Food For Thought
I feel that, if anything, pregnancy has made me terribly picky, and my diet increasingly monotonous.
By Shannon Gallagher
In my obviously pregnant state there are a few questions I’ve gotten used to being asked: When are you due? What are you having? What is her name? What sort of weird food have you been craving? This last one is a doozy for me — I haven’t been “craving” anything really, and certainly nothing like peanut butter and pickle sandwiches. While I must have watermelon on hand at all times, and find myself incapable of saying no to real bread and the occasional baked good despite a gluten intolerance, I feel that, if anything, pregnancy has made me terribly picky, and my diet increasingly monotonous.
The pickiness — though occasionally annoying — is not necessarily a bad thing considering I’m eating for two, and I mean that in terms of quality not quantity (the average pregnant woman only needs 300 extra calories a day in her second and third trimesters). Since my baby is affected by what I eat, I am ever more conscientious of the chemicals, pesticides, hormones, and other potentially harmful elements I may be ingesting. And while I’m taking vitamins and supplements to ensure baby is getting what she needs, whole food sources are simply more effective. Here are a few rules I’m trying to live by to keep our diet clean (and green):
While organic produce is a no brainer, it is expensive. So if you’re going to buy only a few choice items, they should be peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, strawberries, cherries, greens (like kale, spinach, and lettuce), potatoes, and carrots. These items have the highest levels of pesticides as determined by the USDA and FDA. While pesticides are certainly present in things like citrus fruits, melon, bananas, asparagus, and avocado, their levels are much lower. So if it’s a toss up between the organic celery or the organic avocado, go with the celery every time. For a full run down of the pesticide levels in various fruits and veggies visit www.foodnews.org.
The closer a food is to its natural state, the cleaner and more nutritious it will be. So while veggie chips are better than potato chips, some (organic) vegetable crudités is even better. Avoid processed foods as much as possible — especially those with an epic list of ingredients — and certainly those items that contain artificial or genetically modified ingredients. (The more processed a food is, the more likely it is that somewhere along the assembly line something undesirable was mixed in.) I try to balance my consumption of processed foods with un-processed: If I’m having cereal for breakfast (puffed rice is a favorite), I’ll add fresh strawberries and banana. Or if I want a salty snack I’ll have a handful of Veggie Booty and a handful of edamame.
You have enough new hormones coursing through your body, no need to add even more, and certainly not the foul kind that can come from meat, poultry, dairy, and even soy. Unfortunately, conventionally raised cows and chickens are often exposed to harmful hormones (and a plethora of other nasty things) that are then shared with you (and baby) via their flesh, milk, or eggs. Look for grass fed, organically raised beef; free-range chicken; cage-free eggs; and organic milk and cheese. I tend to avoid meat and dairy, and so historically have perhaps consumed much more soy than my lacto-carnivorous counterparts. This has its own dangers as soy is one of the biggest genetically modified crops in the U.S., so it’s another place where organic is best. Estrogen is also a consideration with soy products, especially in those that are made from the “fat” of processed soy (like soy milk). While I’ll use soy milk in my cereal or coffee, I try to use rice milk for smoothies, and keep my processed soy consumption to a minimum.
Fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial in baby’s brain development (and mighty helpful in warding off mood swings). Most every pregnant woman knows to avoid big, mercury-laden fish like tuna and swordfish (and all raw fish), however fish like salmon is not only safe but smart to include often (three times a week is recommended, especially in the third trimester when baby’s brain is developing at a rapid rate). But while expecting (and beyond), it’s important to stick with “wild” salmon as opposed to “farm-raised.” Wild salmon contain more omega-3s thanks to their natural diet, and are free of the PCBs, pesticides, and other contaminates that farm-raised salmon are exposed to in their feed.