Nearly two years ago we stopped eating meat (these lovely cookbooks helped us transition to veg based diet). Almost instantly it made me feel physically better. I had so much more energy! When I got pregnant with my second baby it didn’t even cross my mind to include meat in my diet. I just made sure to increase iron and protein intake. Until the day I dreamt of rich and flavourful beef stew… Do vegetarians crave meat during pregnancy?! Or is it just me?
I was very surprised with my sudden obsession with meat. It followed me around for weeks. And no matter what I ate, nothing would fully satisfy me. It’s like I had a hole in my stomach. I did what I usually do when I am baffled: I googled. I came across quite a few forums discussing the exact situation I was facing – vegetarian and craving meat in pregnancy. I wasn’t alone. Some of the cravings were resolved by extra iron, but most of the discussions seemed to conclude that if meat is what the baby wants than meat he/she will get.
I must add here that we turned veggie not because we find meat in any way revolting. We decided to remove meat from out diet, because of the conditions in which a lot of the animals are bred and slaughtered. And because eating meat is not sustainable, our planet is not able to support the amount of animals human race seems to want to consume. We went veggie cold turkey and never looked back. Not even once have I felt that I fancy a meat dish. Not once have I felt that I am missing out. On the contrary, we started to eat a more varied diet – we’ve added more than we took away. I was a happy vegetarian.
After reading the forums I felt better. I no longer felt that I was a cheat, that I was crossing the line I shouldn’t cross. I had a couple of meat dishes within a week and instantly felt at peace. This mini meat feast made the craving go away for weeks and stopped my obsessive thinking and dreaming about meat. I finally felt at rest.
Having experienced such a strong craving for meat made me think. In theory a plant based diet is healthy in pregnancy. It provides all the necessary nutrients. The official advice is that vegetarianism isn’t a fad or a temporary diet, but a way of eating suitable for a lifetime, for young children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, physical labourers and old people. So why this crazy craving? There are so many vegetarian cultures out there, how do they manage?
Having read quite a few online articles and forums I must conclude that:
vegetarian and vegan diets are perfectly healthy and adequate during pregnancy
nobody knows why pregnant women have cravings – regardless if they are vegetarian or not. It’s not as simple as ‘you are craving X because your body needs it’. Science is yet to find the source of and the reason for cravings.
let them eat meat? – answer to this question is driven by either ideology or emotion, as there is no scientific reason why vegans and vegetarians with balanced diets should eat meat or fish in pregnancy. Some are more sympathetic to the debilitating and all encompassing nature of cravings, while others demand ‘stick with it no matter what’.
In the light of my google search there is no answer to ‘why vegetarians crave meat during pregnancy?’, nor there is one to ‘should you revert back to eating meat when pregnant?’. It’s all down to how you feel about it. I chose to eat meat (albeit in small quantities) and have a happy pregnancy, rather than battle with demons, while trying to keep my toddler happy and busy. And deal with back pain, painfully loose hip joints and stretching pain in my ever-growing belly.
Are you vegetarian or vegan and faced meat cravings? How did you handle them? If you are an omnivore, did you give in to some strange or unhealthy cravings? Did you manage to overcome them? I’d love to hear from you, so do leave me a comment or contact me via twitter (@mumbalance).