15 Healthy Snacks for the Pregnancy Homestretch

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Combine shrinking stomach space and a temperamental tummy with the mounting nutritional needs of growing a baby, and you’ve got a potential recipe for pregnancy disaster.

Case in point: When an earlier ultrasound revealed that Baby H might be measuring behind, my doctor had me double down on healthy fats, cut back on exercise and increase meal frequency. Now we know it was just a wonky measurement due to breech positioning, but nothing like another dip on the emotional roller-coaster that comes with being a first-time mom! 

Normal-sized meals may be out the window, and lack of time and energy can make it tempting to grab whatever’s nearby (or cave in to cravings) so I’ve been relying heavily on snacking. Having the following 15 mini-meals in my arsenal have been key to putting my mind at ease — and keeping my blood sugar levels from dropping.

1. Protein Shakes. Convenient grab-and-go-option for a quick shot of protein and calcium; my go-to is banana, ice, protein powder, peanut butter and milk in my trusty immersion blender.

2. Cheese Sticks & Crackers. Protein, calcium and just the right amount of carbs when you’re craving something salty and starchy.

3. Fruit with Nut Butter. Think of your usual apples, bananas and pears as a blank canvas for all the great butter flavors and blends out there.

4. Guacamole. Avocados are a wonderful source of good fats, and they’re especially delicious as a zesty dip (for chips) or spread (for sandwiches).

5. Cereal & Milk. Although my current favorite is shredded wheat with fruit in the middle (fiber!), I’ve eaten my fair share of fortified kids’ cereals without guilt these past nine-plus months.

6. Yogurt, Granola & Berries. One of my very favorite breakfasts, this parfait delivers good protein, nutrients and fiber without being too filling.

7. Oatmeal & Mix-ins. Pick a theme — sweet or savory — and there’s no limit to the amount of good stuff that can be packed into one bowl!

8. Fresh Fruit. Delicious, portable, bursting with nutrients and full of flavor, I aim for a few servings a day to add variety to my diet.

9. Hard-Boiled Eggs. Incredible and edible, these protein-packed bites are a great way to stay satiated between meals and keep energy levels steady.

10. Dried Fruit & Nuts. Mix and match for a sweet and salty treat that’s great for taking with you for anywhere, anytime snacking.

11. Ants on a Log. Don’t discount the old childhood throwback! Spread your favorite peanut butter on celery sticks, and top with raisins.

12. Cottage Cheese & Sunflower Seeds. I know, I know…it’s a weird combo. But don’t knock it ’til you try it — the creamy, crunchy, savory flavors hit the spot.

13. Dates With Cream Cheese & Walnuts. Halve dates, fill with a smear of cream cheese and top with a walnut. Also makes an elegant appetizer!

14. Baby Carrots & Hummus. When you’ve got a craving for crunch, nothing does the trick quite like this sweet, tangy combination.

15. Healthy Bars. Make your own or pick up a few favorites (mine are KIND, LUNA and Larabar) to pack in your purse for when hanger strikes.

What are your favorite pregnancy (and non-pregnancy!) snacks? 
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Recipe: Zest Nutrition’s Cookies in a Jar

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When the ladies of Zest Nutrition whipped these little wonders out at their holiday party in December, it was love at first bite. And worth sharing now, even post-holiday, because I believe so strongly in their credo that “we deserve to eat food that tastes amazing and makes us feel good all year long.”

Since they’re so easy to make, I’ve been sharing them with friends who become seem to become equally obsessed (you’ve been warned). The first few batches were by the book, but I’ve since experimented by trying coconut flour in place of almond flour, adding half an extra banana and a tablespoon of chia seeds, and replacing the regularly-sized chocolate chips with mini morsels.

The Zest ladies also suggest swapping out the dried cranberries, chocolate chips and coconut for any other ingredients you like. Go wild, and indulge without guilt!

Cookies in a Jar

(original recipe here)

Ingredients (in jar):

  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Ingredients (to add):

  • 2 ripe bananas

Directions:

  1. Heat the oven to 350F.
  2. Mash bananas with a fork, then mix in jar ingredients until combined.
  3. Form cookies on baking sheet and bake for 20 min.

The best part? Each batch is perfectly proportioned for storage in your standard mason jar.

Mix ahead and save for a rainy day when cravings hit, or get crafty and share something nourishing — yet delicious — with your friends and family.

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Ever thought a vegan, gluten-free cookie with no refined sugar could be so tasty? Me, neither!

Recipe: Zest Nutrition’s Sweet & Spicy Walnuts

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When your doctor suggests that you double down on healthy fats to help your baby pack on the pounds in its last few weeks in utero, you happily oblige. Especially when you know you’ve got friends with something delicious up their sleeves to help perk up plain old nuts.

Typically, candied nuts are coated in butter and refined white sugar. But Megan and Anna, the brilliant minds behind Zest Nutrition, created a recipe that uses egg white instead of butter and maple syrup and coconut sugar for natural sweetness.

These tasty tidbits are their creation, which totally hit when spot when you’re looking for a quick sweet-n-savory snack. In fact, they’re downright addictive. You’ve been warned!

Sweet & Spicy Walnuts

(via Zest Nutrition)

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups walnut halves
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Coat walnuts in egg white and maple syrup.
  3. Stir together remaining ingredients and toss with walnut mixture.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes, option to stir halfway through.
  5. Allow to cool completely before storing. Flavors enhance once nuts have cooled and the crunch has set in.
How do you incorporate healthy fats into your diet?

Recipe: Capalbo’s Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

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Whenever I’m stumped for new dinner ideas, I like to ask friends what they’ve been eating. This recipe came from Anabel, who served up a new twist on a classic to rave reviews during a girls’ night.

While it’s not the super-smooth-and-creamy-chemical-laced boxed stuff, it does have a lot of good nutrients (cauliflower’s a great source of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, pantothenic acid and vitamin B6, for example). It also hits the spot when you’re in the mood for a decadent-tasting side dish; I like to pair it with protein, like chicken or salmon.

And although mac and cheese is something I usually reserve for special occasions, Anabel assured me that it “tastes very rich and indulgent without having any butter and very little cheese.” Sold. 

Capalbo’s Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

(Adapted from “The Athlete’s Palate” in the March 2011 issue of Runner’s World)

Ingredients: 

  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cauliflower, cored & cut into large pieces
  • 8 oz. whole-wheat elbow macaroni (I used an entire 13 oz. box)
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese (I used sharp cheddar)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I eyeball this)
  • 1/2 cup whole-grain bread crumbs (same as above)

Directions: 

  1. Heat oven to 400. Microwave cauliflower in a steamer bag for five minutes or until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, warm stock and bay leaves on medium-low heat for five minutes; turn off heat.
  3. Place cauliflower blender or food processor. Add macaroni pasta to the boiling water and cook for five minutes. Drain pasta, and rinse to cool. Put pasta in a greased, 9-13-inch baking dish.
  4. Process cauliflower with stock (bay leaves removed), cheese, oil, mustard, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Note: if using a blender be sure to leave open a crack for steam to escape.
  5. Pour sauce over pasta, toss and spread evenly in dish. Top with Parmesan and bread crumbs.
  6. Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown on top.
Healthy mac and cheese — yea or nay?

‘Boning Up’ on the Bone Broth Trend (+ DIY Recipe)

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“We are indeed much more than we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us to be much more than what we are.” – Adele Davis

If you’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about bone broth recently, you’re not alone. But what exactly is the difference between stock, broth, consomme, and bouillon? And why are people raving over bone broth, in particular, for its healing and nourishing benefits?

With those questions in mind, I popped into the ZOOM+Performance lab last week to learn more from the first of their lunchtime classes. Local expert Tressa Yellig from Salt, Fire & Time was on hand to educate us about this savory elixir and how she believes it’s one of the simplest and most powerful food remedies you can have at your disposal.

According to Yellig, bone broth stands head and shoulders above other stock-type liquids because it’s cooked for a long time (up to three days) over a low heat (roughly 180 degrees) in order to extract all the good stuff — gelatin, nutrients and minerals — from bones.

So what else makes bone broth so special? Well,  for starters it’s rich in calcium, magnesium, iron, silicon, phosphorous, sulphur and other trace minerals, meaning it’s nutrient-dense. Plus, it contains a host of other unique and powerful substances, including marrow, cartilage, glycine, proline, collagen and gelatin, which are thought to help support the immune system, reduce inflammation and promote healing.

What I found most interesting, however, is when Yellig talked about bone broth also being a “protein sparer,” which means that it helps create adequate nutrition in the short-term absence of protein (read: when you’re sick and the last thing you feel like eating is a hunk of meat). Not to mention it hits the spot on these cold and dreary Portland winter days…

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Bone broth can be enjoyed as it is (with a little salt to enhance the flavor). Yellig also suggested experimenting with it as a base for soups, stews, sauces, gravy, cooking grains, vegetables, savory baked goods or with beans.

It’s pretty simple to make, so if you’ve got the time or inclination she shared this recipe to help you get your bone broth on at home:

Basic Bone Broth

(courtesy of Salt, Fire & Time)

Ingredients: 

  • About 1 pound of mixed bones per quart of purified water
  • Splash of vinegar (cider, red or white wine, rice or lemon juice)
  • Vegetables and herbs for flavor (optional)

Directions: 

  1. Place bones in a medium to large stock pot and add water to cover.
  2. Mix in the splash of vinegar and allow to sit at room temperature for about an hour. Note: If there’s a lot of meat on the bones, roast them first for flavor. 
  3. Bring the pot up to a gentle simmer (about 180 degrees) and allow to continue for 8-72 hours
  4. Add the vegetables and herbs in the middle of your cooking time.
  5. Strain out he bones, vegetables and herbs, and allow to cool.
  6. Package in glass containers for refrigerator storage (2 weeks) or plastic freezer bags or ice trays for freezer storage (3 months).

Or if the prospect of babysitting a simmering pot on the stove for a few days is too daunting, you can always swing by Yellig’s Broth Bar here in Portland. She offers a bunch of condiments, stir-ins and add-ons to customize each steaming cup to your liking.

Not local? You’re in luck. Salt, Fire & Time also has an online shop that ships all kinds of delicious goodies ’round the country.

Are you on the bone broth bandwagon? Why or why not?

Don’t Fall for These Six Holiday Diet & Exercise Myths

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‘Tis the season to eat, drink and be merry!

But indulging with abandon has a way of backfiring around this time of year — especially when we’re full of reasons for  getting back on track tomorrow.

Only the problem is that ‘tomorrow’ is almost a month from now. 

So to help separate fact from fiction, Marsha Hudnall, president and co-owner of Green Mountain weight management program, shared with me her top five myths about diet and exercise around the holidays.

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Bottom line: It’s cool to partake in all of the festivities, just keep your wits about you!

Myth No. 1: Diet before and during the holiday season.

Reality: Learn to eat mindfully instead (i.e. listen to what your body is telling you and try to be aware of when you are full or satisfied). Make decisions that leave you feeling good about yourself and your choices, even if one of those choices is to have that delicious dessert. It’s not about ‘naughty’ or ‘nice’ foods. It’s about eating in a way that makes you feel satisfied — both while eating and afterwards.

Myth No. 2: Double up on your workout to shed those extra calories.

Reality: Regular physical activities that you enjoy are as beneficial for optimal health as they are for weight management. It’s less about burning calories and more about moving to feel good, which sets you up for making better choices. Exercise in excess is usually not healthy — and even worse, an injury could keep you from feeling less than merry this season.

Myth No. 3: Weigh yourself daily to help control your eating.

Reality: Lets face it — we all fluctuate on a daily basis when it comes to the numbers on the scale. Weighing yourself often only has a negative impact on self-esteem and decreases motivation for self-care. Focusing on how your state of mind and your energy levels helps you make smarter, more sustainable eating choices.

Myth No. 4: With a little planning, you can successfully navigate six holiday parties in one evening.

Reality: Over-committing can cause stress, which often leads to emotional overeating. Try committing to fewer parties and hosting simpler celebrations. Being more relaxed will help you actually enjoy the holidays, which also helps set you up for success in the New Year and beyond.

Myth No. 5: It’s okay to overindulge during holiday celebrations; you can “get back on track” tomorrow.

Reality: Eat what you want to avoid the feelings of deprivation that drive overeating, but try being more of a foodie during the holidays (and year-round!). By being particular about what you eat, you’ll choose only those items that truly delight your taste buds and leave you feeling like you indulged without going overboard.

Myth No. 6: When it comes to leftovers, it’s ‘the more, the merrier!’

Reality: If having extra food or leftovers lying around drives you to eat more than you need, considering donating it to local shelters or giving it away to family members, neighbors, etc. It’s a great way to share the love during the holiday season without packing on those unnecessary pounds.

How do you keep holiday weight gain at bay?

Recipe: Full Belly’s Butternut Ragu Lasagna

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Combine fluctuating energy levels with the wintery mix of rain and darkness that’s descended upon the Pacific Northwest, and there’s only one option for dinner: comfort food.

And when it comes to this category, I’d argue that there’s not much that can compare to lasagna. It’s a one-dish meal that’s not only filling, but also extremely leftover-friendly.

This version also happens to be pretty pregnancy-friendly, as well. A solid square serves up an impressive amount of vitamins A and C, calcium, iron and folate, all of which help with the growth and health of cells and tissues in the body (i.e. baby development!).

So whether you’re building a human this season or simply in search of a more nutrient-packed twist on the traditional family favorite, this recipe is well worth a try.

Butternut Ragu Lasagna

(recipe adapted from Full Belly: Good Eats for a Healthy Pregnancy)

Ingredients: 

For the Ragu:

  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 oz ground turkey (I used 1 lb)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
  • 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped (I used garlic paste)
  • 1 small bunch Swiss chard, cut into 1/-2-in pieces (I used 1 bag cut kale)
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/4-in cubes (I used 2 lb squash already peeled and cut)
  • 4 large fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped (from about 4 sprigs)
  • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly-ground black pepper (about 20 grinds)

For the Lasagna:

  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 16 oz ricotta
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I used a Parmesan/Romano blend)
  • 1.5 cups grated mozzarella cheese, divided (I used 2 cups)
  • 4 large fresh sage leaves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1/8 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
  • 12 oz no-boil lasagna noodles (I used 8 oz; this may vary according to pan size)

Directions: 

  1. For the ragu, heat oil in a large Dutch oven or saucepot over medium-high heat. Add turkey and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon to break it up, until it’s no longer pink and just beginning to brown.
  2. Add onion and cook for 2 minutes, stirring once or twice. Drizzle 1/4 cup water into pan and scrape any brown bits from bottom. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds.
  3. Add chard and squash, stirring to incorporate all of the ingredients. Cover pot partially and let cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring once, or until chard wilts to half of it’s original volume and squash starts to soften slightly.
  4. Add the sage, thyme, tomatoes, salt and pepper, stir well, and then reduce heat to low. Simmer ragu uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Once the ragu is done, you’re ready to work on the lasagna! Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine egg, ricotta, Parmesan, 1 cup of the mozzarella, sage, thyme and black pepper in a large mixing bowl.
  6. Put one heaping scoop of ragu at the bottom of a 13×9 baking dish. Set a single layer of noodles in the saucy bottom the pan. Drop several dollops of the ricotta mixture over the noodles (don’t worry about spreading; it’ll melt). Pour a heaping scoop of ragu over this layer and use back of ladle to spread it around.
  7. Repeat the layers — noodles, ricotta, ragu — until you reach nearly the top of the dish, ending with noodles. Top the last layer of noodles with the remaining ragu (no ricotta mixture) and the remaining mozzarella cheese.
  8. Cover the dish with aluminum foil, and bake for 40-50 minutes or until noodles are tender. If you’d like the top layer of cheese to be a bit browned, remove the foil during the last 10 minutes of baking.
  9. Let the lasagna sit for about 10 minutes before cutting into pieces and serving.
What’s your favorite cold-weather comfort food?