Nutrition in the Real World

You have to eat and work and have a life. Here's how to get the nutrients you and your baby need.

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you already know that a well-balanced diet is important for good health. Now that you’re pregnant, there’s nothing more important you can do than to nourish yourself and your baby with safe and nutritious foods.

But eating the right foods in the right amount can be easier said than done. How do you find time to fine-tune your diet when you’re working, squeezing in doctor’s appointments and taking weekend treks to every baby store within a 50-mile radius? And how do you cope when mysterious cravings arrive out of nowhere or you have an aversion to foods you’ve always loved?

Now, more than ever before, it’s time to get serious about nutrition and solve these dilemmas. “What you eat now will set the stage for your baby’s health for decades to come,” says Elizabeth Ward, M.S., R.D., author of Pregnancy Nutrition: Good Health for You and Your Baby (John Wiley & Sons Inc., 1998). Proper prenatal nutrition is essential for your baby’s brain and physical development.

“Eating the right amount of food helps promote the proper weight gain for the healthiest baby,” says Ward. (For information on weight gain and calorie needs, see “Baby-Building Basics” on page 92.) And since combining pregnancy munching with power lunching is not always easy, we’re here to help. Here’s your guide to eating in the real world, including ideas for healthful snacks; quick, delicious, nutrient-packed recipes for lunch and dinner; and advice on supplements (consult your health care provider for your specific needs).

//baby-building basics//

You’re busy, you’re tired, you may even be a little overwhelmed. So, when faced with a crunch like this — how to get the best for you and your baby in these precious coming months — why not do what you do best? Cook up a simple, doable plan.

That’s what our “Baby-Building Basics” is designed to do. Just follow our 12 tried-and-true tips for healthful prenatal nutrition; then use our lunch, supper and snack suggestions and recipes to put them to use. You’ll never have to skip a meal, and you’ll get the valuable nutrients you and your baby need. There’s nothing quite so beautiful as a well-laid action plan, is there?

1) Choose food from all five food groups every day. According to the American Dietetic Association, moms-to-be need at least the following daily:

  • 3 servings from the milk, yogurt and cheese group
  • 6 ounces of animal protein or its equivalent from the meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts group
  • 3 servings from the fruit group
  • 4 servings from the vegetable group
  • 9 servings from the bread, cereal, rice and pasta group

2)Use fats, oils and sweets sparingly.

3)Focus on fiber, aiming for 20 to 35 grams a day. Eating two-thirds of a cup of bran cereal, one medium cooked sweet potato and a pear puts you in range for preventing the constipation and hemorrhoids so common in pregnancy.

4)Ask your doctor to suggest a daily prenatal multivitamin that contains the recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals, especially folic acid and iron, that you need for a healthful pregnancy. (See “Nurturing Nutrients”)

5)Also consider calcium supplements if you can’t make the calcium quota of at least 1,000 milligrams a day (about three glasses of milk). Some prescribed prenatal supplements won’t supply the calcium you need.

6)Help prevent birth defects by taking only prescribed multivitamins and other supplemental nutrients, such as calcium, that your health care provider recommends. Just because a little is good doesn’t mean more is better. For example, vitamin A in excess of 10,000 international units a day (twice the recommended intake) during pregnancy can cause irreversible damage such as spontaneous abortion and malformations. The safety of herbs and other botanicals during pregnancy and lactation remains to be proven, so steer clear of them.

7)Drink at least 64 ounces of fluid daily (eight 8-ounce glasses), more if you’re active and during hot weather. Fluid helps regulate body temperature, aids in digestion, works with fiber to fight constipation, and cushions joints and organs.

8)Aim for a 25- to 35-pound weight gain, as long as you began pregnancy at a normal weight. After the first trimester, expect to gain between 3/4 and 1 pound per week for the rest of the pregnancy. Twins (and more) require that you gain even more to foster a healthful birth weight. Underweight women may be advised to put on more than 35 pounds; overweight women could be counseled to put on less. Never diet during pregnancy, and always follow the advice of your doctor, certified nurse-midwife or nurse practitioner. Some women choose not to look at the scale during weigh-ins at the doctor’s office to avoid obsessing about pounds gained.

9)Add 300 calories a day to your diet, beginning in the second trimester. Women carrying more than one baby need additional calories, as do physically active moms-to-be.

10)Avoid alcohol. According to the March of Dimes, drinking even small amounts of alcohol can cause physical malformations and developmental difficulties in baby that last a lifetime.

11)Never eat raw or undercooked animal foods such as meat, sushi, seafood or eggs. Due to a somewhat depressed immune system, expectant women are more susceptible to food-borne illnesses.

12)Avoid feta, brie, Camembert and blue-veined or Mexican-style cheeses to reduce the risk of food-borne illness from the bacteria listeria. (Hard cheeses, processed cheeses, cream cheese and yogurt need not be avoided.)

— Elizabeth Ward, M.S., R.D.

//bag lunches//

If you like taking your lunch to work, try these simple, nutritious and delicious recipes, which were designed for night-before preparation and easy transportability.

Spanish Egg “Tortilla” WithChard and Peppers

Serves 4

This Spanish-style frittata is traditionally eaten at room temperature and makes for a perfect brown-bag lunch.

1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced

1 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons olive oil

3 cups Swiss chard (green part of the leaves only), coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons water

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 eggs plus 8 egg whites, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350? F. Meanwhile, in a 9-inch nonstick pan, sauté onion and bell pepper in olive oil until very soft. Add chard and water. Cover, allowing vegetables to steam until chard is soft and water has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper and add eggs.

With a rubber spatula, stir mixture until the “tortilla” begins to set up. Reduce heat to low and allow to cook approximately 5 minutes; then transfer pan to oven for approximately 10 minutes. Turn onto a plate to cool; then slice into 4 wedges.

Nutritional information per serving (1 wedge): 120 calories, 38 percent fat (5 grams), 23 percent carbohydrate, 39 percent protein, 51 milligrams calcium, 1 milligram iron, 23 micrograms folate, 2 grams fiber.

Tuna and White Bean SaladWith Cherry Tomatoes

Serves 4

Dressing the beans while still warm ensures that they absorb the flavors of the vinaigrette. Canned beans may be used, but they tend to be mushier and do not absorb the dressing as well.

1 cup small white beans, soaked overnight and rinsed, or 2 cups canned white beans, drained and rinsed

8 cups salted water

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons lemon juice

3 scallions, thinly sliced

1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in halves

1/4 cup parsley, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 6-ounce can water-packed tuna, drained

Cook the beans in salted water until tender but not soft. Drain well; then dress with olive oil and lemon juice while still warm. When cool, add scallions, tomatoes and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Flake tuna with a fork and toss into salad.

Nutritional information per serving (1/4 of recipe): 504 calories, 16 percent fat (9 grams), 57 percent carbohydrate, 27 percent protein, 225 milligrams calcium, 8 milligrams iron, 388 micrograms folate, 12 grams fiber.

Couscous Salad With RoastedVegetables and Chickpeas

Serves 4

In this jewel box of nutrients, the vegetables can be roasted ahead of time, leaving only the couscous to be cooked.

1 cup cauliflower, cut into small flowerets

1 large red bell pepper, diced

2 medium carrots, diced

1 large yellow onion, diced

1 medium zucchini, diced

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400° F. Toss vegetables with olive oil, salt and pepper; then spread out on a baking sheet.

Roast for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.


1 1/2 cups whole-wheat couscous

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups boiling water

Place couscous in a heat-resistant bowl with olive oil, cinnamon and salt. Stir with a fork until the couscous grains are well coated with the olive oil. Pour boiling water over couscous, making sure the grains are completely covered. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit 10 minutes. Remove cover; then let cool completely. Rake couscous with two forks or rub between your fingertips to separate grains.

1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Add roasted vegetables and garbanzo beans to couscous and dress with olive oil, vinegar and orange juice. Add cilantro and salt and pepper to taste.

Nutritional information per serving (1/4 of recipe) : 490 calories, 29 percent fat (16 grams), 61 percent carbohydrate, 10 percent protein, 105 milligrams calcium, 3 milligrams iron, 135 micrograms folate, 11 grams fiber.

Waldorf Salad

Serves 4

An updated version of an old-time favorite, this salad makes a great lunch.

2 large, crisp apples, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

6 dates (preferably fresh), coarsely chopped

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup lightly toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup nonfat vanilla yogurt

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Combine all ingredients and serve.

Nutritional information per serving (1/4 of recipe): 147 calories, 3 percent fat (.5 gram), 93 percent carbohydrate, 4 percent protein, 70 milligrams calcium, .4 milligram iron, 14 micrograms folate, 4 grams fiber.

Grilled Italian Chicken Salad

Serves 4Cooking in cast iron is said to add trace amounts of iron to the nutritional content of food.

2 chicken breasts, skinned and boned

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 medium green bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced

12 fresh basil leaves, torn

2 tablespoons small capers, drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Toss chicken breasts in olive oil and season with salt. Grill both sides in a very hot cast-iron skillet until no longer pink (approximately 5 minutes per side for a medium breast). Let cool and slice.

Combine chicken and remaining ingredients in a bowl and toss.

Nutritional information per serving (about 1/2 breast): 155 calories, 36 percent fat (6 grams), 22 percent carbohydrate, 42 percent protein, 41 milligrams calcium, 1 milligram iron, 11 micrograms folate, 2 grams fiber.

//supper time//

These five recipes were designed for delicious dinners, but they’ll also make great leftover lunches.

Grilled Chicken Tacos With Tomato Salsa

Serves 2Serve these tacos with a salad of jicama, orange segments and cilantro.

2 chicken breasts, skinned and boned

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

Bottled green chili salsa

Salt to taste

4 soft corn tortillas

1/4 small head green cabbage, thinly shredded

Tomato salsa for filling (recipe follows)

Toss chicken breasts in olive oil and season with salt. Grill both sides in a very hot cast-iron skillet until no longer pink (about 5 minutes per side for a medium breast); slice. Heat black beans and season to taste with green chili salsa and salt. Heat tortillas and fill with chicken, black beans, cabbage and tomato salsa.

Fresh Tomato Salsa:

1 ripe tomato, diced

1 scallion, chopped

1 small jalapeño pepper, chopped (optional)

2 teaspoons cilantro, chopped

Juice of 1 lime

Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients.

Nutritional information per serving (2 tacos): 504 calories, 18 percent fat (10 grams), 49 percent carbohydrate, 33 percent protein, 179 milligrams calcium, 5.3 milligrams iron, 400 micrograms folate, 15 grams fiber.

Penne With Tomato, Eggplant and Ricotta

Serves 4Steaming the eggplant produces tender, creamy results while preventing it from soaking up too much oil.

4 Japanese eggplant, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 12-ounce jar marinara sauce

1/2 pound penne pasta, cooked according to package directions and reserved in 2 tablespoons cooking water

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Handful of torn basil leaves

1/2 cup low-fat ricotta cheese

1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Steam eggplant until tender. Simmer marinara over medium heat for about 5 minutes; add eggplant and simmer another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Combine sauce, basil, cooked pasta and reserved cooking water in a large bowl. Dot with ricotta and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Nutritional information per serving (1/4 of recipe): 334 calories, 13 percent fat (5 grams), 68 percent carbohydrate, 19 percent protein, 216 milligrams calcium, 3.6 milligrams iron, 28 micrograms folate, 5 grams fiber.

Roasted Salmon With Yogurt, Grain Mustard andCaper Sauce

Serves 2This is a quick, easy way to cook salmon. The sauce is low in fat and high in calcium.

2 6-ounce fresh salmon fillets, skin removed

1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed

2 teaspoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Yogurt, grain mustard and caper sauce (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 500° F. Meanwhile, brush salmon and asparagus with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast on sheet pan for 10 minutes. Serve drizzled with yogurt, grain mustard and caper sauce.

Yogurt, Grain Mustard and Caper Sauce:

1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt

1 teaspoon grain mustard

1 tablespoon fresh dill or chervil, chopped

2 tablespoons capers, drained

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients.

Nutritional information per serving (1 salmon fillet): 325 calories, 30 percent fat (11 grams), 13 percent carbohydrate, 57 percent protein, 154 milligrams calcium, 2.8 milligrams iron, 285 micrograms folate, 2.5 grams fiber.

Roasted Root Vegetables With Wilted Greens

Serves 4This colorful, comforting dish contains a wealth of fiber, vitamins and the all-important folate.

8 small shallots, peeled

2 small parsnips, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

2 small carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

1 medium yam, cut into 2-inch pieces (skin may be left on)

1 small celery root, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

2 rutabaga or turnips, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 bunch leafy greens (mustard, turnip or collard), cut lengthwise into 2-inch pieces

Preheat oven to 450° F. Combine all ingredients except the greens and roast for approximately 25 minutes or until tender and slightly browned. Toss in a large pan with greens and sauté until greens are just wilted.

Nutritional information per serving (1/4 of recipe): 226 calories, 28 percent fat (7 grams), 64 percent carbohydrate, 8 percent protein, 234 milligrams calcium, 2.5 milligrams iron, 185 micrograms folate, 7.5 grams fiber.

Pizza With Sautéed Peppers, Onions, Spinach, Lemon and Pecorino Romano

Serves 4This quick meal is made easy with the help of a high-quality pre-made crust.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small yellow onion, sliced

1 small red bell pepper, sliced

Zest of 1 lemon

Salt and freshly ground black pepper (or red pepper flakes) to taste

Handful of torn fresh spinach

1 large pre-made pizza crust

2 tablespoons Pecorino Romano cheese, grated

1/4 cup part-skim mozzarella, grated

Preheat oven to 450° F. Heat olive oil and sauté onion and bell pepper until both are softened and the onion has begun to brown. Add lemon zest and season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat, add torn spinach, toss until wilted and spread over pizza crust. Sprinkle with Pecorino Romano cheese, then mozzarella. Bake on a sheet pan on the top rack of the oven for 8 to 10 minutes.

Nutritional information per serving (1/4 of recipe): 432 calories, 31 percent fat (15 grams), 50 percent carbohydrate, 19 percent protein, 400 milligrams calcium, 1.5 milligrams iron, 210 micrograms folate, 4 grams fiber.

— E.W.

Nurturing Nutrients

To make your pregnancy eating even easier, here’s a complete list of the nutrients you need every day and where to get them.

Nutrient/Daily Requirement During Pregnancy Function

Best Sources Calcium, 1,000–1,500 milligrams

Folate, 600 micrograms

Iron, 30 milligrams

Protein, 60 grams

Riboflavin, 1.4 milligrams

Vitamin B6, 1.9 milligrams

Vitamin B12, 2.6 milligrams

Vitamin C, 70 milligrams

Zinc, 15 milligrams Promotes fetal bone development and strong bones in mom; supplements may prevent high blood pressure in at-risk moms

Helps prevent neural-tube defects and anemia

(best if 400 mcg taken before conception)

Helps prevent anemia and premature delivery; helps baby gain weight

Helps make cells, hormones and enzymes; regulates fluid balance

Helps prevent anemia; builds baby’s tissues; helps body produce energy

Assists in body’s production of proteins used to make new cells

Helps prevent anemia; promotes cell growth; helps body use carbohydrates and fat

Builds strong bones, teeth, tissues and blood cells; increases iron absorption

Necessary for cell growth and energy production Dairy, dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, fortified soy milk, tofu processed with calcium sulfate

Enriched grains, dark green leafy vegetables, orange juice, legumes

Meat, poultry, seafood, legumes, fortified grains, spinach

Meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, eggs, legumes, tofu, nuts

Dairy, enriched grains, broccoli, asparagus, spinach

Poultry, fish, pork, bananas, avocados, peanuts, walnuts

Meat, dairy, eggs, some fortified nondairy milks, fortified cereals

Citrus fruits, red bell peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, kiwi

Meat, oysters, poultry, legumes, wheat germ, whole grains — E.W.