Flex Your Diet
Whether you're a vegetarian or a meat eater, shifting the way you eat during pregnancy can give you more of the nutrients you and your developing baby need. Introducing The Flexitarian Diet.
Most of us are creatures of habit, piling the same foods into our grocery carts each week. But pregnancy, with its increased nutritional requirements and wacky cravings and aversions, may require venturing into new nutritional territory. "Pregnancy is the time to be flexible with your eating habits," says nutrition and culinary consultant Kim Galeaz, R.D., who developed the recipes here (and the accompanying three-day meal plan, which you can find at fitpregnancy .com/flexyourdiet) to satisfy the needs and palates of carnivores and vegetarians alike.
The trick is to accommodate your body's changing needs while "still keeping your wits about you," says nutritionist Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D., author of Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy (Owl Paperbacks). "Your calorie needs have barely gone up, but your nutrient needs have skyrocketed."
Galeaz designed what we call The Flexitarian Prenatal Diet, with tips for those who eat meat regularly and those who don't eat it at all. The recipes and online meal plan offer both meat and vegetarian options, plus snack ideas to demonstrate just how flexible your diet can be.
Tips For Carnivores
Research shows that more women are entering pregnancy overweight and then gaining more weight than they should, increasing their risk for obesity, gestational diabetes, too-large babies and other problems. Replacing some of the meat on your plate with fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains can help you control your weight gain while providing important nutrients that your daily supplement does not include.
"A prenatal vitamin won't have the 12,000 phytochemicals that are in fruits and vegetables," explains Somer. Fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains also are high in fiber, which helps keep you full, regulates your blood sugar and cholesterol, and prevents constipation, a common pregnancy ailment.
If you are a heavy meat eater, you needn't go cold turkey. Instead, limit each meat serving to about 3 ounces (cooked), approximately the size of a deck of cards. Think of it as a condiment. Says Galeaz, "Treat meat as a decoration rather than as the focal point of your plate."
By loading up your meat dishes with extra vegetables, you retain the meat's iron, zinc and flavor while limiting saturated fat and calories. So pack your beef stew with carrots, red peppers and sweet potatoes, and add a box of frozen peas or spinach to meat-based soups and casseroles. (Yes, frozen veggies are as nutritious as fresh.)
Add vegetables such as chopped, diced or shredded onions, scallions, green peppers, carrots and tomatoes to your tuna or chicken salad. If you think vegetable side dishes are a bore, perk up your broccoli, spinach or zucchini with salt-free seasonings, spices, herb- or sesame-infused oil, or onion or garlic powder.
Fill up on fruit
It's even easier to sneak fruit into your diet, and it gives you fiber, folate and vitamin C. For your breakfast, make a smoothie by blending frozen berries with half a banana and vanilla soymilk. Add dried cherries, sliced pears or mandarin oranges to your lunchtime salad, and slip apple slices into your ham-and-low-fat-cheese pita pocket.
For dinner, cook your pork tenderloin in an iron skillet (for extra iron) with sliced pears or canned peaches. Experiment with exotic fruits such as cherimoya and kiwano to boost both flavor and nutrients.