The old saying "You're eating for two" really does hold true for pregnant women. It means that you need to make careful, healthful food selections to ensure your health and the health of your growing baby.
One of the most important nutrients for pregnant women is folic acid, which has been shown to reduce the incidents of brain and nerve disorders in developing babies. Since nearly half of all pregnancies are unplanned, and some birth defects involving nerve and brain disorders can occur before a woman is even aware that she is expecting, it is recommended that all women of childbearing age consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily before even becoming pregnant. Once pregnant, the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of folic acid increases to 800 micrograms.
Many foods, especially fruits and vegetables, are good sources of folic acid. Good choices include dark green, leafy vegetables (e.g., spinach and collard greens), cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, beets, green beans, root vegetables, asparagus, corn and brussels sprouts. Fruits high in folic acid include strawberries, oranges and other citrus fruits, tomatoes, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, raspberries, avocados, bananas and watermelon. Other foods that are good sources of folic acid include dried beans and peas, nuts, seeds, lentils, liver and other organ meats, low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese, wheat germ and whole wheat bread.
To help those women who cannot reach their recommended daily dosage through a normal diet, many cereals are now fortified with folic acid. Also, many health care providers recommend daily or prenatal vitamins which provide the recommended amount of folic acid, as well as other essential nutrients.
Eating healthy during pregnancy often does take added effort, but it holds many benefits for mom and her growing baby.
1 cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped celery
2 tbsp. margarine
1 cup water
1/3 cup rice
1/8 – ¼ tsp. red pepper
½ tsp. salt
6 cups broccoli flowerets (about 2 heads)
3 cups skim milk
In a soup pot, cook onion and celery in margarine until tender. Stir in water, rice, pepper and salt. Simmer covered for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, steam broccoli until just tender. Stir broccoli into soup and continue to cook for 10 minutes more until rice is cooked and broccoli is soft. Place soup in blender. Add skim milk and blend until smooth. Reheat slowly.
Yield: 7 servings
Meatless Lentil Chili
1 lb. lentils
5 cups water
1 16oz. can tomatoes, diced
1 pkg. dry onion soup mix
1 ½ tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. cumin
Rinse lentils well. Bring water to a boil, add lentils. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Do not drain. Add tomatoes, soup mix, chili powder and cumin. Simmer, covered an additional 30 minutes.
Yield: 8 servings
Tortilla To Go
For a brown-bag lunch, spread flour tortilla with canned refried beans and sprinkle with shredded Jack or cheddar cheese and some chopped green onion. Roll and wrap in plastic wrap. Heat for 30 seconds in microwave. Serve with salsa and lowfat sour cream.
Combine halved strawberries with chunks of other folic-acid-rich fruits, such as bananas, oranges, and melons. Sprinkle with chopped nuts. Serve with a dressing of plain yogurt seasoned with a little thawed frozen orange juice concentrate.
2 containers (8 ounces each) lowfat strawberry yogurt
1 pint strawberries, stemmed
1 tsp. grated orange peel (optional)
Mix strawberry yogurt if not pre-mixed. Spoon into ice cube tray. Freeze until completely frozen, 3 to 4 hours. Remove cubes from tray and place in bowl of electric food processor. Process until finely chopped. Add strawberries and orange peel. Process just until almost smooth. Serve immediately, or place in freezer and stir occasionally until firm enough to scoop, 1 to 2 hours.
Yields: 4 serving