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Tag Archives: pregnancy health

  • 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



    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


    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
    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.

  • Easiest Cinnamon Rolls Ever!

    Easiest Cinnamon Rolls Ever - only 5 ingredients!

    If you are looking for a yummy pregnancy snack that is as good as it is healthy, then check out this super easy Cinnamon Rolls Vegan recipe! There is no dough-making involved - which means less waiting, less work and more fun! For this recipe, pre-made whole-wheat pizza dough is used, so all you have to do is make the filling, roll, cut and bake. Traditionally, cinnamon rolls use butter and refined sugar for the filling. For these super healthy vegan rolls, it is recommended to use vegan butter, coconut oil, any specialty oils (hazelnut, walnut, pistachio), or a blend with olive oil. Or, experiment with nut butters!

    cinnamon rolls 4


    There is some debate about whether vegan butter is actually a better choice than butter.

    Here is a comparison of the two:

    Vegan Butter Dairy Butter
    Most brands contain ingredients that are sustainably sourced (cruelty free). Most brands use generic milk from cows in factory farms (bad living conditions).
    Plant foods take less resources (space and water) than animal products. Animal products (namely dairy and meats), take huge amounts of resources.
    Plant foods contain no cholesterol. Dairy contains cholesterol.
    Less saturated fats. More saturated fats.


    The price is comparable and the taste is almost exactly the same. So make the switch to support a healthier you and care for the planet and animals.

    Coconut sugar is used instead of regular refined sugar. Coconut sugar has a great caramel-y taste and is more sustainable than cane sugar. It also has minerals, amino acids, and a lower glycemic index.

    cinnamon rolls2



    1 package of pre-made whole-wheat pizza dough (Trader Joe’s brand was used)

    ¼ cup coconut sugar

    2 teaspoons cinnamon

    ¼ teaspoon ground cloves

    5 tablespoons vegan butter (Earth Balance was used for this recipe) or about 4 tablespoons of your choice of oil/s


    ¼ cup chopped dates

    ⅓ cup chopped pecans

    cinnamon rolls


    4 oz. vegan cream cheese or coconut butter

    Maple syrup to taste (a couple tablespoons should do it)

    1-2 teaspoons lemon juice

    water to thin out to desired consistency


    Follow the directions for dough prep on the package. This may include setting the dough on a lightly floured surface and letting it rise for 25-30 minutes.

    While you are waiting, mix together the coconut sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and optional add-ins in a small bowl and set aside. After any dough prep is done, roll out into a rectangle about ½ to ¼ inch thick. Pre-heat the oven to 350 F and line a cake pan or 8x8 dish with parchment paper. They will spread out and touch as they bake.

    Spread 2-3 tablespoons of oil or vegan butter onto dough. Sprinkle the sugar mixture. Roll into a log and cut into 8 pieces.

    Put rolls into pan. They should all have a bit of room around them (about ½ an inch). Drizzle the remaining 1-2 tablespoons of vegan butter or oil on the outsides of the rolls.

    Bake for 25-45 minutes. There is variation in the cooking time depending on what oil/butter and dough you use. Mix together glaze ingredients, smear on, and enjoy!

    Cinnamon rolls 3

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

  • Pregnancy Pancakes!

    pancakes2We nicknamed these healthy pancakes "Pregnancy Pancakes" because not only will they satisfy your pancakes cravings (anytime of the day), but they are actually good for you! As you know pregnancy is a time when we want to take better care of ourselves and eat responsibly but we also crave those emotional comfort foods with greater intensity then ever. These pancakes give you the most bang-for-your-buck of any pancake recipe out there! With about 5 ingredients, anybody can master these flapjacks and be fueled through their morning.

    Pancakes1If you make a batch over the weekend, you can reheat leftovers (if there any!) and have them on weekday mornings -- definitely motivation to get out of your cozy bed and start your day! They’re also special and delicious enough to treat friends or family, and fast enough to surprise someone with a breakfast in bed.

    Buckwheat or teff flour is listed in the recipe, but you could also experiment with using amaranth flour, spelt, whole wheat or just about any other whole grain flour! Keep in mind that you may have to adjust the amount of almond milk you add.

    The strawberry jam is a healthier version than your typical sugar spread. It’s made of fresh or frozen strawberries, chia and maple syrup or coconut sugar. The chia thickens it and adds serious nutritional punch. Chia has been gaining popularity in the health food world. What’s all the hype?


    A one ounce serving of chia contains:

    • 11 grams of fiber
    • 4 grams of protein
    • 5 grams of Omega-3 fatty acids
    • 18% RDA calcium
    • 27% RDA phosphorus
    • 30% magnesium
    • 30% magnesium
    • also small amounts of zinc, vitamin B3, potassium, vitamin B1, and vitamin B2
    • high in antioxidants

    Because of its thickening and absorption qualities, chia can be used to replace eggs in baked goods and helps keep you fuller longer.

    Whole Grain Vegan Pancakes:

    ½ cup oat flour

    ½ cup buckwheat or teff flour

    1 cup almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)

    2 teaspoons baking powder

    2 tablespoons apple sauce

    1 tbs coconut sugar


    Directions: Whisk the oat flour, buckwheat or teff flour, and baking powder in a medium bowl.

    Mix wet ingredients in a measuring cup and fold the two mixtures together.

    Heat a flat pan on medium-low heat.

    To test if the pan is the right temperature, sprinkle water on the pan. If nothing happens for a few seconds, it’s not hot enough. If it immediately sizzles and spits violently, it might be too hot.

    Try to get a temperature where water droplets sizzle mildly upon hitting the pan.

    Spray or rub with your choice of oil.

    Use a ⅓ cup measure to pour the batter, or make mini pancakes, big pancakes, hearts, mickey mouse or anything else fun!

    Blueberries and chocolate chips are also a fun addition.

    pancakes3Strawberry Chia Jam:

    2 cups whole fresh (make sure they’re properly ripe) or frozen strawberries.

    1 tbs chia seeds Sweetener to taste (coconut sugar or maple syrup).

    Defrost berries on low in a microwave or pot. If using fresh, you don’t need to do this step.

    Put in a blender until big chunks are gone (you may want to leave a few medium-size globs!).

    Transfer to bowl and mix in chia and sweetener.

    It will thicken in 25-20 minutes, and even more after it is refrigerated.

    pancakes4 Recommended Toppings: -coconut, almond or soy yogurt -nut butter (almond, peanut butter, pecan, walnut, or a blend!).

    If you have a food processor, the possibilities are endless. -fresh fruit - banana is highly recommended!

    Great paired with a more tart fruit like kiwi or raspberries. -maple syrup -and of course, the Strawberry Chia Jam!

    All Original Content. Copyright Athena Byers 2015, 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

  • Banana Blueberry Breakfast Loaf

    Banana Blueberry 1Spring is upon us and summer is fast approaching! Get into the mood with this Banana Blueberry Breakfast Loaf. This bread is a perfect choice for a healthy breakfast treat during pregnancy or nursing. There is no added sugar or oil -- just healthy goodness. Top it with greek or soy yogurt, fresh fruit, and nut butter to jump-start your day.

    Use fresh blueberries if they are available locally and are a good price. If not, frozen works just fine. Frozen blueberries are sometimes cheaper and don’t turn all the batter purple. Also, frozen fruit, unlike some fresh fruit, is picked when it is fully ripe. This can maximize the nutritional benefit, instead of possibly stunting the development and natural ripening process (which is a common practice for large-scale farms). By buying frozen, it is possible to get more nutrients out of your fruit than buying under-ripe fresh fruit.

    Banna Blueberry 2

    This bread has a base of ripe bananas, oat flour, and sorghum flour -- all sources of quality carbohydrates that keep you going through your day. EatingWell.com informed that:

    Researchers suspect that carbs promote the production of serotonin, a feel-good brain chemical. In a study from the Archives of Internal Medicine, people who followed a very low carbohydrate diet for a year—which allowed only 20 to 40 grams of carbs daily, about the amount in just 1⁄2 cup of rice plus one piece of bread—experienced more depression, anxiety and anger than those assigned to a low-fat, high-carb diet that focused on low-fat dairy, whole grains, fruit and beans.

    So don’t be fooled by the low-carb diet fads. Glucose (sugar) is the source of fuel for humans. Carbohydrates are converted into usable fuel faster and easier than fat or protein is. Without proper fuel, we have no energy. Having a stable, constant source of energy is essential for us to feel our best.

    Banana Blueberry 3

    According to The China Study, “a high-carbohydrate diet has been shown to reverse heart disease, reverse diabetes, and prevent a plethora of diseases.” This detailed and comprehensive book was written by T. Colin Campbell, an expert of human nutrition with over 40 years of research and a PhD.

    During pregnancy, your metabolism increases and but your energy can decrease with added weight and hormones. Blood pressure and blood sugar can also go up or down. This can lead to experiencing more fatigue. Whole fruits, vegetables, tubers, and grains (all edible plants, really) are the most nutrient dense and highest fiber foods we can eat. These are all good sources of carbohydrates and help keep blood sugar stable. Snacking on these high-carb foods will help fight fatigue throughout the day.

    Listen to your body when you are tired. Sometimes a nap helps, sometimes a bit of exercise rejuvenates you, and sometimes eating healthy snacks more often does the trick. As always, there is no magic formula or secret solution that works for everyone and the only way to feel improvement is through experimentation.

    Banana Blueberry 4

    Ingredients: (makes 8 pieces)

    3 overripe bananas

    1 tbs ground flax

    1 tsp vanilla

    1 cup sorghum

    ⅔ cup oat flour

    ½ tsp baking soda

    ½ tsp baking powder

    ½ tsp ginger

    ½ tsp cardamom

    ½ tsp allspice

    ¼ tsp cloves

    1 tsp cinnamon

    1 ⅓ cup fresh or frozen blueberries

    1 ⅓ cup almond milk

    Lightly grease an 8 inch by 8 inch pan with coconut, olive, or avocado oil. Pre heat your oven to 350 F on convection.

    Mash the bananas in a large bowl. It can be faster and easier to use a whisk.

    Add in the vanilla, ground flax and almond milk. Try to get all the chunks smooth. Set aside.

    In a medium bowl, whisk the sorghum flour, oat flour, baking soda, baking powder, ginger, cardamom, allspice, cloves, and cinnamon.

    Fold the dry mixture into the wet and add the blueberries.

    Pour batter into pan. Bake for approximately one hour, or until edges are golden.

    Nutrition Facts: (per serving)

    calories: 180

    protein: 4 grams

    carbs: 37 grams

    fat: 3 grams

    sugar: 8 grams

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

  • 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!

  • Changing Habits and Homemade Energy Bars

    Everyone seems to have a favorite energy bar, whether it be a Luna bar, Cliff bar, or Nature Valley crumbs-everywhere bar. They are a quick, easy and healthy choice...right?

    Store-bought granola and energy bars are often packed with excess amounts of sugar and unnecessary oil. The second ingredient in many bars is cane syrup or dried cane syrup--which just means processed, refined sugar.

    If you are not suffering the bouts of morning sickness, then pregnancy is the perfect time to consider healthy food options. There is always a way to make a healthier version of your favorite junk foods, comfort foods, or convenience foods. Oftentimes even morning sickness can be kept at bay by eating an opportune healthy snack between meals instead of going too long between meals.

    Yummy pregnancy oat and date barWhen it comes to convenience foods, like granola bars, packaged salad kits, chips or anything you would grab at a grocery store in the middle of a hectic day or busy schedule, there is that element of convenience and sometimes it is okay to purchase those not-the-healthiest-but-not-the-unhealthiest foods. But going for the pure junk food option is a slippery slope when craving those extra carbs when you are pregnant and can quickly become a habit if we indulge every last craving with an unhealthy food choice.

    Whenever you can, grab a banana, apple, some almonds, or veggies and hummus instead of the less nourishing choices that our brains and hands are self-trained to reach for. It’s all about changing habits. As you make changes in your diet and health, it will get easier and more satisfying the longer you work at it.

    eat oat and date bars whien pregnantYou might have heard the claim that “It takes 21 days to form a habit,” (originally introduced by Maxwell Maltz in the 1960s). It is a nice, neat number that is inspiring and believable. However, Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London, conducted a study and found that it actually took anywhere from 18 to 254 days (about the time of your pregnancy!) for the study participants to develop a habit.

    It might be discouraging to find that it could take over 8 months to form a habit -- but try not to get disheartened! Instead acknowledge this fact and use it to reassure yourself when you do slip up that it is perfectly normal for a new habit to not get set overnight. However, if you are 18-21 days down the path of healthier living and better food choices, then you are well on your way to a better habit for life. Lally also found that "missing one opportunity to perform the behavior did not materially affect the habit formation process." So don’t worry if you slip up now and then, because you are still making progress and reinforcing those neural pathways in your brain! Forming healthy habits is not an all-or-nothing endeavor, so be patient with yourself and don’t give up.

    what to eat when pregnantThe Oat Date n’ Nut Bars (recipe below) are an easy to make healthy snack bar that you can whip up for yourself ahead of time for the week. These bars are a much healthier choice than your standard granola or energy bar, and are also a fun, dessert-y option as well -- so you won’t even miss those sugary store-bought versions. These oat and nut bars are sweetened with dates which are a great source of fiber, energy, and potassium. There is no baking involved, which certainly adds a convenience factor. Whip up a batch and start to strengthen healthy habits as you enjoy the great flavor in these bars! Your body (especially your taste buds!) will thank you.



    Oat Date 'n Nut Bars (makes 16 bars)

    ⅓ cup peanut butter

    ½ cup roasted salted sunflower seeds (shelled)

    1 cup tightly packed chopped dates

    2 cups rolled oats

    1 tsp cinnamon

    ½ tsp ground cardamom

    2 tablespoons ground flax

    Lightly grease an 8x8 pan with your preferred oil.

    Process the sunflower seeds with the spices in a food processor. Add the dates, peanut butter, flax and 1 ½ cups of the oats. Keep processing until you achieve a soft dough. Pulse in the remaining ½ cup of oats.

    Squish the dough into the pan, using the bottom of a large measuring cup to flatten if needed. Once you have shaped and flattened it, loosen the edges with a knife or fork and gently flip onto a cutting board lined with a sheet of parchment. Cut into 16 bars (or whatever size you like!) and wrap in foil or plastic wrap. Store in the fridge and grab whenever you need a convenient snack.

    Nutrition Facts: (per bar)

    Calories: 190

    Carbs: 35 grams

    Fat: 6 grams

    Protein: 4 grams

    Fiber: 4 grams

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

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