Pleasing the Pregnant Palate

From mashed potatoes to mango-kiwi salsa, great dishes for every stage of your pregnancy

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It wasn’t long ago that I told my obstetrical patients to “eat right” while pregnant. But once I became pregnant, I had no idea what to eat. Could anything help this nausea? Would certain foods harm my baby? How could I fill those cravings for salt and chocolate in a sensible way?

Fortunately, I am married to a chef, whose low-fat, healthy, creative cooking provided the answers. We began planning meals together, and The Pregnancy Cookbook (W.W. Norton, 2002) was born. I personally tasted every recipe during my two pregnancies.

When planning your own meals through the next few months, keep in mind the following:

  • More than half of your calories should come from carbohydrates, such as pasta, potatoes, rice and breads.
  • You need just 60 grams of protein per day.
  • Only 30 percent of your calories should come from fat.

Here is a selection of my favorite recipes, designed to help you through the various stages of pregnancy: the first trimester, when easy-to-digest carbohydrates can help ease nausea and boost energy; the second trimester, when cravings kick in; and the third trimester, when you need a maximum amount of iron and calcium, as well as high fiber to fight constipation.

You’ll find sweets and even chocolate to satisfy your cravings and such a variety of tastes that something is sure to please your palate.

First Trimester Preconception Through Week 12 Blueberry–Banana Smoothie Serves 1 Try this soothing drink in the first trimester, when cool liquids may be all your queasy stomach can handle.

Tip: Buy fruit when it’s in season and freeze for future use. When creating smoothies, remember that banana gives the drink its creamy texture.

2 ice cubes 1 medium banana, peeled and sliced 1 cup frozen blueberries l tablespoon orange juice concentrate 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 4 ounces nonfat vanilla yogurt 1/3 cup cold water Place the ice cubes in a blender or food processor with a metal blade. Pulse until crushed. Add the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth.

Nutritional information per serving (16 ounces): 315 calories, 5 percent fat (1.6 grams), 85 percent carbohydrate, 10 percent protein, .8 milligram B6, 198.6 milligrams calcium, 7 grams fiber, 66.6 micrograms folic acid, .7 milligram iron, 1.3 milligrams zinc.

Spinach and Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes Serves 6 This recipe is rich in spinach, an excellent source of folic acid, which is so important during preconception and the early weeks of pregnancy.

Tip: Roast the garlic the day before you make the potatoes, remove its pulp, and refrigerate. Also, don’t overmix the potatoes, or they will be gooey. A few lumps are fine.

1 large bulb garlic 1/2 cup water 1 tablespoon butter, melted 1/2 cup skim milk, warmed 1 teaspoon olive oil 1 pound spinach, trimmed, washed, drained and chopped 3 pounds Yukon gold or yellow Finn potatoes, scrubbed and cubed Sea salt to taste Fresh black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 275 degree F. Remove any loose skin from the garlic bulb and cut 1/4 inch off the top (nonstem side) to expose the cloves. Place in a baking dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour water in the bottom of the dish and cover. Bake for 1 1/2 hours or until the inner cloves are very soft. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Press the garlic out of the loose skin. Then whisk together the roasted garlic, butter and milk. Set aside.

Heat oil in a wok over high heat. Add the spinach, cooking only until it wilts, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Place potatoes in a Dutch oven and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain potatoes and return to pot. Shake over low heat to remove moisture. Remove from heat.

Add the garlic mixture to the potatoes and mash. Add the spinach to the potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Nutritional information per serving (8 ounces): 252 calories, 12 percent fat (3.3 grams), 76 percent carbohydrate, 12 percent protein, .9 milligram B6, 131.3 milligrams calcium, 5.9 grams fiber, 171.1 micrograms folic acid, 4.1 milligrams iron, 1.3 milligrams zinc.

Second Trimester Weeks 13 Through 24

Orvieto Chicken Serves 6 This simple dish is based on a Tuscan specialty. Its salty flavor will fill that common craving for salt; the dish also provides iron and folic acid. Tip: To achieve a crust, it may be necessary to place another pan on the chicken while it’s cooking.

2 teaspoons olive oil 8 skinless chicken thighs, washed and thoroughly dried Sea salt to taste Fresh black pepper to taste 1–2 pounds pasta

Cook pasta according to package directions. Heat oven to 400 F.

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or large cast-iron skillet over high heat. Sprinkle the chicken liberally with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, place the chicken in the pan bone side up (watch for splattering oil). Sear the chicken for 5 minutes on each side or until a deep, golden crust forms.

Transfer chicken to a tray and bake until cooked through, approximately 15 minutes. Serve over pasta.

Nutritional information per serving (1 thigh with 1 cup pasta): 355 calories, 25 percent fat (10 grams), 47 percent carbohydrate, 28 percent protein, .3 milligram B6, 18.2 milligrams calcium, 2.4 grams fiber, 15.3 micrograms folic acid, 2.9 milligrams iron, 2.5 milligrams zinc.

Chocolate–Almond Biscotti 4 Dozen These low-fat cookies will satisfy that common craving for chocolate. While they are not particularly nutritious, they are a nice, special treat.

Nonstick cooking spray 2 cups unbleached flour 3/4 cup sugar 1 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons cocoa powder 2 eggs 1 egg yolk 1 tablespoon anise extract 1 teaspoon vanilla 1/2 cup whole almonds, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate morsels Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 2 teaspoons water)

Heat oven to 300 F. Lightly spray a large baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cocoa. Stir well. In another bowl, beat the eggs and egg yolk. Add the anise and vanilla.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry and stir with a wooden spoon. Add the almonds and chocolate morsels, and stir until a dough forms.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 1 minute. Divide the dough in half. Form each half into a log about 10 inches long and 3 inches wide.

Transfer the loaves to the baking sheet, separating them by 3 inches, and brush with the egg wash. Bake in the center of the oven for 50 minutes. Remove the tray and place on a rack for 15 minutes to cool.

Carefully transfer the logs to a cutting board. Cut on the diagonal into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Place back on the tray with the cut side down.

Bake for 7 minutes. Turn and bake 7 minutes longer. Transfer to a rack to cool. Store in airtight containers or in the freezer.

Nutritional information per serving (1 cookie): 60 calories, 29 percent fat (1.9 grams), 60 percent carbohydrate, 11 percent protein, .01 milligram B6, 8.6 milligrams calcium, .2 gram fiber, 2.1 micrograms folic acid, .5 milligram iron, .2 milligram zinc.

third trimester Weeks 25 Through 40

Penne With Flank Steak, Marinated Tomatoes and Wilted Arugula Serves 6 This recipe takes advantage of the principle that vitamin C (from the tomatoes) boosts your body’s absorption of iron (from the arugula and steak). Although the dish takes only 20 minutes to prepare, the tomatoes are best when marinated. They can be prepared a day ahead and refrigerated.

Tip: Try to use an aged (10 or more years) balsamic vinegar. It is sweeter and less acidic than the mass-produced varieties. Also, since arugula tends to be gritty, it is best to rinse it in 2 changes of water.

4 medium tomatoes, cored and diced 6 cloves garlic, peeled (1 minced and 5 chopped) 4 teaspoons aged balsamic vinegar 1/3 cup fresh basil, snipped Sea salt to taste Fresh black pepper to taste 1 pound penne pasta 3 teaspoons olive oil 12 ounces flank steak, trimmed and thinly sliced on the bias 11/2 pounds arugula, washed, drained and chopped 1 cup pasta cooking water 6 tablespoons Parmesan or Romano cheese

In a nonmetal bowl, stir together the tomatoes, minced garlic, vinegar and basil. Add salt and pepper. Cover and marinate for 3 hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta. Meanwhile, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a wok over high heat. When the oil is hot, carefully scatter the flank steak into the wok. Sear the steak until it is cooked through, stirring 2 or 3 times. Reduce heat and push the meat to one side.

Add the remaining olive oil to the wok. Add the chopped garlic and cook until soft and fragrant, stirring constantly. Raise the heat to high and add the arugula. Cook the arugula only until it wilts, stirring constantly. Stir the meat and arugula together. Remove 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and add it to the arugula. Reduce the heat to low.

Drain the pasta and stir it into the wok. Season the pasta with salt and pepper. Cook the pasta, meat and arugula together for 2 minutes.

Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with the tomatoes and Parmesan.

Nutritional information per serving (2 ounces steak with 3 ounces pasta): 477 calories, 19 percent fat (10.1 grams), 55 percent carbohydrate, 26 percent protein, .4 milligram B6, 279.2 milligrams calcium, 2.7 grams fiber, 140.8 micrograms folic acid, 6.4 milligrams iron, 5.6 milligrams zinc. Eggplant, Corn, Spinach and Goat Cheese Burritos Serves 4 This dish is chock-full of fiber, which is the best remedy for constipation so troublesome during pregnancy (especially in the third trimester).

Tip: Japanese and Italian eggplants are sweeter and have fewer seeds than the large purple variety. Also, the salsa can be prepared the day before and refrigerated.

Salsa 3 medium tomatoes, cored and diced 1 clove garlic, minced 4 scallions, trimmed and sliced 1/3 cup cilantro, chopped 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar Sea salt to taste Fresh black pepper to taste

Burritos 4 1/2 cups water Sea salt to taste 2 cups brown Basmati rice 3 teaspoons canola oil 4 Japanese or 3 Italian eggplants, cubed 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced 3 ears corn, kernels removed, or 1 cup frozen 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped 1 pound spinach, trimmed, washed, drained and chopped 4 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature 8 flour tortillas, warmed

In a nonmetal bowl, prepare the salsa by mixing together the tomatoes, garlic, scallions, cilantro and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Meanwhile, bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. Add a dash of salt and stir in the rice. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover the pot, and cook the rice until tender and all water has been absorbed, approximately 30 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, heat 1 teaspoon oil in a wok over high heat. When it begins to smoke, add the eggplant and bell pepper and spread in a single layer, taking advantage of the high sides of the wok. Sprinkle with salt and cook until tender, stirring 3 or 4 times. Stir the corn into the wok and cook for 1 minute more. Push the vegetables to 1 side. Reduce heat to low.

Add the remaining oil to the wok. Place the garlic in the oil and cook until soft and fragrant, stirring often. Raise the heat to high.

Stir the garlic and vegetables together. Add the spinach and cook only until it wilts, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a serving platter.

Spread a portion of the goat cheese, rice and salsa on each tortilla. Place the vegetables on the table, and have everyone roll his or her own burritos.

Nutritional information per serving (2 6-ounce burritos): 826 calories, 20 percent fat (18.8 grams), 67 percent carbohydrate, 13 percent protein, 1.2 milligrams B6, 292.9 milligrams calcium, 14.7 grams fiber, 319.3 micrograms folic acid, 8.9 milligrams iron, 3.9 milligrams zinc.

Tofu and Mustard Green Stuffed Shells Serves 8 Puréed tofu pinch-hits for the traditional ricotta in this recipe. Tofu is an excellent nondairy source of calcium and, combined with the cheeses, gives this recipe the extra calcium you need in the third trimester. It is also a great postpartum recipe because of the extra calcium, which your body needs while breastfeeding.

Tip: If available, use a combination of portobello, shiitake and cremini mushrooms. The recipe can be prepared up to 2 days in advance. On the day the shells are to be served, they can be stuffed, sauced and baked in 30 minutes.

Sauce 1 teaspoon olive oil 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped 1 pound mixed mushrooms, stems removed and caps sliced Sea salt to taste 2 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, chopped 1/3 cup fresh basil or parsley, chopped Fresh black pepper to taste

Stuffing 2 pounds firm tofu 1 teaspoon olive oil 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped 1 Spanish onion, peeled and diced Sea salt to taste 11/2 pounds mustard greens, washed, dried and chopped 1/3 cup grated Romano cheese Fresh black pepper to taste 1 egg Other Ingredients 12 ounces large stuffing shells 12 ounces part-skim mozzarella, grated

To prepare the sauce, heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 45 seconds, stirring constantly. Raise the heat to high and add mushrooms. Sprinkle the mushrooms with salt and cook until soft and all liquid evaporates, stirring often.

Pour the tomatoes into the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the basil or parsley and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

While the sauce is cooking, prepare the stuffing. Place the tofu in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process until smooth. Transfer to a mixing bowl.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 45 seconds, stirring constantly. Reduce heat slightly and add the onion. Sprinkle the onion with salt and cook until soft. Raise the heat to high and add the mustard greens. Cook only until they wilt, stirring constantly. Allow the greens to cool and then mix with the tofu. Stir in the Romano cheese. Season the filling with salt and pepper, and then mix in the egg. Set the filling aside.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the shells to the water and cook until tender. Drain and rinse under cold water.

Stuff each shell with the tofu and filling. Place the shells on 1 large or 2 medium baking trays. Spoon the sauce over the shells and sprinkle with mozzarella. Bake the shells until they begin to bubble on the edges and the cheese is golden, approximately 20 minutes.

Nutritional information per serving (8 ounces): 493 calories, 29 percent fat (15.7 grams), 42 percent carbohydrate, 29 percent protein, .2 milligram B6, 585.9 milligrams calcium, 7.8 grams fiber, 86.6 micrograms folic acid, 6.2 milligrams iron, 2.9 milligrams zinc.