sometimes whole wheat bread just starts getting old after awhile. Whole wheat pizza is a great way to have somewhat of a "cheat meal" while still being mostly healthy. As an added bonus, it's a ton of fun to make! There are two options here: One, start with a store-bought whole wheat dough (making scratch pizza crust is a test of patience and humidity level) and bake it for the recommended amount of time, bonus points if you already have a pizza stone -- If not then don't stress it, your pizza will still be awesome. Then you can top it with your favorite veggies, or try something new like store-bought hummus, spinach, roasted red peppers, and pasteurized crumbled feta. The second, lighter option is to use a whole wheat tortilla wrap as your base, then layer on sauce and cheese. Toast it up in the oven for ten minutes or so, and you have your very own deconstructed quesadilla pizza.
10 Sweet Potato And Black Bean Enchiladas For Spice (Or Not)
If spice isn't your bag then go with a mild enchilada sauce on this one. If you're all about livin' it up and don't fear heartburn, go for the regular enchilada sauce. Tomatillo salsa or regular salsa are also great substitutes if you don't want all of that awesomesauce goodness. With some roasted sweet potatoes, seasoned black beans, and tons of shredded Mexican blend cheese, you've got a solid enchilada recipe just waiting to happen. Fill each tortilla with your veggies, roll them up and place them seam-side down in a pan, then top with your sauce or condiment of choice. Top with mountains of cheese, bake, then top with even more sour cream, green onions, and maybe even black olives for some spice relief and increased immune and tissue growth health.
9 Quinoa Salad Two Ways
When cooked correctly, quinoa is a fantastic source of fiber for you and your baby. It's the grain cousin to couscous but without the simple carbs that couscous eventually turns into. It can be eaten cold or hot which makes it versatile and can also be prepped and made ahead of time since the process is no different from cooking pasta. Once you've made sure it's thoroughly cooked and all the little quinoa spirals have been released and fully saturated, it's time to add the fun stuff. Cucumbers, tomato, roasted or raw red peppers, red onion, black olives in moderation, feta, lemon juice or red wine vinegar, oregano, olive oil, fresh basil, salt, and pepper can easily turn this into a Greek lunch. Alternatively, a cilantro-lime vinaigrette, corn, raw bell pepper, onion, black beans, cherry tomatoes, and avocado can give you a Southwestern-style salad. Both can be stored in the fridge for days and make for amazing meal prep!
8 Tofu In Moderation
Tofu is actually very good for your body when you're pregnant since it provides you with eight amino acids that are helpful throughout pregnancy. Since it is soy-based, you have to consume tofu in moderation. Regardless of how much you ate it prior to your pregnancy, it should be consumed only once in awhile throughout the next nine months. It's a heart-healthy food and can be substituted for many types of meat in a variety of recipes and if you haven't already, it's a good way to recreate some of your previously-loved comfort foods. Try it as a substitute in broccoli and "beef" or marinated and used in salads.
7 Cauliflower Fried Rice
Another great veggie to consider is cauliflower. While it has a rather gassy effect on some people, it can't be any worse than the vegetarian chili I know I've already tempted you with. Cauliflower "rice" can easily be found in the frozen foods aisle of your grocery store or even in the produce section. All you need to do once you get home is cook it according to the instructions, then crack some eggs in along with frozen peas, shredded carrots, and canned or frozen corn. You can add some teriyaki-marinated tofu in here to take the place of meat or leave it out entirely and just mix some teriyaki in for flavor -- Just use it in moderation because of the high salt content. Stir it up and voila, you've got your favorite take-out staple!
6 General Tso's Cauliflower, A Comfort Food Favorite
This is probably one of my favorite vegetarian recipes simply because Chinese is a comfort food, and General Tso's is good any time of year. The cauliflower substitute gives this dish a great texture and takes on all the great flavors of the sauce, which makes it a win in my book. This couldn't be simpler; just bread the cauliflower in either whole wheat bread crumbs or panko (for a vegan option, use almond milk rather than eggs for breading -- it works just as well) and bake under slightly browned and tender. Find a solid General Tso's recipe online, but find something simple...Cooking shouldn't be overcomplicated and often with Asian cooking, it's about the exact measurement of ingredients rather than the amount, the right proportions will absolutely make a dish sing. When the cauliflower is cooked, toss it in your finished sauce and top with scallions and maybe even some sesame seeds for added protein and crunch. You'll get some much-needed vitamin C, fiber, calcium, potassium, and folic acid out of this dish.
5 The Easiest Three-Ingredient Pancakes
You may have seen this circulating around social media and the reason is that it actually works. Like many others, I, too, was skeptical of the banana-egg pancakes, but during a stint with Keto I tried -- and loved -- them. The awesome thing about this recipe is that you're getting potassium from the bananas, both protein, and calories from the eggs, and it's beyond simple with not flour, which just adds to an unnecessary carbohydrate intake. With two ripe bananas, two eggs, and an eighth of a teaspoon of baking powder, you've got flourless, healthy pancakes. These are a great breakfast starter or even brunch/lunch option and are super easy to make as well, just keep your pan on medium-low heat and flip them carefully.
4 Grilled Veggie Salad For Summer
It's an absolute crime not to use the grill outdoors during the summer months, and there's no law stating that vegetarians can grill their butts off just as well as meat-lovers. This is your chance to shine, vegetarians, and you can do so with some zucchini (both green and yellow squash varieties) for blood pressure regulation and mood stabilizing, bell peppers for vitamin C, sweet corn for vitamin B12, asparagus for fetal development, and portobello mushrooms for riboflavin. Lay 'em all out on the grill until they have those beautiful grill marks that were only previously witness on 2lb-steaks; let them cool, and chop them up to mix with some lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and your favorite cheese for a delicious summer lunch or dinner. Fun fact: Lemon juice can also aid in quelling nausea and settling your stomach.
3 Veggie-Chip Nachos For Snacking
You'll notice zucchini a lot in this article and that's because it really is a pregnancy superfood. It's a veg that you should incorporate as much as possible into your weekly routine and that's easy to do since it is so versatile. Zucchini would be the first thing I'd reach for when making veggie chips for nachos, with kale being a close second. Sweet potatoes are obviously great too but have to be eaten in much smaller amounts. Once you've successfully roasted your (thinly sliced) veggies into chips, feel free to top them with whatever vegetarian or vegan-approved toppings you'd like. For a fun twist, use thick Greek yogurt blended with avocado instead of sour cream to make them more creamy, less tangy, and full of even more vitamins.
2 Spinach And Artichoke "Dip" Pasta For Digestion
If I could eat this every day without suffering the serious consequences of eating so much pasta, I probably would. Spinach and artichoke dip is a surprisingly non-guilty way of getting in iron and fiber in a delightful way. Artichokes are rich in fiber and can actually help digestion while spinach is obviously known for its iron and anemia-fighting properties, a common issue early on in pregnancy. You'll be using cream cheese, half n' half, and mayo as well in this recipe, which adds to your probiotic intake from dairy as well. Saute some garlic (which is heart-healthy) with diced onions in a little bit of olive oil until soft, then add in the cream cheese, half n' half, and mayo. When that's all combined and slightly thick, throw in your pasta and let it simmer for a minute. Then you can add your spinach or spinach/kale blend, fresh or frozen is fine, and let it all incorporated. Finish with a healthy few dashes of onion powder and a pinch of red pepper flakes, and you've got an awesome dinner that's a great nutrient-packed guilty pleasure.
1 Kale Pesto For Just About Anything
I know I've repeated "meal planning" a lot, but it's a process that will really save you a lot of time and effort on the days that you don't have the energy to cook. Pesto is one of those things that can be made way beforehand and stored in the fridge or even stored frozen for the long-term. Rather than just using basil, try a kale pesto -- It's made using the same process, but will give you a boost of vitamin C, iron, and fiber. You can use sunflower seeds or any other nut you like, or you can leave them out entirely if you're not a fan or are allergic. A little good olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper will make this pesto simply shine. Then, just pull it out when you need it and put on top of whole wheat pasta, over roasted veg, in a wrap, or even over salads for a strong flavor profile. It's good to eat just on its own too -- We won't tell anyone!