Introduction If you’ve just picked up this book and begun to read, chances are you’re in your first trimester of pregnancy. You may be nauseous or starving or intermittently one or the other, and possibly for the first time in your life, you have begun to think about — and maybe worry about — what you eat. Perhaps you’ve been eating well up until this point, or maybe you haven’t. Whatever your dietary habits, you don’t want to be bossed around or punished for the way you eat. You just want some practical information. Well, you’ve come to the right place.
Even if you haven’t ever thought much about food or your weight, now that you’re pregnant, you’ll find that you obsess about these matters. This is because every month at your prenatal checkup, you’ll be put on the scale and told that you’re doing fine or that you’re gaining too much weight or not enough. If you experience morning sickness, queasiness, or fatigue, if your tastes and aversions change every week, your diet can become a challenge.
Each phase of your pregnancy will present new hurdles. During the first trimester, you may experience morning sickness or feel tired. But even if you have no energy to cook, you can make choices about the foods you buy. Luckily, although the quality of the food you eat is crucial during the early months, it is not essential that you gain a lot of weight. During the second trimester, you may feel ravenous all the time. As you near the end of your pregnancy, you will find it miraculous that there is any room for food in there at all, and little meals will suit you best during this time.
Pregnancy can be a time when you take tremendous pleasure in eating, not only because you may enjoy food more but also because you know that it is nourishing both you and your baby. It can be a time when you eat foods that you once considered an indulgence. Or if you have always been plagued by weight problems, it can a difficult time, because you may feel a conflict between the health of your baby and your own weight and appearance.
You may have been given conflicting information about what you should and shouldn’t eat and about how much you should eat. On the one hand, you may hear that protein is all-important and that you need 45 grams a day. On the other hand, you may be told that you shouldn’t eat much red meat — a very good source of protein — because of all the saturated fat. So you turn to beans and grains, only to hear that you should watch your carbohydrate intake. You also may be barraged with lists of food groups, portions, calories, and grams. Suddenly, eating is not about pleasure and satisfying hunger; it becomes a math class, with the calculator replacing the fork and knife.
With this book, you can throw out the calculator and reach again for your plate. We’ve devised a number of eating plans for you, based on good, uncomplicated food. There’s something for everyone here: if you like to cook, you’ll find plenty of great recipes; if you’re too tired to cook, you’ll find a number of very quick dishes; and if you don’t cook at all, there are meal plans based on healthy, tasty packaged and frozen foods, with some fresh vegetables and fruits thrown in for good measure. We’ve already done the work for you, so you don’t have to figure out how to put together your meal strategy. Just choose the one that suits you.
Because we think it might be easier for you to understand how the foods you eat affect your weight and health, as well as the health of your baby, if you understand the basics of nutrition, we’ve included a nutrition primer in this book. That way, when we talk about a balanced diet — about protein, carbohydrates, and fats; vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients — you’ll know what we mean. We also tell you what the best sources of the different nutrients are. We’ve listed the key nutrients that you will be getting in every recipe, and the nutrition section will allow you to bone up on what these nutrients are actually doing for you and your baby.
If you already have sound eating habits, you’re well on your way to a healthy pregnancy. You will need to increase your caloric intake, but not by much (100 to 300 calories is recommended, and you can find those in a couple of glasses of milk, a milk shake or smoothie, or a few pieces of fruit). If you need to improve the quality of your diet, this is the time to do it. The beneficial effects on the health of your baby will be the most immediate outcome, but changing your diet for the better will also have lasting effects on your own health and therefore on your quality of life.
What, you may ask, are sound eating habits? The most important aspect of a good diet is balance. Whetheer you are a vegetarian or a meat- eater (or a little of both), a fast-food addict or committed to organic foods, lactose intolerant or diabetic, you need to have a range of nutrients in your diet: complex carbohydrates, which can come from whole grains (including breads and pasta), beans, and fresh produce; protein, from animal or plant sources; fats in moderation, with an emphasis on monounsaturates (such as olive oil) and omega-3s (see page 385). A balanced, healthy diet, one that includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, will also provide you with a range of micronutrients — vitamins, minerals, tiny nutrients called phytochemicals — all of which help in very specific ways to make the body function properly. And if your body is working well, in all likelihood so will your baby’s. Your baby is, after all, totally dependent on what you are eating for his or her own nutrition from the time you conceive until the moment the umbilical cord is cut — and well beyond that if you nurse. Moreover, recent studies have shown that the way the baby is nourished in utero can have a lasting effect on his or her own health. Overweight babies, for example, are more likely to have weight problems in adulthood. And because a baby’s taste buds and olfactory senses develop by the third trimester, your child may be more likely to want to eat good, healthy foods such as broccoli, carrots, and greens if you eat plenty of them while you’re pregnant.
Remember that it’s normal and healthy to accumulate fat during pregnancy. You even produce special hormones that tell the body to store fat. Your body needs those fat stores, both for your developing baby and your own energy needs, as well as to prepare for lactation. But for some people, controlling the amount of that fat may be a challenge.
This is when knowing something about nutrition can come in handy. For instance, simple carbohydrates—sugars—are often the source of many useless calories during pregnancy. Low energy and fatigue, depression, and mood swings often result in a craving for sweets. If you’re gaining weight too quickly or are already overweight, these cravings can be problematic. If you’re sensitive to carbohydrates, certain types, such as refined baked goods, can encourage your body to store too much fat. Fats, however, are the most insidious source of calories. Gram for gram, fats have more than twice as many calories as protein or carbohydrates (9 as opposed to 4), so if your diet is high in fat, it will be too high in calories. Fats also contribute to two other pregnancy afflictions: morning sickness and heartburn.
You may love cooking or hate it, but everybody has to eat, especially during pregnancy. Whether you are twenty-five or forty-five, whether your pregnancy is going swimmingly or you are feeling challenged, you’ll find something in thes...