Feeding the beast - part two
December 23rd, 2010
02:00 PM ET
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CNN photojournalist Jeremy Harlan is based in Washington D.C. This is the second installment in a two-part series on what to cook for a pregnant spouse. In this instance, beast is a loving term. Read the first installment here.

I know it now seems like you’re cooking with one arm tied behind your apron, but there are a lot of things that pregnant women can and should eat. I asked nutritionist and registered dietitian Katherine Tallmadge for help with what we significant others should be putting on the breakfast bar, in the lunch pail and on the dinner table.

She gave me these important suggestions:

“Dairy products like skim and 1 percent milk and nonfat or low-fat yogurt or cheese are particularly nutritious, as they contain excellent high-quality protein, calcium, vitamin D, potassium and other nutrients essential for a healthy pregnancy.”

“We like to advise four servings per day (a serving is one cup of milk, one cup of yogurt or 1.5 ounce hard cheese),” she added.

I mentioned in the first installment that omega-3 oils are important, as is iron. In fact, most prenatal vitamins that women take during pregnancy have high amounts of both nutrients. If you want to give her a little extra iron, you can never go wrong with Popeye’s favorite snack: spinach. And maybe take it down with a glass of OJ: Tallmadge says the body absorbs iron better when taken with a Vitamin C source.

But I warn you, too much iron can cause one big problem for pregnant women: constipation. Yep, I said it. So, what Tallmadge suggested next is VERY crucial.

“Fiber–rich foods are also important to keeping mom regular. These foods, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, also contain important nutrients like potassium, Vitamin C, beta-carotene, the B-vitamins, and minerals such as magnesium, zinc and iron, which are important for mom and baby.”

Common fiber-rich include broccoli, black beans, peas, oats, raspberries, bran cereal, grapefruit, lima beans and apples – and the list goes on and on.

When you’re planning a well-balanced meal, Tallmadge suggests including four basic food groups:

  1. A lean, high quality protein: This can be low-fat or nonfat milk, yogurt or cheese, soy beans or tofu, eggs, fish, chicken, lean beef, or pork. Vegetarians can mix legumes with grains or other complete proteins, such as soy protein.
  2. A whole grain: It could be whole wheat bread for the sandwich, a whole grain cereal at breakfast, barley, bulgur or rice at dinner.
  3. A fruit or a vegetable: This should be half of the total volume on the plate.
  4. A healthy fat: This could be nuts on your cereal or salad, olive oil in your cooking or salad dressing, or avocado on a sandwich.

Want my suggestion for a dinner? I like making a fresh spinach and steak salad.

Flank steak
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
1/2 cup of olive oil

4 to 6 cups of fresh spinach, washed
1 red bell pepper, washed and chopped
1 vine-ripened tomato, washed and chopped
1  avocado, chopped
1/4 cup of roasted pine nuts
1/3 cup of olive oil
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon of brown mustard
Ground pepper and kosher salt for seasoning

Marinate flank steak in olive oil, minced garlic, and ground pepper for about an hour. Then season with kosher salt and grill until well-cooked.

Combine the spinach, tomato, pepper, nuts and avocado. Mix the oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper for a dressing. Once the meat is finished, let rest for 10 minutes. Slice and add to top of salad with dressing.

This meal provides protein, iron, fiber, a healthy fat and vegetables. Find a dairy product and a whole grain on the side, and you have a well-balanced meal for Mama.

I Could Really Go For A Marshmallow Fluff Covered Pickle With Maraschino Cherry Juice

We’ve all heard the horror stories and urban legends about pregnancy cravings. I’m sure they’re out there, but sometimes I think they can be a little over-dramatized. My wife’s have been fairly simple: citrus fruits, the aforementioned cheeseburgers, and peppermint ice cream.

Suffice it to say, not all of these are totally healthy. But that doesn’t mean you should pry the spoon from the hands of your lady while she’s digging into a bowl of peppermint ice cream and watching “Teen Mom” (another of my wife’s ironic cravings).

Tallmadge believes these unhealthy cravings should not be taken away, but enjoyed in moderation. As far as I’m concerned, my wife can single-handedly keep the Florida citrus industry afloat this winter. We limit our cheeseburger runs to once or twice a week, and the peppermint ice cream spends more time in the freezer making friends with the frozen edamame and garlic heads than it does watching trashy MTV shows.

Also, when hunger strikes, keep the fridge stocked with healthy options like yogurt, fruit cups, soups, salads, crackers, cheese, etc. My wife has done a great job in that department. I’m pretty sure we’re now a test facility for all Yoplait yogurt flavors.

So Much To Digest

There is much to consider when planning for a new arrival, let alone what’s best to eat and not to eat. My lasting advice is this: know what she can’t eat, know what she should eat and ask her what she wants to eat. A lot of times with pregnant women, what sounds good to them today will make them wince tomorrow. Their appetites for things change quickly, so you have to be on the ball with an alternative to original meal plans.

But also stick to your guns. She needs to eat her carrots - every last one.

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Filed under: Health News • Make • News • Recipes

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soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Ema

    It’s always nice to see a man step up to the plate and be involved in the caring for his child. That has become a rare case in our world today. Control freak? Nope, just being a responsible parent and husband.
    Your wife is lucky Jeremy! Wish you guys the best! = )

    December 30, 2010 at 9:52 am |
  2. HH

    I'm so glad I didn't marry a control-freak creep husband like this. He's treating his wife like a child!

    December 29, 2010 at 3:43 pm |
  3. Rose

    It's good that she's eating her carrots for vitamin A, since the kind found in supplements can cause problems including birth defects and liver toxicity if too much is taken.
    jill, I'm glad to see soy as well. I am vegetarian (not vegan) and though my doc supported me, I got so sick of people asking me about how I was getting enough protein for the baby! Well, I was obviously getting enough since he came out at almost 10 pounds!

    December 29, 2010 at 8:22 am |
  4. jillmarie

    It's interesting for me to read these tips- it's how I already eat. My husband says I eat "too healthy". At a time when a woman is pregnant, she's not just concerned for herself, but the baby. So she is advised to eat as healthy as possible. I'm glad to see soy included in the recommendations.

    December 23, 2010 at 4:15 pm |
  5. Dave the 1st@Jdizz

    Yeah, pretty much any mex restaurant will work...

    December 23, 2010 at 3:53 pm |
  6. Jdizzle Mchammerpants

    One trip to Taco Bell will also fix the constipation issues.

    December 23, 2010 at 3:32 pm |
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