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Pregnancy Health and Nutrition

  • Pregnancy Snack - Delicious and Healthy Oil-Free Granola!

    Granola oil free

    Who doesn’t love a hearty bowl of granola with some fruit and yogurt to start the day? This homemade version is healthier than many varieties due to the fact that it contains no refined sugar or oil! Many store-bought granolas (especially the ones made by companies who make sugar cereals) have too much sugar and oil to actually be considered healthy.

    This recipe makes a big batch, so you will have it for weeks! How’s that for convenience?

    This granola is also an awesome healthy snack during any time of day (or night!). Some pregnant women feel like there is too much pressure on their tummy to have a big meals. It can be hard to adjust to a new way of eating, but don’t fear - snacks are here! Some women have found that eating 5-6 small meals during the day works better for them during pregnancy. This keeps them comfortable, fueled, and properly nourished to be the best mom they can be.

    Pregnancy can be a fun time to experiment with healthy snacks, and this granola definitely fits the bill. It’s a good mix of energy and satiation from the oats and almonds, and has just enough sweetness to taste delicious.

    Besides eating it as a breakfast and snack, try it these ways:

    • on frozen yogurt or non-dairy ice cream (which is typically lower in fat, healthier, cruelty-free and better for the environment)

    • on smoothie bowls

    • sprinkle on pancakes

    • spread peanut or almond butter on celery, banana, bread, or carrots and roll in granola

    • use as a crumble topping for apple and berry crisps and pies

    There are so many ways to enjoy this delicious granola. Get creative and enjoy!

    Oil Free Granola Ingrediants Oil Free Granola Ingrediants

     

    Ingredients:

    4 cups of rolled oats

    1 cup of toasted buckwheat

    1 cup nuts

    1 cup applesauce

    1 cup puffed cereal of choice (kamut, quinoa, millet, rice)

    ½ cup maple syrup

    A generous amount of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom and allspice

    1 tablespoon vanilla extract

    Directions:

    Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 1 or 2 baking sheets* with parchment paper.

    Mix the applesauce, maple syrup, vanilla and spices together in a small bowl. Set aside.

    Chop the nuts and transfer to large bowl. Mix in the oats, puffed cereal, and toasted buckwheat.

    Fold in the wet mix to the dry and mix until combined. Pour granola mixture onto pan and spread evenly.

    Oil free granola 3

    *If you like your granola with some bigger chunks in it, use 1 baking sheet. Gently press all the mixture into a “bar” or “loaf”. Don’t break up the loaf while it is baking. After it cools, break up the loaf into chunks.

    *If you like your granola evenly toasted and don’t want bigger chunks, use 2 baking sheets. Spread the mixture so that there is plenty of space and the layer is only a couple oats thick.

    Bake for 25-35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.

    Enjoy your guilt-free delicious snack!

    All Original Content. Copyright Athena Byers 2016, All Rights Reserved.

  • Mint Chocolate Truffles - ease your pregnancy carvings!

     
    mint c Mint Chocolate Truffles
    Just the smell of mint can refresh and re-energize you when you are feeling that pregnancy fatigue. These truffles are packed with fresh mint leaves and cacao - two superfoods that are beneficial to pregnancy.
    Sometimes you just feel like relaxing, eating truffles, doing a face mask and watching a movie. These truffles are perfect for that occasion - super simple, quick and no waiting around for anything to chill or bake. The cacao adds a deep, rich chocolate flavor that is decadent, yet healthy!
    mint chocolate truffles 1Eating, drinking and smelling mint is very effective for treating nausea. For this reason, it is especially helpful to have some mint tea, grow some in a windowsill or buy some to add to smoothies and salads during pregnancy. Morning sickness can be a very unpleasant experience for many women during their first months, and mint can help relieve those icky feelings. Mint is also very helpful for digestion, headaches, and fatigue.

     

    It is not recommended for pregnant women to consume large amounts of caffeine during pregnancy. Chocolate and cacao do contain small amounts of caffeine, but not enough to pose any risk when eaten in moderation. Cacao is also very high in antioxidants, magnesium, iron, fiber, and other minerals. It also contains theobromine, which dilates blood vessels and relaxes smooth muscle, which helps to lower blood pressure.
    If you don’t like the flavor of mint, you can try fresh ginger, which has similar benefits to mint. Start with a ½ inch piece and add in more to taste.
    These can also be packaged up in a jar with some festive ribbon and a cute gift tag to give to friends and family for the holidays or as winter gifts. You can even print out the recipe and attach it so that they can re-create the bliss.
    mint chocolate truffles 2
    Ingredients:
    1 cup of nuts
    1 ½ cup dates
    ⅔ cup packed fresh mint leaves
    5 tablespoons cacao powder
    3 tablespoons dried unsweetened shredded coconut
    Process the nuts and mint until you get a rough sand texture. Add in the other ingredients and pulse until combined. Test the mixture by trying to pinch together a small ball. If it falls apart, pulse a bit longer. Try not to overmix -- the processing will separate the oil from the nuts if it is blended too long.  When the dough stays together, form into small balls and roll in cacao powder, chopped nuts, shredded coconut or cacao nibs. These keep well in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for a couple weeks.
    You can use any blend of nuts you want: walnuts, almonds, pecans, cashews, brazil nuts, or seeds such as sunflower seeds or pepitas (pumpkin seeds).
    Lastly, enjoy your guilt-free desert!
    mint chocolate truffles 4

    All Original Content. Copyright Athena Byers 2016, All Rights Reserved.



  • Vegan Mac & Cheeze - Good and Good for you!

    Just because you're pregnant doesn't mean you can't indulge in some yummy comfort food! In fact carbs might be the only thing your body likes or craves in those early months of pregnancy! This Mac 'n Cheeze recipe is one you can enjoy guilt free as it's healthy, vegan and delicious! Make it ahead and have go to meals for days to come!mac and cheese 2

     

    Vegan Mac ‘n Cheeze (serves 4-6)

    10 ounces pasta

    1 cup peeled and diced potatoes

    ¼ cup peeled/diced carrots

    ⅓ cup chopped onion

    ¾ cup water (use liquid from pot of boiled veggies)

    ½ cup raw cashews soaked for at least 3 hours, or overnight

    ¼ cup almond milk

    3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes

    1 tablespoon lemon juice

    Salt to taste

    1 teaspoon miso

    ¼ teaspoon garlic powder

    ¼ teaspoon turmeric

    ¼-½  teaspoon smoked paprika

    Bring a pot of water to boil and add in the onions, potatoes, carrots. Boil for 10-15 minutes, or until soft.

    Rinse the soaked cashews with cold water. Set aside.

    Add all ingredients, including the boiled vegetables, to a high-speed blender. Blend until smooth.

    Nutrition Facts (per ½ cup scoop)

    calories: 192

    fat: 4 grams

    protein: 5 grams

    mac and cheese 3

    During pregnancy, comforting food can be especially comforting. Many women crave comfort foods - dishes that can be overloaded lots of salt and fat. This classic, comforting macaroni and “cheeze” satisfies cravings and nourishes you and your baby. Made with cashews, veggies, and almond milk instead of cream or milk, it is definitely a smart and healthy choice. Instead of feeling heavy or sick, you will know that you have done your body (and your baby’s!) good.

    Miso is traditionally made from fermented soybeans, making it a better choice than regular salt. This is because fermented foods provide good bacteria to your gut flora. This strengthens our immune and digestive systems and introduce healthy bacteria to your baby a young age. Fermented foods also contain amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.

    Not only is nutritional yeast used to get a great cheesy flavor, it is fortified with Vitamin B12, a nutrient essential for proper brain growth and function. It also helps with the formation of blood. Smoked paprika is another ingredient that helps give this sauce a deep umami flavor. Turmeric acts as a natural food coloring to create a golden color that everyone (especially kids) will love.

    Cashews are another superfood in this delish dish! One ounce of these contains:

    23% of your daily recommended amount of manganese

    31% of your daily recommended amount of copper

    20% of your daily recommended amount of magnesium

    One ounce of milk only contains:

    0% of your daily recommended amount of manganese

    1% of your daily recommended amount of copper

    7% of your daily recommended amount of magnesium

    Making this dish with cashews and almond milk eliminates the need for using dairy milk. Dairy products have been advertised as healthy and essential for decades. Walter Willett, MD, PhD, professor of epidemiology and head of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health reported that, “One of the main arguments for USDA recommendations is that drinking milk or equivalent dairy products will reduce the risk of fractures. But in fact there’s very little evidence that milk consumption is associated with reduced fractures.” The pros of dairy are that it contains calcium, potassium, and Vitamin D. However, these nutrients are abundant in plant sources like leafy greens, fruit, vegetables, and nuts.

    mac and cheese

  • Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

    We all know exercise is important for our health, mind, body and soul. Some of us enter pregnancy in tip top shape and in no mood to slow down while others have had more of a sedentary life, perhaps due to the type of they work do and simply being busy. We all know we should take time to exercise regularly, but if you haven’t been an exercise buff before you were pregnant, chances are you are not super inspired to start exercising once morning sickness and/or pregnancy weight gain and fatigue set in.

    Prego Maternity Empire Tank Maternity Swimsuit Prego Maternity Empire Tank Maternity Swimsuit

    The good news is that you don’t need to embark on exercise full throttle and begin extreme sports or sign up for marathons once you are expecting, but you can begin a gentle exercise regime that could do wonders for your health and energy. Pregnancy is a great time to try low impact sports such as swimming or water aerobics. Staying cool in the pool becomes a more attractive option as the weather heats up and with your basal body temperature naturally higher you are probably feeling even hotter than normal. The weightlessness of swimming and pool exercise can relieve achy joints and the back strains of a growing tummy. Even just a few easy laps in the pool if you are not a regular swimmer is a great way to start off. (BTW it’s a good idea to buy a maternity swimsuit if you plan to do any lap swimming. Don’t even try to squeeze into your pre-pregnancy swimsuit because it will not fit well and it’s not healthy for your body to be minimized or restricted while you are pregnant).

    Other low impact exercises include yoga and stretching. If you are doing yoga for the first time, then go slow and do not try a hot yoga class as they can crank the temperature up to as high as 106 degrees for 90 minutes which is not safe for pregnancy – your baby is cooking enough at your regular temperature as it is! Some gyms do offer a prenatal yoga class, so ask around for any local pregnancy exercise classes. Sometimes these specialty classes are advertised at your OBGYN office and of course you can google it for your zip code. Classes like these are fun as you get to meet other expecting women and you have the same body changes to work around and feel less self-conscious about exercising in a group class. You can laugh together while you stretch out the kinks and adjust yoga poses to your ever evolving pregnancy physique. These same women may end up being your stroller buddies and mom friends down the way after you have your baby.  (Do be careful to not do anything awkward or unusual that you are not comfortable with and take into consideration that your balance is altered with your shifting center of gravity).

    A new study showed that even light cardio (such as power walking) and hand weights in short bursts of up to five minutes about five times a day was even more beneficial than one long intensive daily routine and allowed for better recovery. Apparently this is a long held celebrity training secret that we just got in on! Simple five minute intervals up to five times a day can do wonders for lowering and regulating blood sugar which can climb during pregnancy and cause gestational diabetes. Regular light exercise can also lower blood pressure and resting heart rate which is also subject to rise during pregnancy.  Many women experience preeclampsia for the first time when pregnant due to the extra weight and physical stresses on their body as they progress in their pregnancy. Studies show that exercise can reduce the risk of developing complications such as preeclampsia and improve your overall circulation as well as reducing leg cramps, varicose veins and swollen ankles. Additionally, exercise helps strengthen back muscles that support your belly and helps alleviate aches and pains overall which is a huge benefit to your overall wellbeing and comfort.

    Although exercise can make you feel less energetic initially, if you stay consistent with it your body will adjust and you will eventually have more energy. Equally important, exercise will allow you to sleep better at night as your muscles will be more fatigued and that legitimate physical tired feeling will allow you to get to sleep faster. As a result of better rest you will feel sharper and more alert in the morning and less stressed so you can enjoy your day. It’s a complete 24 hour healthy loop cycle!

    Usually the first association many of us have to exercise is a means to sweat off extra pounds and rev up our metabolism so we can effectively lose weight without starving ourselves. While this is true and often a good goal for non-pregnant women, it is not the goal for pregnant women (although a slightly faster metabolism to help burn extra calories we are craving beyond the recommended weight gain is not a bad thing help keep weight gain in check). Pregnant women are supposed to gain weight and usually do so naturally without consciously trying to eat more. You definitely should not obsess over the scales while pregnant unless their doctor puts you on alert.  Weight gain during pregnancy is not always linear – you might lose weight in the first three months with morning sickness and food aversion and then find your belly has suddenly “popped” as well as your chest and appetite over the next four weeks in the second trimester. BTW expect a second “pop” in the last month of pregnancy, about the time you don’t think you can get any bigger, you do!

    One of the major ways exercise can provide an immediate benefit to everyone, but especially expecting women, is by increasing serotonin levels and balancing out mood swings. As we know hormones are in full swing when you are pregnant and often affecting everything from your diet and feelings of morning sickness to your self-image, mental outlook and emotions. By engaging in regular exercise you gain a sense of control over your body, emotions and positive emotional and mental outlook that may otherwise feel completely out of control. This sense of stability gives us a sense calm and balance which is priceless when you are experiencing daily physical and overall life changes at a breakneck speed.

    Achieving and maintaining a level of fitness during pregnancy also really aids in our postpartum recovery. The ability to stay within our healthy weight range during pregnancy and toning our muscles in the process with supervised light resistance training allows us to regain our energy much quicker postpartum and feel more like our pre-pregnancy selves. If you are tipping the scales with your pregnancy weight do not fear! Unless your doctor has prescribed bed rest or you have a high risk pregnancy then it’s not too late to start a low impact moderate exercise program from which you can continue to reap huge health benefits both during and after pregnancy.

    Do be sure to get your doctors sign off on any out of the ordinary exercise you plan to do during pregnancy (remember no horse riding, downhill skiing, bungee jumping, etc) and it’s recommended to run your exercise plans by your doctor in your prenatal visits, particularly if you have any elevated health risks. But, if you have the green light from your doctor, then get your blood pumping a bit and remember to hydrate!

  • Guilt-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Chip 1

    Some healthy recipes can taste, well, too healthy. Dessert should taste like dessert, but it shouldn’t leave you feeling sick, particularly at time when you are sensitive to morning sickness! Your meals shouldn’t hurt your body, they should help it, especially during pregnancy when you are literally eating for both you and your baby! Food can either be the slowest form of poison or the most powerful medicine to fuel your body and improve your health. When you supply your body with the right nutrition you will see feel the difference with more energy for your day. Healthy food can definitely be delicious, and here is one recipe where you the taste is as good as the nutrition it provides.

    These cookies are the reward for lots of experimentation in the kitchen. They have the classic taste of chocolate chip cookies but are a far healthier version than the classic store bought cookies or grocery store cookie mix we all know and love, but also know is not the healthiest choice for our bodies. This chocolate chip cookies recipe supports your pregnancy health while still satisfying your sweet tooth pregnancy cravings. They are chewy, soft, and slightly crispy on the edges. The sweetness of the agave is perfectly complimented by the nuttiness of the hazelnut oil and balanced with a bit of sea salt. No one will ever know these are free of white flour, butter, or white sugar!

    Chip 3

    These cookies are a bit high in fat, but it is from high quality sources (avocado and hazelnut oil), aka guilt-free fat! According to a study published in the March 2005 issue of the "Journal of Nutrition”, avocado oil increases the absorption of carotenoids (organic pigments that act like antioxidants within the body) from your food. Fat-soluble carotenoids rely on dietary fats to be properly used, but most foods that are high in carotenoids (think red, orange, and dark green veggies) are low in fat. Avocado is unusual because it contains high quantities of unsaturated fatty acids as well as generous amounts of carotenoids. In the study, “both high and low doses of avocado oil enhanced alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and lutein absorption from a salad by as much as 15 times compared to a salad without avocado oil.”

    Hazelnut oil has a similar composition to olive oil, but it contains less saturated fat per tablespoon. It is a bit on the expensive side, but it only takes a little bit to add complexity and flavor to baked goods.

    Chocolate ChipIf you don’t have avocado or hazelnut oil, try mixing whatever oil you have on hand (like grape seed, coconut, sunflower--maybe even try olive oil and add some orange zest!). You can also experiment with adding shredded coconut, nuts, extracts, and different spices to customize. Have fun and make healthy cooking something you look forward to!

     

     

     

    Chocolate Chip Cookies

    2 ½ cups almond flour

    ¼ cup sorghum flour

    ½ tsp baking soda

    ½ tsp fine grain sea salt

    ½ cup agave syrup

    ¼ cup hazelnut oil

    ¼ cup avocado oil

    1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

    Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F on convection. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

    Whisk the almond flour, sorghum flour, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. Set aside.

    In a separate medium bowl, combine the agave, hazelnut oil, avocado oil, and vanilla.

    Fold the wet and dry mix together. Bake for 10-15 minutes, rotating the pan about 6 minutes in.

    Nutrition Facts: (per cookie)

    Calories: 223

    Fat: 17

    Carbs: 16

    Protein: 5

    Sugar: 8

    All Original Content. Copyright Athena Byers 2015, All Rights Reserved.

  • Benefits of Broccoli!

     

    We knew broccoli was good for us but we had no idea just how good. Broccoli is an excellent vegetable choice to add to your prenatal diet as it is packed with essential vitamins and minerals.

    One cup of cooked broccoli has about…

    250% of the recommended daily amount of Vitamin K

    40% the recommended daily amount of folate

    140% recommended daily amount of Vitamin C

    Vitamin K does not receive a lot of publicity and is sometimes referred to as “the forgotten vitamin” but it is important for many functions, including preventing blood clots. It is also a key partner to vitamin D in building strong bones. If you are deficient in vitamin K, then vitamin D does not work optimally in your body. These two vitamins complement one another and you need to have a sufficient amount of each vitamin for them to work effectively in your body.

    We all know folate (aka folic acid) is a top priority for all expecting mothers, particularly in early pregnancy. Once you are pregnant, everyone from your doctor to your next door neighbor is encouraging you to increase folic acid in your diet. It has been proven that folic acid can actually prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida in your baby which is ample reason to increase your intake.

    According to Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson, when broccoli is lightly sautéed in oil, it loses almost none of its water-soluble nutrients because it is in contact with oil, not water (as opposed to steaming). They also absorb the phytonutrients in oil and garlic. This is an excellent opportunity to add double your nutritional value by cooking in olive oil, a very healthy fat.

    Indole is also formed when broccoli is cooked. According to research in The Journal of Nutrition, this organic compound helps kill precancerous cells before they turn malignant.  Vitamin K, folate and Vitamin C are all essential for a healthy pregnancy and broccoli is a great source of all of these!

    Basic Broccoli Method:

    2 medium bunches of rinsed broccoli

    1 tablespoon olive oil

    1 tsp thyme

    3-4 cloves garlic, chopped

    Desired amount of salt and pepper

    Put a large pan on medium-low heat. Add the olive oil and chopped garlic. Chop the broccoli and set aside in medium bowl (makes approximately 6 cups).

    Once the garlic has lightly browned in the oil, add the chopped broccoli and stir. Add the thyme, salt, and pepper.  Cover the pan with a lid and check every few minutes until it is as cooked as you like.

    DSC_0030

    You can either eat it just like that, or make a delicious quinoa salad!

    Quinoa Broccoli Salad (1-2 servings):

    1 cup cooked broccoli

    1 cup cooked quinoa

    ¼ cup pasta sauce

    1 cup chopped kale

    ½ cup garbanzo beans

    Toss all ingredients in a bowl and you’re good to go. This recipe can easily be doubled or even quadrupled for a family meal! The addition of raw kale adds even more of those essential vitamins for a healthy pregnancy.

    DSC_0251

    All Original Content. Copyright Athena Byers 2015, All Rights Reserved

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