Confession: I love BBQ. Red Meat. Chocolate Cake. Butter. Foods that I can eat while walking. Foods that I don’t have to prepare in advance. Frozen pizza. Not enough vegetables. Sometimes 3+ cups of coffee a day. Cheese as the #1 food group. Snack foods.
Nobody’s perfect. And that’s ok.
The beautiful thing about being pregnant is that the physical act of growing a baby will turn your life upside-down. (Right? You’re thinking. Or maybe, Kate I think you need another cup of coffee.) How is that a good thing? Because it is one of the best opportunities that life can give you: it can help you change your bad habits.
Here’s something you may not want to hear: The best chance you have of improving your health is to improve your diet.
Did you know that your lifestyle alone, especially the food that you eat, can dramatically reduce your risk of many if not all pregnancy-related complications?
#1. EAT THE RAINBOW
Eat as many brightly colored foods as possible. And no, I’m not talking Yellow #4 … I mean colored by nature. When you are drawn to color, you will eat sweet potatoes instead of white, spinach instead of iceburg lettuce, whole grain bread instead of Wonder.
Eating well can be confusing, but not if you keep it simple. Half of your grocery cart, or dinner plate, should be colorful fresh fruits and vegetables. The more raw, juiced, steamed, sauteed, roasted, pureed (and even sometimes fried) vegetables you eat, the less hungry you will be for all of the foods you shouldn’t be eating. You won’t be (and shouldn’t be) counting calories; you will be focused on foods that nourish you and satisfy your body’s natural cravings.
“How on earth will I figure out how to prepare all these wonderful foods?” You might be thinking. That brings us to #2 . . .
#2. LEARN HOW TO COOK
Daughters of feminists, take a deep breath before you read this … one of the most fulfilling days in my life was the day when I learned how to roast a chicken. I don’t care what my professional, doctorate-educated mother taught me … it is incredibly empowering to know how to cook. Once you learn some simple basics you won’t ever want to eat out again! And here’s another wake-up call, once your kid learns how to chew (or gum), most of your waking hours will be spent buying, chopping, pureeing, baking, cooking, and steaming food. You may as well enjoy it!
The Silver Spoon: This is one of the best cookbooks ever. Why? Because it starts with the simplest recipe, then adds one to two ingredients at a time until you have become an Italian grandmother. I haven’t cooked my way to the end of it yet, but now I know how to make pesto.
Clean Food: Almost all of the recipes are 90% fruit- and vegetable-based.
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, by Mark Bittman
Nourishing Traditions: The book that taught me how to make bone-broth. Enough said.
I also love recipes from these mamas, who are great (healthy) cooks:
Pregnant mamas need 70 – 100 grams of protein per day, about twice that of non-pregnant women. Protein is the glue that holds everything together: a protein-rich diet ensures a healthy placenta and a robust growing baby.
Note: Some women have an aversion to meat during pregnancy. That’s ok . . . look what else has protein in it!
- 8 ounce container low-fat yogurt: 9 to 12 g
- 1 ounce Parmesan cheese: 11 g
- 1 cup skim milk: 8 g
- 1 large fresh egg: 6 g
Beans, nuts, legumes
- 1/2 cup raw tofu (firm): 20 g
- 1 cup cooked lentils: 18 g
- 1 cup canned black beans: 15 g
- 1 ounce dry roasted peanuts: 7 g
- 1 cup light plain soymilk: 6 g
Meat, poultry and fish
(Note that 3 ounces of meat or fish is about the size of a pack of cards.)
- 1/2 roasted chicken breast (no skin): 27 g
- 3 ounces sockeye salmon: 23 g
- 3 ounce lean beef hamburger patty, broiled: 21g
Chocolate is high in iron … who knew?
#4 EAT MORE IRON.
If protein builds healthy tissues, then iron builds healthy blood. I have met enough mamas disgusted by taking iron supplements to know … it’s a lot more fun to eat your iron than to take it by supplement after you’re already anemic. And not just red meat has iron in it … look what else is rich in iron:
- Mollusks, Clams and Oysters: 28 mg
- Liver (Pork, Chicken, Turkey, Lamb, Beef): 23 mg
- Dark Chocolate and Cocoa Powder: 17mg
- Squash and Pumpkin Seeds: 15 mg
- Nuts (Cashew, Pine, Hazelnut, Peanut, Almond): 6.1 mg
- Beef and Lamb (Lean Tenderloin): 3.7 mg
- Beans and Pulses (White Beans, Lentils): 3.7 mg
- Dark Leafy Greens (Spinach and Swiss Chard): 3.6 mg
- Tofu: 2.7 mg
#5. TAKE A FOOD-BASED VITAMIN
Food-based vitamins such as the Perfect Prenatal by NewChapter are much more readily absorbed by the body. They also tend to make you waaaaay less nauseous than the typical chalky drugstore prenatal.
Beautiful food by Ashley from Not Without Salt
#6. TAKE THE SLOW FOOD APPROACH
“The future of food is the future of the planet. A better, cleaner and fairer world begins with what we put on our plates – and our daily choices determine the future of the environment, economy and society. If you care about local farmers, ranchers, fishers; animal welfare; the joy of a shared meal; preserving food culture; protecting the environment or avoiding GMOs, we have a place for you at our table.” ~Slow Food U.S.A.
Sustainable Resolutions for Your Diet, by Mark Bittman
Food Rules, by Michael Pollen
In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan
Did you know that when we eat, we are investing in the future of planet so that our children will be able to enjoy it too?
On that note, Salud!