I don't know about you, but this cold snap in the Fort Collins weather has finally gotten me into the holdiay spirit. I am craving hot chocolates, carriage rides, friends, family, and FOOD! Lot's of rich, delicous food, to be exact.
Traditionally, for many of us, the holidays have been a time to let loose, and eat whatever, whenever with no cares and to deal with the consequences after the holidays.
That has been me most of my life. What I discovered is that, in the end, I felt like crap, and didn't "recover" after the new years. It became a perpetual cycle, just another yo-yo diet. I've changed my holidays for the better and so can you. Now, I know what you are thinking right now, "I am all for being healthy, but I want to ENJOY all the foods of the holidays." Oh, my friend you can do both! Trust me! By making some very simple changes to the traditionally holiday foods we already eat, we can improve the nutritional density and overall health of the the foods we love and our bodies, and maybe leave the holidays feeling better, not heavy and bogged down.
I want to break this down into a traditional holiday meal and show the heavy, sugar laden, traditional recipes and how you can change them to keep flavor and up the health benefits, a little before and after.
The Traditional Holiday Dinner
Holiday dinners look very different for everyone. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanza, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster (yes, this is a thing), one thing we all have in common is a winter holiday feast with the best foods the season has to offer, shared with friends and family.
For most of us, the holiday meal looks like this:
Quick Tips to Keeping the Holidays Healthy
There, that doesn't seem too hard, right? Now, lets see it at work in the recipes below.
Turkey - The Centerpiece of the Holidays
The traditional roast turkey, is actually a pretty healthy option. Make sure to choose a quality raised bird. You can also substitute a chicken for a smaller family, or even some small cornish game hens...if you are hunter, think of doing a goose, duck, or even grouse. One of the new popular ways to do a turkey is to deep fry it. This may taste delicious, but the high temperature frying process can create carcinogenic chemicals in the meat. Stick with traditional roasting methods.
Choose fresh herbs, and save the giblets for the gravy.
Turkey and Meat Recipes to Try this Holiday
What is roast turkey wihtout stuffing! Most of us, guilty, don't make stuffing from scratch, we buy the bagged stuff we have to add a few things to, right? As long as you are following the above guidelines, this should be no big deal.
Many of the popular stuffing mixes are full of preservatives, and added gunk. So, learn to read labels. If you are a family that makes, from scratch stuffy, which I have and love, good for you.
Not going to lie, I actually got sick writing down all the ingredients in stove top...holy cow! I know it was bad, but GOO! Lets break it down
Stuffing Ideas to Try this Holiday
One of my stuffing secrets for added nutrition....add the giblets! My mom always added the liver, gizzard and heart to the stuffing (and gravy). Boil is to make the juice for the gravy, and then finely chop it and add in. No one will know if you don't tell them. Organ meat is a meat source that we rarely consume in american, and because of it, we find it harder to maintain certain nutritional levels (B12, Vitamin D, E, K), which are found in LARGE amounts in the organ, along with other nutrients such as CoEnzyme Q10.
I also like the Arrowhead Mills Stuffing Mix, if you are looking for an alternative to Stove Top
Those who know me know, I am not anti any food. I think they all have their place, if treated and cooked properly. Potatoes are one of those foods. They have gotten a really bad wrap over the years because of their starch content. But did you you they also contain more potassium than a banana, other minerals (manganese, magnesium, iron, B Vitamins (B6, Folate, Niacin, Thiamin) and phytonutrients that inbibit the carcinogenic chemical produced when you cook meat at high temperatures? Yes, there is more to the lowly potato. The trick is to make sure to keep the skins on.
Red potatoes are more nutrient dense than russets, and contain more antioxidants in the skin. They are also creamier.
By adding the potatoes with the skin, we automatically increase the nutrient density of the recipe.
Grass-Fed Butter is rich in good cholesterol, fat soluble vitamins A, E, D, K, and Omega 3 fatty acids...leaps and bounds over conventional butter.
Adding in somehting green, like kale, parsely, and chives, addes some more Vitamin K, mineras (magnesium, iron, zinc, calcium), and phytonutrients that increase immunity, prefect for the winter cold season.
Full fat milk, preferably grass fed, give the potatoes a creamy texture, and gives you more of those great fat soluble vitamins (D), and another nutritional fat called Conjugated Linoleic Acid, which signals the body to convert fat into muscle.
Also, use good quality olive oil, instead Full Fat Milk, if you are trying to reduce your dairy.
Potato Recipes to try This Holiday
Let's be honest, no dinner that involved Turkey, Stuffing, and Mashed Potatoes is complete without GRAVY. Now, many people out there use gravy packages...you know that powdered stuff you mix with water to make "gravy." Okay, I come from the south-ish, and we LOVE gravy...and the packaged stuff is just wrong. Real gravy is super simple to make, so easy, that once you make it, you'll never buy the packaged stuff again.
Not to mention the amount of preservatives and additives in the packaged powdered gravy mixes.
So, many of the ingridients in the this common gravy mix we talked about above...but we have a couple of new players in the party.
Gravy Recipes to Try This Holiday
Oh those giblets! I know you are all trying to ignore this little tip. I swear it will be okay, and in the end you will find a way to include this extremely healthy, nutrient dense food into your meals. Those of you with kids: if you don't tell them, or make a big deal they won't care. My kids actually like organ meat, and ate more of the elk heart I made this fall than either myself or my husband. Start then early and they will develop a palate for it.
Liver is one of the richest sources of B12 and Vitamin D in the diet.
Whole wheat flour, with no fortification, adds gluten to thicken. If you are gluten senstive/allergic, you can substitute brown rice flour.
Let's be honest, do we really need the rolls, NO, but there is something right about bread during a holiday meal. This doesn't mean you have to learn to bake fresh bread, but knowing some decent brands will help you.
Many premade, frozen rolls, are full of all sorts of horrible ingredients that contribute to disease, obesity, ADHD, and other health problems.
I tend to lean towards naturally fermented sourdough for all occations. The natural fermentation helps to breakdown phytic acid, and increase the nutrients. Also look for sprouted grain breads and rolls, Whole Foods makes a Spouted Seeded Loaf that is amazing!
There is always making your own!!!! Learning to make homemade sourdough is an art, and something I have never mastered. But, I have friends that have sourdough starter that is over 100 years old and they make the most out-of-this-world breads and baked goods with it. I tend to use whole grain sprouted grain flours in my baking/cooking anyways, so I do make a couple of rolls and baked goods this way during the holidays (like cinnamon rolls on Christmas Day).
Classically, there are few vegetables present at holiday dinners...lots of starches and sugars, but little greens. With the exception of the Green Bean Casserole, a holiday staple that typcially has canned "cream of mushroom" soup in it.
Not going to lie, but I find it amusing (not funny, but sad amusing) that they labeled the sea salt as "low sodium" when the product is FULL of negative sodium preservative. That sea salt sodium is not the problem, it's the large amount of synthetic and chemical sodiums.
I say, this is a great opporunity to up the Holiday Meal Game. There is nothing better than GOOD vegetable sides to bring the meal together.
Look for color, greens, organes, reds, this is a key to unlocking higher nutritional density, phytonutrients and antioxidants.
Vegetable Side Dishes to Try This Holiday
Okay, let's be completely honest...its really the dessert that we all look forward to during the holidays. AND it's the desserts that get us into trouble. All of the white sugar, processed flour, and the amount! I feel like I get more sweets for the family and from friends this time of year, and to some extent its all part of it. The problem I have, and I am sure is the same with most, is the QUANTITY. Learning portion control is essential, as is choosing quality ingredients that add an element of nutrition.
Desserts to Try This Holiday
It took some time, and rain, but summer is here. Like most parents, I often find myself stuck trying to find a healthy quick snack for my kiddos. It's hot, they are active, and you want something that is not only healthy, but something they will actually eat and enjoy. Most of us, also, don't have time to try every awesome pinterest recipe we find. So I try to K.I.S.S. This way I can grab and go.
Here is my go to, top 5 snacks for summer. My girls love them, and will ask for them often.
1. Frozen Grapes
2. Cucumber and Watermelon Hydration Smoothie
3. Sugar Snap Peas - Straight From the Garden
4. Homemade Jerky
5. Ants on a Log
Oil is an essential part of cooking, it adds flavor, it prevents sticking, it can even bring out certain vitamins from our foods.
The choices seem to be endless. How do you know what oil to use and when?
Different oils do better under certain conditions based on their individual structure. Some do well with high heat and others should never be heated.
Why does the type of oil matter when cooking?
To begin with, it is important to have a basic understanding of oils and their structure. Each oil's structure is the determining factor on how it will handle heat. For more information on Differentiating Fats please take a look at my previous blog post.
Okay, now that you have read my previous post and are up to speed on fat basics…lets continue.
Every oil has a "smoking point," or the point in which the oil begins to break down and smoke when heated. When this happens the oil is rancid. It begins to oxidize and produce free radicals. The toxic chemical Acrolein is also released into the smoke. This chemical has been linking to Lung Cancer.
These fats are solid at room temperature and withstand high heats. Because of their stable nature they resist oxidization.
Liquid at room temperature, but solid when refrigerated. These are slightly more unstable, but many can be used in cooking at medium and high heats. These are often nut oils.
What does "refined, semi-refined and unrefined" mean?
These oils are also liquid at room temperature, but are also liquid when refrigerated. These oils are very unstable, and typically become rancid very easily. In general these are not cooking oils, but are wonderful as a finish oil to drizzle on after cooking.
Another step when choosing your cooking oil is to stick with unrefined oils. Refining the oil can make it more stable, but read the process that oils go through to become refined.
The first step in oil extraction involves crushing or grinding oil-bearing tissue to release oil from cells. The second step involves pressing to squeeze oil from crushed tissue. Residues from pressing are usually extracted with solvents such as hexane to remove the remaining oil. The solvent is then removed. To purify these oils, they are further extracted with alkali and heated, degummed, deodorized by steam treatment, and decolorized by treatment with charcoal or clay. Since these procedures remove or destroy vitamin E, synthetic antioxidants like BHT, BHA, and propyl gallate are often added to retard rancidity. Oils may be "winterized" by removing particulate matter that form upon chilling.
In the processing and extraction of unrefined oils the seeds are crushed and ground to release oil. The step to extract excess residue from the oil is skipped. This gives the oil a very strong flavor.
Be aware that "cold-pressed" can mean that chemicals are used in the oil extraction process. Only oils labeled as "unrefined" can claim to truly be pressed without assistance.
Storing Your Oil
In general, oils should be stored in a dark, cool spot away from direct light and heat. The container should be air tight, and a dark, glass container is preferred. Even stable oils can go rancid in the right conditions.
Oils should smell like their source. Olive oil should smell like fresh olives, sesame oil like sesame seeds. If you feel your oil smells off, throw it out. Its better to be safe than expose yourself to potential cancer causing chemicals.
A Little on Individual Oils
I want to highlight a couple of the important and popular cooking oils out there. Some of them are talked about as being healthy, others have a bad wrap. I want to talk the pros and cons of each and hopefully help you find the cooking oils that work best for you.
I wanted to start with Olive Oil, as it seems to me to be the most popular culinary oil out there. I know I personally love it and use it frequently.
I feel like when I go to purchase cooking oils, I am bombarded by the thousands of different Olive Oils. How do we navigate through this market?
All Olive Oil begins with the crushing, pressing and extraction of oil from the olive fruit. From there it becomes one of four commercial grades
The best of which is unrefined, Extra Virgin Olive Oil from a reliable source.
Olive Oil is a Monounsaturated fat that can withstand Medium-High temperature. It has a smoke point between 325-375.
It is a good oil to use in Salad Dressing and as a drizzle (It does have some great health benefits and is a very high source of Omega 9). It does not work well for high heat cooking or anything that you want a good crisp on (frying, stir-fry, roasting, searing meat). If it smokes, its bad. If you are cooking with Olive Oil and you see smoke, you have ruined your oil.
Nutritionally Olive Oil is a high source of Omega 9 Monounsaturated Fatty Acids. High quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil can be up to 85% Omega 9.
Coconut Oil is all the rage. For good reason. Coconut oil is a very stable oil that can be used for a variety of preparations.
Coconut oil is pressed from the fruit of the coconut palm. It adds a light flavor to foods, and can be used in baking. Like olive oil, look for high quality extra virgin, unrefined oil. that has a clean white color.
It is a tropical, saturated fat that is stable at room temperature. You can use coconut oil as a substitute for butter in a 1:1 ratio (I like to make my brownies with Coconut Oil).
Coconut Oil is a more stable oil, but it still does not handle high heat cooking. It can be used for medium heat. It works very well in baking.
Being a saturated fat, it is less likely to go rancid and has a relatively long shelf life. It has a smoking point of 350.
Nutritionally, Coconut Oil is a high source of Lauric Acid. A saturated fat that raised HDL (good cholesterol).
Rapeseed is a member of the broccoli family. It has become an extremely popular oil, and even Whole Foods uses it in food preparations.
Its profile seems to show a healthy oil. It contains Omega 3 Fatty acids (11%), and monounsaturated fats similar to those found in Olive Oil.
Rapeseed contains a monounsaturated fat called erucic acid (22%). This is NOT a healthy monounsaturated fat and has shown toxic effect in lab testing. To get around this, the plant has been hybridized and modified to contain less that 2% erucic acid. (80% of canola is GMO)
Canola oil is processed similarly to high fructose corn syrup. The oil is extracted through a combination of heat and chemical methods. Traces of hexane can still be found in the oil even after refining. It is then refined, bleached and degummed. During the process the Omega 3 content becomes rancid and deodorizers are used to mask the smell. These deodorizers transform the Omega 3 into trans-fats...most bottles list a total trans-fat amount of less than 0.2%.
Butter has gotten a bad rap over the years. But it is making it's much deserved comeback. When choosing butter, make sure you are buying butter that comes from happy, healthy grass fed/pasture raised cows. Why?
The milk from cows that are pasture raised (which is seasonally made between May and September), has a must high nutritional profile. Providing CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) in 3-5 times that of grain fed butter. The ratio of Omega 6:Omega 3 in Pastured cows in a 1:1 ratio, while grain fed cows have a 6:3.
Ever notice the color difference between pasture/grass fed butter and commercial butter? Commercial butter is white and grass fed is YELLOW!!! The yellower your butter, the better. This is due to high levels of Vitamin A, (carotene) and Vitamin K2.
Packaged butter has a smoking point of 325-375. It does great in baking, or skillet cooking as long as it doesn't smoke.
Clarified Butter has a smoking point of 450. It can be used for a wide variety of high heat cooking...but what is clarified butter?
Clarified Butter is butter that has been slightly heated to removed milk solids. You can do this at home my melting butter and allowing the components to separate, and for the water to evaporate off. solids will sink to the bottom and float to the top. Simply skim the top and drain butter, leaving solids on the bottom. Clarifying butter makes it more stable. It has a longer shelf life and only a small amount of lactose and casein, making it more suitable for those with dairy intolerances.
Avocado oil is made from the fruit of the avocado tree, not the nut like most oils. The process is similar to that of extra virgin olive oil. It is cold pressed and filtered.
Nutritionally Avocado oil is high in healthy monounsaturated fats, Omega 9 (72%). It also contains a high amount of vitamin E.
It is slightly more stable than Olive Oil with a higher smoking point, 475. Making it ideal for high heat cooking, or frying.
It can also be used in salad dressings, or other preparations. It is a very versatile oil.
Sesame Seed Oil
Sesame oil is derived from the sesame seeds. In was traditionally used as a flavoring oil in Asia, not so much for cooking.
Sesame seed oil can be processed in many different ways, including chemically. It is also often refined to make the oil look and smell clearer. Cold pressed is the better option if it is labeled.
Sesame oil is high in Oleic (35-50%) and Linoleic (35-50%) fatty acids. While sesame oil is one of the more stable cooking oils, it is still best to store it in a dark/cold place like the refrigerator.
The smoking point for Sesame Oil is between 350-420. The lighter the oil, the higher its smoking point, making it better for high heat cooking. The darker sesame oils can be used for medium high heat cooking, but as with all oils we have talked about, if it smokes, its ruined. They work very well as a finishing oil to add flavor to dishes, or as salad dressings.
There is a huge push in restaurants to fry in peanut oil. Why?
There are different forms of peanut oil. It can be refined, unrefined/cold pressed and roasted.
Refined Peanut Oil, like all vegetables oils, has been processed, bleached, and deodorized. This processing gives peanut oil a mild to no taste, and increases its smoking point. This is the form of peanut oil used in restaurant cooking.
Unrefined Peanut Oil, is processed using cold pressing that does not used chemicals in the extraction process. This type of Peanut oil, is mild in flavor, but it is less stable and has a smoking point of 325-350.
Roasted Peanut Oil is a gourmet oil used primarily for flavoring. The peanuts are roasted prior to expelling the oil. This gives it a very robust flavor.
Nutritionally Peanut oil contains 48% monounsaturated fat Oleic Acid, 33% Linoleic Acid, and vitamin E.
When cooking, unrefined peanut oil can be used for everyday skillet cooking, as long as it does not reach the smoking point.
NOTE: Refining oils, as you will have noticed, raises their smoking point, so that they can withstand higher cooking temperatures. That being said, it is good to be well informed on the processing that goes into refining oils, the chemicals used, and the possible structural changes to the oil from the processing.
Fats are not only broken down into Saturated, Polyunsatured, and Monounsaturated, but also by the length of their fatty acid chain (this is a big consideration when looking at fats, some polyunsaturated fats can be beneficial and others harmful).
The "Dreaded" Saturated Fats
Saturated fats are general solid at room temperature. They are classified as saturated when all the available carbon bonds are filled with hydrogen atoms. (who didn't take chemistry). They are considered hightly stable, and do not spoil (go rancid) quickly, making them ideal for high temperature cooking. Found mostly in animal fats and tropical oils, your body will also make them, when their is not enough present for proper organ function, from carbohydrates.
SATURATED FATS DO NOT CAUSE HEART DISEASE....overconsumption of sugar, hydrogenated fats, and the improper use/cooking fats.
An analysis of the fat content of clogged arteries breaks down like this...
26% saturated fats
The remaining 74% is mostly polyunsaturated fats.
Short Chain Fatty Acids
Short Chained Fatty Acids are always saturated. These are carbon chains of 4 or 6. 4-Carbon atoms are found primarily in butter fat from cows, while 6-Carbon chains are found mostly in butter fat from goats. Both forms have antimicrobial properties (virus, yeast, bacterial protection). They are directly absorbed for quick energy without digestion from bile and are less likely to cause weight gain than vegetable oils because of this. (See, their not all bad)
Medium Chain Fatty Acids
These have 8-12 carbon atoms, and are found mostly in tropical oils, coconut oil and some butterfat. Like the short chain, these too have antimicrobial properties, and are absorbed quickly.
Long Chain Fatty Acids
This category overlaps and can be found Saturated, Polyunsatured and Monounsaturated. They have 14-18 carbon atoms.
Steric Acid: 18 Carbon saturated fat found mainly in beef and mutton.
Why Saturated Fats ARE GOOD for You
Monounsaturated Fats and the Mysterious Omega 7
Monounsaturated fats contain a single double bond and therefore lack two hydrogen atoms and are "kinked". Your body can make Monounsaturated fats from Saturated fats. Because they contain a kink, they do not pack together nicely and are not solid at room temperature, but will turn solid in the refriderator. Like Saturated fats, however, they are quite stable and do well when used in cooking. These fats are found mostly in olive oil, and in the oils from almonds, pecans, cashews, peanuts and avocados. (The exception is olive oil, this is not a good cooking oil...I already foresee another post on cooking oils.)
Long Chain Fatty Acids
Palmitoleic Acid (Omega 7): 16-Carbon chain Monounsaturated fat that is almost exclusively found in Liver .It is antimicrobial. . It can be found in Sea Buckthorn, Macadamia Nuts, and Algae as well. It is created from Palmitic Acid (a saturated fat). It is a key component in the formation of skin, hair and nails, and help prevent premature aging. (this is such a fascinating and little known fat, that I will have to spend a new post just discussing its benefits.)
Oleic Acid (Omega 9): 18-Carbon chain Monounsaturated fat found as the primary constituent of Olive Oil, and the highest known source is the Acai Berry.
Polyunsaturated fats have 2 or more double bonds and therefore lack 4 or more hydrogen atoms. The two most commonly found are double unsaturated Linoleic Acid with 2 double bonds and triple unsaturated Linolenic Acid with 3 double bonds. (Say those 3 times fast!) Your body cannot make these two fats and so they are considered essential fatty acids (EFA's). These fats remain liquid even when refrigerated. These oils are highly reactive and will go rancid very quickly, particularly Linolenic Acid. They should never be used in cooking or heated. (Seriously Don't Cook With These)
Long Chain Fatty Acids
There should be a balance of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids in the diet. An excess of Omega 6 will cause degerative heart disease, and so must be balanced in a ratio of 3:1 Omega 3:Omega 6. (FYI: Commercially raised meat has a much higher percentage of Omega 6 to Omega 3. Grass fed, and wild game are balanced.) Omega 6's are general inflammatory in nature and, yes, we do need them. They cause beneficial inflammatory responses that help us fight pathogens, and heal. But when they are not in check with a proper balance of Omega 3's they can can excessive inflammatory reactions in the body.
Linoleic Acid (Omega 6): 18 Carbon Chain fat that is found in vegetable oils Gamma Linolenic Acid (Omega 6): 18 Carbon Chain found in Evening Primrose Oil or converted from Linoleic Acid
Alpha Linolenic Acid (Omega 3): 18 Carbon Chain fat found in Flax Seeds. This form of Omega 3 must be converted into usable forms
Very Long Chain Fatty Acids
These fats have 20-24 Carbon atoms and tend to be highly polyunsaturated with up to 6 double bonds. Some people are able to make these fats from the EFA's, but other, especially those whose ancestories ate a lot of fish, lack the enzymes to produce them. These people must obtain the elongated fatty acids from animal foods alone, like organ meat, eggs, butter, and fish.
Dihomo-Gama-Linolenic Acid (DGLA): You don't hear a whole heck of a lot on this fat, BUT it is nonetheless important. It is a 20 Carbon chain with 3 double bonds. A type of Omega 6 fatty acid that is found to have anti-inflammatory effects IF and ONLY IF there is a proper amount of Omega 3 in the diet (it gets really complicated from here). Why? The same enzyme used to break down Omega 3 is the same one used to break down DGLA into chemical AA (good EFA important during pregnancy) which in turn converts into Prostaglandin 2 to increase the inflammatory response. (PHEEWWWW that was a mouth full, Did I lose anyone?) SO, if all of the enzyme is used up working on Omega 3, there isn't enough to create AA or PG2, thereby reducing and preventing the inflammatory response. Instead DGLA is converted into an anti-inflammatory PG1. (Still with me?) This type of Omega 6 is created in the body by Gamma-Linolenic Acid
Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA): A 20 Carbon, 5 double bond Omega 3 Fatty Acid. This fat is a precursor to Prostaglandin 3, which inhibits platelet aggregation. It is best consumed as fish or fish oils (cold-pressed please). It can be converted in the body from Alpha Linolenic Acid, BUT only if the proper enzymes are available to break in down. (Often lacking in Diabetics, and Vegans)
Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA): This 22 carbon, 5 double bond Omega 3 Fatty Acid is a all the rage right now. It is the big talk in the fat world, and for good reason. Most animals make very little of this fat through ALA conversion. It is primarily obtained through direct consumption in our diets. (bring on the meat). DHA is the primary fat composition of sperm, brain phospholipids, and the eyes. Its found in fish, fish oils, and algae primarily. But is also high in grass fed meat, and wild game.
There are so many more fats in our diets. Some good, and some bad. I tried to touch on the most important ones to us as far as what are the good fats and where to find them. So, when you are cooking take a look at the fats you are using and make sure they are qualified for the type of cooking you are doing. I got a little more in depth on the Omegas, because there is A LOT of confusion around those, especially Omega 6, which can be both good and bad for you. I hope that my explanation of the role of Omega 3 in that conundrum was clear. If you have questions email me.
One of the first steps many women take when they have made the decision to try to conceive, is to take a prenatal vitamin. FANTASTIC! This is a wonderful beginning step to preparing yourself, and setting the foundation for pregnancy. That being said, most over the counter prenatal vitamin supplements are made up of fillers and synthetic, chemical based, laboratory created vitamins. They are often hard to digest and absorb, leading women to wonder why they are deficient in crucial nutrients when they are taking their vitamins regularly. The best sources of vitamins are from their natural sources. Even when a woman is taking a high quality, natural, food sources vitamin supplement, there is often a portion of the supplement that is not absorbed properly. This is why diet and eating highly nutrient dense foods are so important in preparation and during pregnancy.
**A Little Note on Birth Control:
The majority of women out there have been on some form of birth control, whether it was the pill, IUD, Depro, etc... We often forget, or where not informed that these common forms of birth control can cause vitamin deficiencies in our bodies that can lead to difficulties conceiving, or complications during pregnancy.
The contraception pill not only lowers levels of zinc (will talk about its importance later) by raising copper levels (as does the IUD), but it also induces deficiencies of vitamin B, B6, B12, folic acid, and vitamin C. The pill prevents conception by altering the body's hormone system. Even after it has been stopped, the body can take upwards of 3-6 months to begin producing certain hormones again. This is important to keep in mind if you are planning to begin trying to conceive in the near future.
Healthy Diet By Trimester
If we look at the changes that occur during each trimester in both the fetus and the mother, it is easier to see exactly what the nutritional requirements of both are.
Preconception - First Trimester
The nutritional requirements are the same for those who are trying to conceive and those who have recently conceived, as the goal is the same, to nourish a healthy mother and support a healthy fetus.
**Note on Morning Sickness
Morning Sickness is often caused by the rising levels of hormones, such as HCG. It can also be a sign of vitamin deficiencies. Most commonly; B6, Magnesium, Potassium, and/or Zinc. All vitamins that are depleted when you are on birth control.
Approaching the middle of pregnancy, physical changes are more noticeable, nausea and fatigue are passing and appetite is increasing. The old adage of eating for two isn't quite as good as it sounds. The second person starts out the size of a pea, and really doesn't consume all that many calories, and even at their biggest, the mother only needs to consume an additional 300 calories per day. While it is important to maintain a healthy diet full of quality, nutritious foods, too much weight gain will make for future difficulties, such as difficult labor and delivery, diabetes, high blood pressure, and general strain on both the mother and baby.
During the final 3 months of pregnancy, a baby grows faster, doubling in size. Nerve cells increase, the lungs and immune system mature, the digestive tract developed, bones strengthen, and the body begins to store fat, calcium, and iron in preparation for birth. The mother needs an additional 200-300 calories per day, with an emphasis on protein.
All good nutrition and correct diet during pregnancy needs to be followed up with the correct diet for the preparation of labor. It is important for the mother to eat plenty of complex carbohydrates for energy stores during the last 2 weeks. This means plenty of whole grains, vegetables, and legumes to ensure that glycogen reserves stored in the muscle and liver are filled to capacity. Labor can be compared in energy requirements to running a marathon. Deficiencies in energy stores can lead to long, difficult labors requiring medical interventions such as medication, and caesarean deliveries.
A healthy and well-balanced diet is just as important after delivery. The effects of blood loss, risks of infections, fatigue, and start of lactation take its nutritional toll on new mothers.
Foods to Avoid
Generally this means avoiding processed and refined foods and many pre-made foods such as cakes, sodas, processed and cured meats. Pregnant women should avoid foods that also contain a risk of salmonella or listeria contamination such as; undercooked meat, uncooked eggs, pate, soft cheeses, cheeses with blue veins, and unpasteurized dairy.