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I am 24 weeks pregnant and have recently been recently told by my doctor that I need to eat more protein because I have protein in my urine. I am having a hard time getting enough protein because I am vegetarian, dairy sensitive and do not care for soy. Any suggestions?

Karen Prior responds: It is very important to get consume adequate amounts of protein during pregnancy because protein is needed for your baby's cell development. Also, your blood volume increases up to 50 percent during pregnancy, and protein is required to produce these blood cells.

When excess protein shows up in your urine test, it can be a sign of infection or even an indication that you are having kidney problems as a result of pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia (also called toxemia) is a very serious condition as it affects the health of both the mother and baby. Studies have shown that increasing your protein intake can help prevent pre-eclampsia.

I encourage you to keep a close watch on your protein intake and also to make all of your prenatal appointments because of the risk of pre-eclampsia. Other signs of pre-eclampsia include swelling (edema of hands and face) and elevated blood pressure. Sometimes, only one of the symptoms is present. Be sure to report any of these to your health care provider. She may recommend adding calcium to your diet. Studies have shown that calcium can also help prevent pre-eclampsia. If you are not eating soy and dairy, then chances are that you are not getting enough calcium, either.

Experts differ in their opinions on just how much protein a pregnant woman needs. The American Dietetics Association recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of protein for pregnant women is 60 grams, which is only 10 grams more than for non-pregnant women. The World Health Organization recommends a minimum of 75 grams daily. Dr. Robert Bradley (of the Bradley Childbirth Method) has long recommended that pregnant women consume between 80 and 100 grams of protein daily for optimal pregnancy health and to prevent pre-eclampsia. Dr. Tom Brewer, author of Blue Ribbon Baby, cites a Harvard study that found eating at least 75 grams of protein per day can help prevent pre-eclampsia; he also recommends 80 to 100 grams of protein per day.

Women who eat meat, dairy and eggs usually do not have any problem meeting this protein requirement. If you have a restricted diet because you are vegetarian, vegan and have food sensitivities to soy and dairy, you may have a harder time reaching these higher protein requirements. I suggest that you start counting protein grams daily. Keep a chart on the refrigerator along with protein source suggestions and mark off the grams as you eat them.

Here are some dairy-free and soy-free protein suggestions:

Ezekiel bread, 1 slice/serving, 9-14 g protein
Black-eyed peas (cooked), 1 cup, 13 g protein
Hummus, 1/2 cup, 8 g protein
Cashews, 1/2 cup, 10 g protein
Peas, 1 cup, 9 g protein
Lentils (cooked), 1 cup, 18 g protein
Brown rice, 1 cup, 5 g protein
Baked potato (large), 7 oz, 8 g protein
Spinach (cooked), 1 cup, 6 g protein
Almond butter, 2 Tbsp, 5 g protein
Peanut butter, 2 Tbsp, 8 g protein
Oatmeal, 1 cup, 6 g protein
Vegetarian baked beans, 1 cup, 12 g protein
Broccoli (cooked), 1 cup, 5 g protein
Quinoa (cooked), 1 cup, 11 g protein

The best food suggestion I can give you is Ezekiel bread, which is a sprouted grain bread that contains a mixture of wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet and spelt. It tastes like regular bread, even though it contains no flour. If you like bread, substituting this for all the bread that you eat could help you meet your requirements easily. An almond butter sandwich could supply you with as much as 30 grams of protein! Ezekiel bread is also available in cinnamon-raisin bread, bagels, hot dog buns, burger buns and tortillas. They can usually be found in the refrigerated section of a health food store.

If you feel you need a protein supplement too, then you might want to try Naturade’s Vegetarian So-Free Protein Booster. This booster is a protein powder that can be mixed with juice, smoothies or even used in cooking and baking. A serving provides 23 grams of protein and can be a good alternative for those days when you have not met the 80 to 100 grams.

© Karen Prior.

Karen Prior’s impressive breadth of knowledge in the therapeutic uses of yoga, nutrition and prenatal fitness is backed by solid credentials: she is a registered yoga teacher with the Yoga Alliance, a member of the International Association of Yoga Therapists, a clinical nutritionist and a retired La Leche League leader. Karen runs a Registered Yoga School, where she offers specialized training in prenatal yoga and yoga for children through her programs MamasteYoga and Let'sPlayYoga. Karen lives in Texas with her husband and young daughter.

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