|Posted on June 25, 2013 at 6:48 PM|
We talk about avoiding harmful substances in pregnancy in order to help keep mom and baby healthy and low-risk. I had an epiphany moment a few months ago, and ever since then we have been diligent about avoiding food dyes. THIS post on BuzzFeed really got me thinking. I have mentioned it before, and I will link to it again HERE : when the FDA approves something, it is not approving that it is safe. It is simply affirming that the approved dose is not going to kill you in that one ingestion. It says nothing about the long-term effects exposure to the dye or chemical.
So with all this information out there on what you can’t eat, what can an expectant mom eat? How are you supposed to eat well when you have a dozen things on your to-do list that have to be done before the day is over?
The transition from buying ready-to-eat food at the grocery store to making most of your food at home can be overwhelming. Here are some ideas that have worked for us. In addition, I listed some foods that we discovered as we strove to have healthier pregnancies as we learned more about what good, whole food nutrition really is.
1. Reading Labels
The big two I look for are the fillers and the preservatives. Ideally, the food you buy will have neither. If something has soy lecithin or maltodextrine in it, the manufacturer has augmented what you think you are buying. In my experience, most preservatives end in –ate: nitrates, benzoates. HERE is a good list of food additives you can learn to avoid. It’s not impossible to learn the list. In the days before smart phones, I would write down ingredients to avoid on an index card. Over time, the list became familiar and I have most of it committed to memory. A good rule of thumb is that if you can’t pronounce it, you probably shouldn’t eat it.
2. Eating Whole Foods: Less is More
I used to work out of the home. As a newlywed couple, it was easy to go out to eat dinner, and making a full gourmet meal was do-able because there were no other demands on my time other than working and making meals for the two of us. Then Puma was born, and I wanted to keep working. The days of spending two hours or more in the kitchen getting a meal together were over for me. I started taking shortcuts, like buying canned goods and processed foods that would help me throw a meal together in minutes. Does that sound like your story?
Along came Night Owl, who despite having a healthy pregnancy and an unmedicated hospital birth, ended up with a whole bunch of food allergies. He is allergic to wheat, eggs, peanuts, soy, hazelnuts, coconut, soy and watermelon. Watermelon and hazelnuts aren’t such a big deal – it’s easy to avoid those. The others – not so much. Thanks to him, we got started on the path back to a healthy, whole food diet.
We found a source for free-range meats. We eat just about everything from scratch again – we are blessed with a nanny that loves to cook and she only knows how to cook from scratch. The only prepared food we buy is our gluten-free tortillas and pastas. In an effort to eliminate foods that have more than ten ingredients in them, things that we used to buy for a quick snack are slowly being phased out: gluten-free crackers and pretzels are not making it into the shopping cart as often. We are replacing them with dried cranberries and dried currants.
We also make our own soups and stocks. If you look at the ingredients in store-bought soups, they are very high in sodium and additives. It takes 10-20 minutes to wash and chop the vegetables for a basic stock; then you throw them into a big stockpot with olive oil, water and spices. I like to use sea salt (my latest "favorite" is pink Himalayan sea salt), tarragon, garlic powder and a bay leaf or two, depending on how much water I have. We add in chicken bones for the meat eaters so they get etxtra calcium in their stock. Once the stocks are made, we can use them throughout the week for making soups, rice, and pasta.
3. Snacks and Side Dishes: Plan Ahead
There are a couple of options when it comes to eating fresh fruits and vegetables. You can buy a whole bunch and pray you use them all before they go bad, and with meal planning, this is more likely to work for you. If you are not a meal planner, do you have time to stop at the store every few days to load up on the produce you know you will eat? We use the EWG Dirty Dozen list to decide how to spend our grocery money. We believe that it is worth it to buy the most contaminated crops in the organic section instead of conventional. We buy conventional produce when the crops are lower on the pesticide list.
Once we get the produce home, I prepare what we can wash ahead: citrus, apples, mangoes, avocados; basically, almost anything with a hard shell. I will wash and peel carrots, then slice them and put them in a container with some water. You can do this with celery as well. Voila! Now I have grab and go snacks for the times that I am in a hurry and don’t have time to prepare an elaborate snack before we head out the door.
We still buy grapes, berries and peaches in season. By purchasing them in season, we find they keep longer. Those we wash right before they are going to be eaten, and enjoy them when we are snacking or eating at home.
All these ready-to-go snacks only take a minute to prepare ahead or right before you eat. Getting used to preparing them during your pregnancy will set you up for a good habit postpartum. As long as baby doesn’t have a reaction to them, you are training yourself to have a good breastfeeding diet in the postpartum period.
Other good grab and go snacks are nuts. Throw them together with dried cranberries and currants and we have a homemade snack sack. Reality check: even that takes time we don’t have some days. If you have a Trader Joe’s near you, check out their “Just A Handful” selections. All of them are good; most of them are healthy. We splurge on the handful bags that come with some chocolate chunks in them!
Another time saver are the low-ingredient snack bars: Larabar, That’s it fruit bars, and pure organic bars. These all have seven or less ingredients and they don’t have soy or cane sugar. Snacks are a big part of the postpartum period since the constant feeding the first two to three months is conducive to a mama with a monstrous appetite!
As far as veggies for lunch and dinner, we choose to shop our local farmer’s markets so we can support the small farmers around us. You can ask the farmer directly about their growing methods. Another possibility might be to save money by visiting them and picking your own produce.
What if that isn’t an option, or you don’t like the variety at your market? Choosing frozen vegetables from a reputable food company are sometimes higher in essential vitamins and nutrients because they are picked and frozen at peak freshness. They are economical, and they add a nice variety to your diet. I remember being less interested in making choices in the later weeks of pregnancy. It feels like you can’t possibly get any bigger at the end of your pregnancy, all movements are taxing, and having something easy to fix is a blessing!
You can make enough green salad to last three days and dress it with a citrus-based dressing to make sure it keeps. It may take some trial and error to find a dressing that works without being too runny. My favorite one is *surprise* homemade. I learned it from Danielle del Castillo-Hughes at a "Greens" class. You simply throw all these ingredients together in a blender or Cuisinart and then toss it into your salad: two avocadoes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, tahini, garlic, brewer’s yeast, salt, cumin, and the juice from one lemon.
I hope these three points give you an idea how you can start to transition to a more whole food diet. I wish that yours is a decision that is pedestrian and not food allergy driven. While having a child with food allergies is one of the best things that ever happened to our family, it was a steep learning curve. Best wishes to you on your whole food journey!
What are some of your time-saving whole food tips?
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