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Tag Archives: maternal health

  • Is Seafood Safe to Eat During Pregnancy?

    Once you’re pregnant, everything you do in your life that affects your health needs to be examined closer to ensure the healthy development of your baby. Nutritional needs top the charts with increased attention to your diet which may be further complicated by morning sickness which, for some women, can last the entire nine months of pregnancy.

    It comes as no surprise that lean protein is an optimal source of nutrition for anyone’s diet, but especially an expecting mom. In terms of calories per portion, seafood such as fish, particularly of the salmon variety which packs in those important fatty acids with low calories per portion can be a great choice. However, many pregnant women steer clear from seafood altogether with all the news we hear about mercury levels being dangerously high and a risk for the health of a developing fetus.

    While some seafood may be best to avoid during pregnancy, it is not a great idea to cut out seafood altogether as they contain many nutrients that are vital to our baby’s health and development. As the saying goes don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. In the same notion don’t throw all the fish out of your diet with the worries of mercury and contamination, but do choose wisely. There are plenty of great seafood choices that are very beneficial to your developing fetus' health as well as our own.

    For starters, omega-3 fatty acids aid in brain development and provide high levels of lean protein. Fish can serve as a powerful weapon against birth defects when choosing the low mercury varieties such as salmon, sardines, haddock and cod. Seafood which is high in mercury that you should avoid during pregnancy include shark, king mackerel, swordfish and tilefish. In moderation, tuna is not a problem as long as you steer clear of the albacore and blufin varieties. It is also a good idea to abstain from fish caught in contaminated lakes or rivers that can carry high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs which could travel to the placenta and affect the development of the fetus. So do be cautious when eating fish from local lakes and rivers.

    Raw shellfish and uncooked sushi are also seafood choices you should postpone during pregnancy.  Also, make sure that cooked mussels, clams and oysters are actually cooked all the way through so that salmonella is not a threat. Pathogens such as salmonella are destroyed through cooking, otherwise they can cause severe food poisoning in pregnancy and may cross the placenta to the fetus as well.

    It is easy to be overwhelmed with all the mercury and food poisoning cautions and simply avoid seafood altogether during pregnancy, but this would be a disservice to your developing baby and yourself as there are so many benefits to safe seafood choices, such as wild salmon for dinner. Seafood during pregnancy can be a very healthy choice, just choose wisely and space out your seafood meals and portion sizes for moderation in your diet.

  • Make-ahead Healthy Muffins

    made ahead muffinWe all have those times when we find ourselves opening and reopening the fridge trying to find that little something to snack on. We get busy and want something that’s quick and delicious. But sometimes we don’t make the best choice. It’s common to make unhealthy choices when we haven’t planned out meals or prepared snacks for the day. You can make these healthy muffins on a Sunday and have a healthy choice waiting for you every day of the week. They are a quick on-the-go snack that is also a fun treat. These muffins are sweetened only with fruit and have just 5 grams of sugar each. The addition of walnuts also gives a fun crunch and a great energy boost.

    Almost everybody has noticed the boom in “Gluten Free” products. As you might know, this does not automatically make the product healthy. Most gluten free items are based off of white rice flour and potato starch--both of which do not do much for your health. These muffins are gluten free, but instead of using the standard blend of white rice and potato starch, they contain  amaranth, oat and brown rice flour.

    Amaranth has the most protein, iron, magnesium, and fiber of all the gluten free grains. It is also a good source of calcium, Vitamin E, Vitamin B-6 and lower in carbs than most grains. It seems like the number one flour to use--so why even bother with oats and brown rice, right? Well, for gluten free baking, if you only use one flour, the flavor can sometimes be overpowering and the texture too dense.  You also miss out on the benefits of other grains. Quinoa is a grain similar to amaranth that also packs quite a nutritional punch, but it is about twice the price of amaranth.

    With all of these wonderful health benefits, you are sure to feel good about eating this treat.  If you want more of a dessert, you can reheat one and drizzle honey on top and enjoy with a cup of herbal tea.

    muffins

    Banana Nut Strawberry Muffins (makes approximately 11 medium muffins)

    3 small overripe bananas

    Juice of half a lemon

    1 tsp vanilla

    1 tsp cinnamon

    1 tsp baking soda

    ½ cup amaranth flour

    ½ cup brown rice flour

    ½ cup oat flour

    ¼ tsp salt

    ¾ cup chopped walnuts

    2 egg whites

    1 cup chopped fresh or frozen strawberries

    Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F on convection. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.

    Peel the bananas and mash them in a medium bowl. I recommend using the head of a  whisk to mash quickly. Add in the lemon juice, vanilla, and egg whites. You can also put all these ingredients in a blender to speed up the process.

    In a medium bowl, whisk together the cinnamon, salt, baking soda, amaranth or quinoa flour, and brown rice flour.

    Fold the dry ingredients into the wet. Add the chopped strawberries and walnuts. Fill the paper liners with batter almost to the top. You can also gently push in more strawberry slices if you see any bald spots. Bake for 25-30 minutes, depending on how big the muffins are.

    Let them cool completely before removing paper liner, and store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

    Nutrition Information: (per muffin)

    Calories: 154

    Carbs: 23 grams

    Fat: 6 grams

    Protein: 4 grams

    Sugar: 5 grams

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

  • Are you Tired or Iron Deficent?

    As summer steams up, many of us start feeling a little lethargic. If you are living in a hot and humid area, it is easy to get the pregnancy doldrums that make our maternity weight feel like it is double, even if you aren’t expecting twins. For many women the hot weather is not the only cause of pregnancy fatigue, it may also stem from a lack of sufficient iron in your diet.

    Research shows that only one in five women begin their pregnancy with sufficient iron levels. No matter the geography, iron is the most common and widespread deficiency in women around the world and the leading cause of fatigue in women. Other symptoms from low iron are poor concentration and quick mental fatigue as well as a low tolerance for exercise and physical exertion.

    During pregnancy women’s iron requirements double and without the proper diet and supplementation iron reserves can continue to deplete with each subsequent pregnancy. Studies show that as many as 50% of pregnant women are iron deficient and 20% of non-pregnant women. Clearly we all need to be getting more iron in our diet or at least supplementing more.

    If your diet has 15mg of iron and 30mg of iron supplementation you are probably meeting your iron requirement during pregnancy. If you are not meeting your iron requirement, an easy way to add more iron to your diet is to eat more iron-enriched cereals and grains (read the labels) as well as snacking on dried fruits such as raisins and prunes. Also, foods in the bean family such as lentils, chick peas and soybeans are all high in iron as well. We all know that dark leafy greens like Popeye recommends such as spinach and collards are rich in iron and very good for you.

    Other foods high in iron are red meat and egg yolks. But even if you are a vegetarian or a vegan there are still plenty of iron rich food options for you. Talk to your doctor about a supplement (or have a blood test) if you suspect you may be low on iron in your diet, particularly if you are pregnant.

  • Is your Baby getting enough Vitamin D?

    Breastfeeding your baby is a great way to not only bond with your baby but to give them the very best customized nutrition and antibodies that they need to be healthy.  However the one vitamin that you may be lacking in providing through your breast milk is vitamin D. Vitamin D is an important part of both your pregnancy diet while your baby’s bones are developing and your breastfeeding diet as your baby continues to grow and develop.

    If you do not get enough Vitamin D in your diet when you are pregnant your baby may develop a condition called rickets from soft bones. Also by getting enough Vitamin D while you are pregnant you increase your chances of having a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy.

    While breastfeeding it is important that you eat a healthy diet as your nutrient intake is what feeds your baby the vitamins and minerals they need to be healthy as well. Depending on how much vitamin D you are getting with your diet and sun exposure, you may or may not be providing enough vitamin D for your baby. If you do not have enough vitamin D in your diet, you will need to give your baby a vitamin D supplement (and you should probably a supplement for yourself too).

    Vitamin D deficiency is linked to a number of factors including:

    Not enough sun exposure outside.

    Having dark skin

    Being overweight or obese

    General recommendations for Vitamin D for pregnant women by the Vitamin D Council are 4,000-6,000 IU/day. Researchers found that moms that took at least 4,000 IU a day where more likely to have uncomplicated births and their newborns were likely to have enough vitamin D when he or she was born. Women without enough Vitamin D in their diets were more likely to have premature births, develop gestational diabetes, have preeclampsia and more likely to have a C-Section.

    The Vitamin D Council’s recommended intake of vitamin D for babies is 1,000 IU/day.  If you are getting enough vitamin D as a breastfeeding mother, then your baby is also getting enough vitamin D and does not need a supplement. If you baby does need a supplement you can give them prescription vitamin D drops directly or add them to food or drink for your baby.

    If you as a breastfeeding mother are taking a supplement of 6,000 IU of vitamin D each day, then your baby does not need a vitamin D supplement as your breast milk will have enough. If you are not taking a supplement (or you are taking less than 5,000 IU/day of vitamin D) and not getting a good amount if sun exposure, then you need to give your baby a vitamin D supplement.

    If you are getting a good amount of skin exposure to the sun each day, then you are probably getting enough vitamin D to make your breast milk rich with vitamin D. However most mothers are not able to get enough skin exposure every day to meet this requirement and do need a supplement 5-6 days a week. When you are not getting enough sun exposure for a number of days your breast milk will quickly clear itself of vitamin D unless you are taking a supplement.

    The upper limits for Vitamin D intake is 2,000 IU/day for babies and 10,000 IU/day for pregnant women. So, unless you are over supplementing, it is hard to exceed these limits. Formula milk varies with how much vitamin D in the formula. Most formula milk has between 40-100 IUs of vitamin D per 100 calories. You will need to figure out how much formula your child has a day to add up the vitamin D IUs they are getting. Based on this result you can figure out if you need to supplement your baby with vitamin D or not and how much to supplement. Remember to adjust your supplements as your baby’s intake of formula may increase over time.

    Although exposing your skin to the sun is a great way for pregnant and breastfeeding women to increase their vitamin D supply for both themselves and their babies, you also want to be careful not to burn. Although skin exposure for your baby will increase their vitamin D directly, your baby’s skin is extra sensitive and should not be exposed directly to the sun for at least the first six months, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Even after 6 months you will need to be careful of your baby’s sun exposure, especially in the hot summer months as burns can happen quickly to your baby’s sensitive skin.

    Vitamin D supplements are a good subject to bring up with your pediatrician. However it is also good to educate yourself on this subject as well so you can have a very informed conversation with your doctor on how to best supplement your baby if needed.

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