Great Green Smoothie

In my classes I talk a lot about nutrition during pregnancy.  I really feel like nutrition is very important at all times in our lives, however, pregnancy is often a turning point for many women.  It’s a point when they first begin to look at what they are putting into their bodies for the first time.

I encourage all moms (pregnant or not) to eat a balanced diet, consisting mainly of whole foods.  I have my students track what they eat over the course of their childbirth education, and try to help them come up with ideas to fill in the gap where their nutrition may be lacking.

One area that I’ve notice many moms struggling with is eating enough leafy greens.  At this time of year, greens are just coming into season again, but one can only eat so many salads before they grow tiresome.  I wanted to share my favorite recipe for a simple green smoothie, so yummy,  even kids (at least mine) will be begging for you to make more.

This recipe was given to me by local midwife, Jen Anderson-Tarver, but I’ve played with it a bit to suit personal tastes and moods.

To a blender add:

1/2 pound kale, tough stems removed
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup sliced frozen peaches, or approx. 1 frozen peach, unsweetened
And 1 of the following of your choice:  either 1 whole carrot, 1/2 a banana, OR 1/2 cup frozen blueberries

Blend until smooth, pour into glasses and enjoy!

The original recipe calls for the half a banana, but I don’t really care for bananas in smoothies.  They are a bit too sweet for me.  So I substitute the carrot, which is a little sweet, but not too much.  The blueberries are a good choice if you don’t want your smoothie to actually be green… great for those with an aversion to green foods.

This is the smoothie my four year old and two year old ask for over and over.  My husband usually makes it with a carrot for me, and they like it just fine.  They’ve even bragged to the neighborhood kids about how good it is.  So if you’re having trouble getting enough greens in your diet, try a green smoothie – yum!

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Leg Cramps During Pregnancy – What You Can Do

Lately, I’ve noticed my pregnant Facebook friends complaining of a common pregnancy discomfort:  leg cramps.  Some call them charley horses, they usually happen in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning, and they can wake you from a sound sleep.

So what causes them?  Why are they common among pregnant women?  It’s thought that they are caused by circulation problems, or simply the increase of blood circulation during pregnancy.  They are also believed to be caused by the increase of weight during pregnancy, which explains why they are often worse in the second and third trimesters.  Additionally, a decrease in exercise or pressure from the growing baby and uterus on your blood vessels may contribute. Continue reading

Vitamin D, Protein and Pregnancy

During pregnancy, one of the challenges many women face is the constant barrage of “eat this” and “don’t eat that.”  A lot of women have a hard time taking that prenatal vitamin, whether due to morning sickness, or the size of some of the vitamins out there.

A great way to be sure you are getting all the nutrients you and your baby need is by eating the foods that contain them.  Study after study has shown that we absorb far more nutrients from our food then from a supplement.

So here’s a little info that might help pregnant mamas tackle two of the hot topics for pregnancy nutrition right now:  vitamin D and protein.

For many people, especially those who don’t eat a lot of meat, it can be challenging to also meet the recommended daily levels of protein for pregnancy.  A friend recently shared an article on spelt, a wonderful whole grain, that is packed with protein.  A single serving contains 10.7 grams!  The bread recipe linked to the article also calls for flax seeds – another great, natural source of Omega-3 essential fatty acids.  Essential fatty acids, the “good fats,” provide a host of health benefits, like better memory and brain function, a real dietary bonus.

An article recently published stated that “a new study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology says seven out of 10 pregnant women in the U.S. are not getting enough of this crucial vitamin.  Prenatal vitamins do raise vitamin D levels during pregnancy but this study shows that higher doses may be needed.”

We can easily absorb vitamin D from just fifteen minutes of bare skin exposure to the sun per day.  But cold climates, or sunscreen use often blocks those health rays.  The great news is that there really are quite a few choices when it comes to foods that contain vitamin D.  And, happily, many of these foods are protein packed!  While vitamin D is added to fortified foods such as milk, cheese, yogurt and cereal, it occurs naturally in eggs, mushrooms and many types of fish.

Shiitake and button mushrooms that have been dried in the sun are great at absorbing vitamin D.  And all that sunshine vitamin gets passed on to those who consume the mushrooms, along with high amounts of B vitamins, which have been shown to help with nausea.

In climates with higher latitudes, like Alaska, people tend to get less vitamin D from the sun, but also tend to eat more fatty fish.   These fish, while high in vitamin D also contain high amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids.  Some examples of these vitamin D packed fish are salmon, catfish, tuna, and sardines.  A small 3 1/2 ounce serving of one of these fish contains 50-90% of the recommended daily value of vitamin D.  When choosing these fish, however, make sure you are getting fish that are low in mercury and sustainably raised.