Why I Stopped Eating Vegan When I was Pregnant

Not all diets are right for everyone, at every stage of life.

As the mother of three beautiful girls, I believe taking great care of ourselves and loved ones is the most important gift we can give. Each pregnancy inspired me to reflect more deeply and educate myself on making cleaner, more appropriate health and lifestyle choices for my body and my growing child’s, ultimately leading me to becoming vegan — a journey  that’s taken a few unpredictable turns.

When pregnant with our first daughter, my husband and I had just moved home from India, where we had adopted a mostly based-plant diet and where my interest for a wholesome, healthful way of life started to grow. After learning about the potential harmful effects of conventional food and their exaggerated impact on a developing baby, we decided to no longer consume any pesticides or GMOs. And as soon as we moved to Brooklyn, we joined an amazing food co-op with access to a bounty of organic, fresh produce — something that wasn’t easily accessible back in India. We were beyond thrilled and continued to eat only organic at home today.

Two years later, I was happily pregnant again, still eating an organic and plant-based diet, but was consuming my fair share of dairy. I continued to educate myself further as I was taking on the role of raising two little humans. That’s when I began to more deeply question dairy and its effects on my body. After reading Skinny Bitch Bun in Oven by Rory Freedman, I was sold. No more inflammation for our family, I thought. We were becoming vegan with no looking back. Well, maybe a little.

My husband and I are cheese lovers, so we knew how difficult the transition would be. But there’s nothing insurmountable if you’re ready to commit and do it together. So we made sure to support each other every step of the way.

Almost right away, some very interesting things happened.

First, with the aid of cookbooks like Rich Roll’s “The Plantpower Way” and Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet, I truly learned to cook.  Also, the quantity of vegetables we were all consuming multiplied, which was shocking considering how much I thought we were already eating. Third, after giving up my beloved dairy, I started to eat a variety of leafy greens, beans and nut butters, added healthy fats to each meal, and took supplements to make sure I was covering all my bases. I soon began to feel energized and light in a way I hadn’t felt in years. I know, that seems impossible when pregnant, but it was true. I had never felt better.

But the real revelation happened during my third pregnancy, when I was diagnosed with two brain tumors.

After delivering our third daughter, I recovered and had the surgery to remove the tumors. That’s when I sought the help of a specialist, who told me that my body wasn’t processing plant proteins optimally. He advised me to add wild-caught fish and organic eggs to my diet — a difficult leap to take since I was so committed to my vegan life. Though, of course, I obliged. Since then, our family meals have evolved, and each night at the dinner table, we still share our common joy of a plant-based diet, but with modifications that are to serve each of our body’s needs. After all, no matter how committed you may be to a certain diet or a certain way of life, it isn’t necessarily the right choice for you. That’s right: not all diets are right for everyone, at every stages of life.

Do I miss my former vegan life? Sure. But I know that I made the right decision for my body and for my family, and I’m thankful for my story and the open-mindedness it gifted me with. I can’t wait to see all that lies ahead.  

Photography by Jonica Moore Studio for Well Rounded.

Stacey Capobianco is a health coach who focuses on families. She helps clients think more deeply about their nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress and home environment.  Learn more about Spread The Health Now here. 

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About Charlene Petitjean-Barkulis

CHARLENE PETITJEAN-BARKULIS is the managing editor of Well Rounded. She's a French expat, Brooklyn-based writer and mama to Arthur and Leon. Before settling in New York City with her family, Charlene lived in LA, Berkeley, and Baltimore and earned a degree in journalism from Columbia University. When she isn’t busy chasing after her big kiddo, nursing her little kiddo or writing about all things pregnancy and motherhood, she’s likely to soak in a bubble bath, eat an entire wheel of brie cheese or drink a crisp glass of Sancerre (sometimes, all three at the same time). Follow her on Instagram here.

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