Wendy Hagler Interview: How to Eat Vegan When Pregnant

November 14, 2016

Wendy Louise Hagler is a pioneer of vegan cuisine and cooking in America. She’s been an authority on vegan cooking since the 70s. She recently spoke with CareGuide about her latest book, THE VEGAN MOM-TO-BE: Healthful Plant Based Nutrition for Pregnancy and Breastfeeding with Meal Planning Tips and Recipes.

This book provides vegan mothers information they need to create an effective diet during pregnancy along with some tasty recipes so that your dishes will be healthy and taste great.

If you’re a mother-to-be and considering a vegan diet, you don’t want to miss this interview.

An Interview with The Vegan Mom-To-Be author Wendy Louise Hagler

Wendy Louise Hagler author of The Vegan Mom-to-be

by Clarke Illmatical

You have an impressive background as a vegan. What was your impetus for writing this book?

“Well, I live in an intentional community, I’ve lived in this community for about 40 something years now. Part of this community has been home birth. There have been a lot of midwives that have been trained here and actually all over the world and so, there also are workshops that happen here for midwives and I teach the nutrition classes for those workshops.

Women come from all over the world for these and in teaching these classes for nutrition, a lot of the students have asked could I put together something specifically for vegan mothers.

They come across vegan mothers all the time. It’s not as uncommon as it use to be and they need a way to let them know how to do it in a helpful way. So, at their request, I put together this book after teaching these classes for a few years.”

Are medical professionals meeting the demand in terms of giving mothers-to-be the information they need for a proper vegan diet? Is that being supplied by the medical field?

“I think that most people who come out of a traditional medical education, in general, don’t get much nutritional training. At least in this country, I’m not sure how it is in other places. In the U.S. there’s very little nutritional training that goes into medical school. So probably not.

There’s the omnivore nutritional information that’s out there as well. For vegas specifically you have to do it in a specific way to have it work and have a helpful pregnancy and not everybody knows how to do that.”

Your book is very detailed. I noticed that you laid out specific recipes. You were specific about tofu, and soybean. Should mothers consider a vegan diet before pregnancy? I’ve read an article where a medical professional recommended that if a mother is going to consider a green diet, then they should do half green and include dairy. What are your thoughts on that?

“If it’s done correctly in a way that gives you everything you need nutritionally, you can do it whenever. But with any way that you eat, it’s best to prepare your body before pregnancy, by eating a healthy diet not matter what type of diet you choose. But if you choose a vegan diet there’s just so many things you have to follow to make it work for you well.

The area of nutrition is really controversial. Especially the vegan diet, it’s so new to so many people. It’s been around for millennia, but not everybody is familiar with it. If you follow certain precepts you’ll be fine. There’s always going to be the exception. In most cases, yes.”

I’ve looked at several vegan mothers on YouTube. They went as far as to suggest that there wasn’t any morning sickness. This was compared to their previous pregnancy. I’ve heard that when you have less dairy, this diminishes the morning sickness. Can you weigh in on that? Any truth to that?

“Well, again, pregnancy is a real personal thing. For everybody is different. It’s the same with diets, it’s going to be however your body responds to the diet. How your body responds to a diet is going to be different with different people.

I don’t know if there’s any truth to what you’re saying about a vegan diet making maybe less morning sickness. I’ve known a lot of vegan women who have gone through pregnancy and some of them had morning sickness and some of them don’t. It’s true, a vegan diet, you’re intaking less toxins because you’re limiting intake to the vegetable world.”

What are the benefits of a vegan pregnancy?

“One thing that it offers is a lot more fiber than an omnivore diet, which keeps your colon moving and keeps you cleaned out.

With meats and dairy, you have all of the things that the animals eat, that we don’t necessarily want, going through us, like animal hormones.

Our hormones are in a state of flux and change during pregnancy, so to add animal hormones to the mix is probably not the best idea.”

You have a section of the book that deals with protein, can you tell readers what are some of the vegan foods that you recommend for a protein rich diet?

“All vegans foods have some sort of protein in them. Whatever you’re eating you’re getting a little bit.

The general idea is to eat, a well rounded varied diet so that you get a little bit of everything because you’re eating all kinds of nutrients, in different amounts for the baby and it’s specifically protein, soybeans are some of the best choices; in whatever form.

Some people don’t get along with beans there are different forms of beans that you can try. For instance, soybeans in the form of tempeh, which has been cultured and fermented, is easier to digest and its relatively high protein… Half a cup of tempeh is 15 grams of protein, which is a pretty good amount for one serving.

In the first trimester of pregnancy, you don’t need a lot more a lot more calories or any of the nutrients, it’s only into the fourth month and the end of pregnancy when you need to start adding calories and more nutrients.

Beans, grains, and nuts would be major sources of protein, but there is protein in almost everything in the vegetable kingdom.”

On a daily basis, what would you specifically recommend? What vitamins should mothers be targeting?

“The main thing in the vegan diet that has to be considered is that there’s no reliable unfortified source of vitamin B12 in the vegetable kingdom.

There’s a lot of fortified foods that will offer that. There are supplements that you can take, and there are various ways to take them, but it’s essential to get vitamin B12…

Deficiency of B12 can lead to irreversible nerve damage and the B12 is important, especially in the early development… it’s just one of those essential nutrients that you can’t get through vegan foods. But you can supplement and you’ll be fine.”

So you’re saying B12 is difficult to get through vegan foods?

“There’s no known source. They’re people who claim they know their sources but any vegan nutritionist I’ve talked to say you really need to supplement.There’s a way of doing that. You can do it daily. You can do it a couple of times a week.

You don’t have to have it every day, but as long as it happens on a regular basis in the right amounts, you’ll be okay.”

Let me ask you about breastfeeding. I’ve heard that dairy helps the mother’s breast milk. I’ve heard it’s healthier for the baby and the mother feels less pain when lactating. I notice in your book, you have a chapter for mothers who are breastfeeding. Instead of dairy, what are some of your ideas?

“A lot of this is looking at ways people use to recommend breast milk and enhancing the breast milk production and encouraging that. So, there are certain foods and herbs that will work that way. And some of this has been supported through recent research.

Things like oatmeal, flaxseed, ginger, all of these things support lactation. The other important thing, with lactation, is drinking a lot. Especially, water.

As you’re breastfeeding, out is going liquid and it’s good to have a good glass of water, or some kind of plant milk, something like that, so you can be putting it in as it’s going out.”

What about iron and zinc? What role do they play in terms of importance?

“Because they increase their blood supply during pregnancy, iron becomes important. It’s what delivers oxygen to the baby and supports neurological development.

It’s the most common deficiency worldwide for nutrients…

They say, women of childbearing age, need about 18 grams of iron a day, and that increases about 15% during pregnancy. That’s a pretty big jump. And it’s not always possible, even if you’re a meat eater, it’s not possible to take in enough iron daily. So most professionals recommend some kind of iron supplement for pregnancy women and lactating women…

Zinc is essential for growth and cell replication and deficiency of this is associated with prolonged labor and preterm delivery or low birth weight although that’s not the case for everyone.”

You have some great recipes in your book. How did you put them together?

“I’ve been putting together vegan recipes for over 40 years. So it just constantly comes to me.

What about this? What about that? When doing this, I as looking at what nutrients are necessary and how could you get those nutrients through food which is my preferred way to find nutrients.

For instance with zinc, I found that sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc. I put together recipes that included those…”

Who’s the target audience for this book?

“Anyone who is pregnant and wants to be vegan. Your choice of diet is a very personal thing.

You’re also considering that you have another being, that you’re taking care of while you’re pregnant. Everything that you eat goes to that other being. So to be well informed, if you choose a vegan diet, I would think it would best to be well informed on how to do it a helpful way.

I guess the target is young women who are pregnant and want to eat this way and have a healthy baby. So it’s a good guideline. There are other books.

The nutritionist I kept counseling with was I was going through this had written books with greater detail about all of this. But this is kind of a basic guide.

If you’re thinking about it or you need something to follow on a daily basis to figure out ‘What do I need today or how do I need to figure this out so I get everything in these next nine, ten months to, however, many years you’re breastfeeding to get the nutrients that your baby needs.

Also for professionals, like midwives who are taking care of these women. A way that they can give their people the information that they need, that’s really what is key.

Informing yourself what you need to be helpful and have a helpful baby and a helpful birth through childhood and on…”

To keep up with Wendy, see some of her delicious vegan recipes and learn more about her new book visit: WendyLouiseHagler.com.

Book Cover for The Vegan Mom-To-Be by Wendy Hagler

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