Being pregnant

Pregnancy power foods

Recipes that pack a nutritional punch for you and your growing baby

By Madeleine Greey
Pregnancy power foods

You’re building a baby and now, more than ever, each and every mouthful counts. Iron, protein, folate, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids are among the many nutrients your body needs for healthy fetal development. Sounds like a mouthful? Don’t worry! Proper nutrient intake can be not only easy, but extremely yummy, too. See how:

Lamb Loin Chops and Bean Ragout
When your body cries out for protein, iron and fibre, this entrée delivers. Use any type of canned bean you desire — kidney, chickpea, black, navy or Romano — or try a can of mixed beans! Serve with a crusty, whole wheat baguette and side salad.

1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cooking onion, diced
3 cups (750 mL) kale, centre ribs removed, thinly sliced
19 oz. (540 mL) can beans, rinsed and drained
4 fresh or canned plum tomatoes, diced
1 cup (250 mL) chicken stock
2 tsp (10 mL) homemade or store-bought basil pesto
Salt and pepper
8 lamb loin chops (about 2 lb/1 kg)
1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil

Heat oil in a large, non-stick frying pan at medium-low. Add garlic and onions and cook 5 minutes, until soft and fragrant. Add kale, beans, tomatoes and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, cover and cook 10 minutes. Add pesto, combine well and season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

Turn broiler on high. Baste lamb chops with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil 4 minutes per side for medium rare.

To serve, spoon bean ragout into the middle of plate, and arrange two lamb chops on top.

Makes 4 servings.

Lamb + Beans = Protein
Your protein needs shift into high gear in the second and third trimester to help support cell growth and division, the building blocks of baby! Plan to add 25g of extra protein every day, bringing your daily intake to about 75g. That means an extra 3oz serving of lean meat, fish or poultry added to your daily diet. If you’re a vegetarian, add another cup of soy milk or serving of cooked lentils to your daily diet. Since you need an extra 300 calories each day, plan to spend those calories on protein, rather than desserts or high-fat snacks. In the protein department, this recipe hits two birds with one stone.

Lamb + beans + kale = Iron
Many sources of protein are also sources of iron, a nutrient easily depleted by a growing fetus and placenta, which require higher blood volume during pregnancy. There are two types of dietary iron: heme and non-heme. Heme, found in beef, fish, poultry, pork and lamb, is easily absorbed and utilized by the body. Non-heme is not as easily absorbed and should be eaten in larger quantities, whether it’s beans and legumes, dried fruit, whole grains, leafy green vegetables, nuts or seeds.

Vitamin C (kale and tomatoes) increases iron absorption
Kale and tomatoes are both excellent sources of vitamin C which assist the body in absorbing non-heme iron. Help your body utilize the iron in vegetable sources by drinking orange juice with a bowl of iron-enriched cereal, choosing beans baked in tomato sauce or adding strawberries to a spinach salad.

Omega Oatmeal Muffins
These delicious baked goodies contain three different sources of omega-3 fats: ground flaxseed, omega-3 eggs and walnuts. They freeze well. Pop a frozen one in a plastic bag and into your purse in the morning and it will have defrosted by mid-morning snack time!

1½ cups (375 mL) oatmeal (quick or old-fashioned)
1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose or soft whole wheat flour
½ cup (125 mL) ground flaxseed
¾ cup (175 mL) brown sugar
½ cup (125 mL) chopped walnuts, toasted
1 tbsp (15 mL) baking powder
2 tsp (10 mL) cinnamon
½ tsp (2 mL) salt
2 omega-3 eggs
1 cup (250 mL) buttermilk
1 cup (250 mL) unsweetened applesauce

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a muffin tray with extra-large paper cups, or lightly oil.

In a large bowl, whisk together oatmeal, flour, ground flaxseed, brown sugar, toasted walnuts, baking powder, cinnamon and salt until fully mixed.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk and applesauce.

Pour egg mixture into flour mixture and stir until just mixed.

Fill each cup to the top.

Bake for 20 minutes or until a tester inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Allow to cool for 5 minutes in baking tray, then transfer individually to rack.

Makes 12 large muffins.

Tips: To make your own buttermilk, measure 1 cup 10r 2% milk, whisk in 1 tbsp lemon juice or distilled vinegar, let stand 10 minutes and it's ready (and curdled).

• Flaxseed must be ground for your body to absorb its valuable nutrients. Store ground flaxseed in your freezer. Or purchase whole flaxseeds, store in your refrigerator and grind in a coffee grinder as needed.

• To toast walnuts, use a baking sheet in a 350°F (180°C) oven for about 10 minutes, checking and shaking the pan occasionally, until the nuts are fragrant and golden.

Oats + whole wheat + flax + walnuts + apples = fibre
The average Canadian diet is sorely lacking in fibre. Adult women (under 50) need from 25g per day and, while daily intakes don’t rise during pregnancy, the risk of constipation increases. During pregnancy, food moves more slowly through the bowel. To get things moving, drink lots of water and enjoy a diet high in fibre. Turn to whole-grain (wheat, oats, spelt, rye, barley, quinoa, bulgar) breads, pastas, cereals and baked goods, fruits and vegetables, beans and nuts.

Walnuts + flax + omega-3 eggs = EFAs
You need two essential fatty acids (EFAs) in your diet every day: linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) and alpha-linoleic acid — or ALA (an omega-3 fatty acid). Most people get plenty of omega-6 in their diet; good sources include nuts, seeds, certain vegetable oils and meat. But many diets are low in ALA which is found in walnuts, flax seeds, hemp, canola, soybeans, tofu, wheat germ and omega-3 foods like eggs, fish, milk and margarine. EFAs help build cells and hormone-like substances that regulate blood pressure, cholesterol and immune function.

Full of Folate Salad
Who would think that a salad so tasty could be so good for you and your baby?

½ clove garlic, minced
¼ tsp (1 mL) salt
¼ tsp (1 mL) prepared Dijon mustard
1 tbsp (15 mL) rice vinegar
1 tbsp (15 mL) orange juice
4 tsp (20 mL) olive oil
1 tbsp (15 mL) finely chopped coriander freshly ground pepper
4 cups (1 L) romaine lettuce, torn
2 cups (500 mL) baby spinach
1 navel orange, peeled, sliced into pinwheels
1 ripe avocado, sliced
¼ cup (50 mL) toasted sun- flower seeds

In a small bowl, mash garlic and salt together. Add mustard, vinegar, orange juice and olive oil. Whisk until fully blended. Add coriander and whisk to blend.

In a large salad bowl, combine lettuce, spinach, orange and avocado slices. Drizzle on dressing and toss lightly. Garnish with toasted sunflower seeds.

Makes 4 servings.

Tips: To toast raw, unsalted sunflower seeds, heat a small, dry frying pan on medium-high. Add seeds and toast, stirring until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes.

• To slice a ripe avocado, slice in half, lengthwise, nudge out the seed with the tip of a knife then slice avocado while in the "shell," prying pieces out by sliding knife between the peel and the avocado. Avocado will brown easily, so do this step just before dressing the salad.

Romaine lettuce + avocado + sunflower seeds + spinach + oranges = fantastic folate
Chances are you’ve been taking a folic acid supplement ever since you started to plan your family. But now that you’re pregnant, your body still needs 400 mcg of this important B vitamin, which can prevent neural tube defects (such as spina bifida) in your baby. Folate does more than that. Like protein, it supports cell division and growth. (Folic acid is the synthetic form of the vitamin, found in supplements. Folate or folacin is the naturally occurring vitamin found in food.)

Other excellent sources include asparagus, beans and lentils, peanuts, pineapple juice, tofu and soy milk. Good folate sources include artichokes, almonds, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cashews, green peas, honeydew melon, mung bean sprouts, parsnips, raspberries, split peas, tomato juice, V8 juice, walnuts and wheat germ. Also look for bread and pastas labelled enriched. Just ½ cup cooked, enriched pasta supplies an excellent source of folate.

This article was originally published on Aug 10, 2005

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