I am a happy mom to a highly energetic 15 month old baby girl. After all our travels, we settled down and had a super cute cherub in 2015. I had a wonderful pregnancy in India filled with supportive family, friends, coworkers and bosses, for which I am eternally grateful.
I was vegan for my entire pregnancy and veganism is still pretty young in India. During my time there veganism got a lot more exciting in Bangalore, but that is a story for another day. Expectant mothers need a steady supply of nutrients and we tend to get serious about it especially when there is a little bub to consider.
How does a vegan pregnant woman in India get all her vitamins and minerals? Read on.
Finger Millet (Ragi)
Finger millet or Ragi is India’s blessing. Its abundantly available all over the South, is eaten almost daily in some form or the other in Karnatake state and is really cheap. Less than 50 cents for a kilo! Killer prices.
It makes up for the lack of availability of things like quinoa, steel cut or rolled oats (quick cooking oats is available aplenty). Its a rich source of calcium, protein, iron and many other things!
It does have an acquired taste. There are tons of ways to eat it – as rotis, dosai, idli, ragi balls or ragi mudde (not my favorite, but definitely a nutritional storehouse). I enjoy drinking it as a porridge with some soy milk and sweetener mixed in. I recently discovered that you can mix some ragi & water/milk in your rice cooker and set the timer (if available) to make it when you are ready. Cool isnt it?
100 grams of Ragi (about 3 ounces) has about 350 mg of calcium. Thats a little more than from a glass of milk. A tall glass of ragi porridge cooked with a bit of calcium fortified soy milk is a great way to start the day. I made it a point to have ragi in some for the other every day during my pregnancy. My weight gain was healthy, my doctor was not concerned and I had the energy to work until the day before I gave birth.
When Quinoa costs 500 rupees for 250 grams ($8 for 8 ounces), its time to look for alternatives. Amaranth seeds are a complete protein like Quinoa. Its being lauded here on Huffington post. The seeds are not easily available in India, but the flour is very easy to obtain on department store shelves.
India has a phenomenal collection of cooking greens, each with distinctive tastes. All the leafy greens mentioned below are super high in Calcium and offer enough variety to keep the palette from getting bored. Agathi takes a bit getting used to, but remember that 100 grams of the food contains a whopping 1130 mg of Calcium. Its hard to eat 100 grams of the greens in a single sitting, but I’ve often had made into a soup with tomatoes, onions and some lentils. Delicious!
- Moringa leaves (murungai keerai) – easily available in local produce stalls. I dont see it much in supermarkets though.
- Agathi keerai – Not easy to obtain. However, every local market will have a greens seller who can easily get it during their next produce run when asked.
- Fenugreek leaves – Easy to find and easier to grow! I am now growing fenugreek leaves in an old salad box filled with some soil and got a seedling in just 3 days!
Soy milk is available in most established large chain supermarkets, even in suburbs of metros. They come in various flavors. Mango and pistachio are particularly flavorful. Typically the unsweetened version is not calcium fortified. However, the sweetened flavored versions in some brands were fortified with calcium. Soy milk brands in India to try are Staeta or Sofit.
Super cheap source of Calcium supplements easily available in even the smallest, most rural pharmacy. The HD variety also contains Vitamin D.
While there are many contradictory articles on this controversial topics, I strongly urge all vegan pregnant women to take a B12 supplement. In India, doctors prescribe a Iron, folic acid and b-complex supplement to all expectant mothers and this contains 5mcg of B-12. I often supplemented this by NUROKIND OD which contains 1500 mcg of Mecobalamin. Its incredibly cheap, Rs. 4 per tablet and need not be consumed every day. Its a sublingual tablet (place under your tongue until it dissolves) about every 3-4 days. Nurokind OD is an easily available Vitamin B-12 supplement across India.
In the US, DHA supplements are typically a part of the prenatal tablet. But they are usually not vegan. In the US, I have easy access to Deva’s DHA supplements, but this is not available in India. I hope this changes soon, since there are so many vegetarians in the country and this will definitely be popular. I took a DHA supplement that my doctor prescribed, knowing its not vegan. Not ideal, but not a risk I was willing to take.
I saw this vegan DHA tablet, but its pretty expensive!
I think I covered most things about a vegan pregnancy in India. I would still like to talk about some over the counter products that are accidentally vegan and easily available in most large cities.