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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Aversions and Cream-less Creamy Broccoli Soup

So, equally important to discuss cravings in pregnancy, it is also important to discuss the ever present aversions that occur sooner than you can shake a pregnancy stick.

In my first pregnancy my strongest aversions were to eggs and tea of any kind, so I was interested to see what my aversions would be the second time around. Sadly, I was distraught to find out that anything green typically fell into the aversion category. I used to eat kale and eggs for breakfast! So, as you can imagine, as a holistic health counselor who basically couldn't stand the smell of greens, nevermind put them anywhere near my mouth, I was in a bit of a dilemma. Do I eat these things that I know are healthy and good for me and good for my baby? Or do I skip them until I feel up to eating them and eat something else?

The answer was, a resounding, "skip it". While I do teach my clients the benefits of eating greens as a daily staple in the diet, I also discuss the concept of intuitive eating. Intuitive eating is basically a way of eating that relies on listening to your body and using it as a guide to a healthy and balanced diet. I tell my clients if they hate milk and have to force themselves to eat dairy to get their calcium because they think they "should", I tell them to stop and see if their symptoms feel better. If you are in the mood for red meat, eat a bit. If in the mood for salad, eat it. Basically those messages mean your body wants/needs something or doesn't want or need something. You get the idea. So when it came to being pregnant, I thought I'd better listen to my body and eat what it says, not what my brain thinks it should eat. And the aversions will change daily. So follow your nose and your instincts daily, your tummy and baby will thank you.

So, if you are pregnant and you have something you are averted to, but are eating it because you think you "should", stop it! Greens and vegetables are typically an aversion in the first trimester, and you can try them again in a few weeks. In fact, skipping them may help your nausea. If you can't stand milk, but you are holding your nose to drink it down, there are plenty of other ways to get your calcium--sesame seeds, homemade chicken stock, grains, beans, and broccoli are all examples.

So, now that we discussed what you don't want to eat--here is a recipe you may want to eat. It is a healthy soup I whipped up when averted to most veggies. It helped me feel comforted, while giving me some of those vitamins/minerals I was missing from my other greens.

Cream-less Creamy Broccoli Soup


1 good sized carrot

minced clove of garlic

1-2 tbs olive oil

head of broccoli

good tasting veggie or chicken stock

sea salt and black pepper to taste


  1. Dice carrots into small pieces, and mince garlic. Place into saucepan with olive oil.

  2. Saute for roughly 5 minutes until carrots are tender.

  3. Cut up broccoli into small florets and dice up the stalk. Add to saucepan.

  4. Add stock until just covered or a bit less.

  5. Cover and boil for a several minutes until the broccoli is soft and carrots are cooked.

  6. Place in food processor and puree until smooth.

  7. Add more stock to desired consistency. I like mine pretty thick, so I use less stock.

  8. Add salt and pepper to taste.

You can add other things like onions, mushrooms, and/or peppers when you saute the carrots, but I like mine pretty simple, especially during the earlier weeks of my pregnancy. I also made other versions with butternut squash and sweet potatoes, depending on what I was in the mood for at the time. You could make something similar with asparagus or pumpkin too. The options are limitless.

The other good thing about this recipe is that, with a couple of tweaks, it could be baby food. So you can get rather good and make the veggies plain with water--and you will become an expert on homemade baby food.


In health and wellness,


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cravings and Recipe for Buttercup Squash Bread

Cravings. The most cliche topic for pregnant women, but they are real and important to address. The definition for craving is "an intense desire or longing for something". I am not sure I would use that dramatic or romantic a definition to describe food cravings, but more like a nagging. A nagging for me to eat a food that will not seem to go away. All other foods seem less appetizing, and until I get it satisfied, I can't seem to think of much else. Any one else empathize?

The thing about cravings is that they are actually messages from your body about what to eat. Your body pretty much has most things handled. We never have to tell our bodies to make the heart beat or to heal a cut, or to breathe. We don't even have to tell it how to create the perfect little life that is growing inside of us, but yet, for some reason sometimes we don't care to listen to it when it tells us what to eat. Interestingly we listen to popular culture more often than we listen to our bodies.

Cravings for different types of foods may actually be your body asking for a nutrient, or a way of letting you know that our foods and/or lives are out of balance. This doesn't stop at just pregnancy either. Learning to listen to your body's desire for certain foods can be a helpful cue into your health and overall well being.

Lack/need for nutrients is one of the main causes of cravings during pregnancy. For example, in my first pregnancy with Sam, I craved a lot of red meat in the form of meat sauce and meatballs. I also craved spinach. I would come home from work, open up a package of frozen spinach and eat the entire package in one sitting. So what was my body telling me? Not so subtly, it was saying "I need iron". And indeed, my iron levels were borderline anemic. Had I not given into those cravings, I may have indeed become anemic, which would have required intervention via medication and additional supplementation.

Here are some common cravings and possible nutritional explanations:
  • Pickles or other sour fermented foods like sauerkraut: B12. These types of foods help the uptake of B12. Examine your intake of animal foods and give into the pickle cravings.
  • Dairy including ice cream: Calcium
  • Red meat: Iron and B12
  • Vegetables (spinach, broccoli, greens, carrots, etc.): Variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants
  • Fruits (berries and citrus): Variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants
  • Salty foods: Salt and other minerals
Now, the lack of nutrients will account for most cravings that pregnancy brings and it is important to listen to those cravings and eat the healthiest versions of what you are craving. But is there really a nutritional need for M&M's and Frito's? It is less likely. So what are other causes of cravings?
  1. Protein may be out of balance. This can cause cravings for sweets. When we do not have enough protein we crave more food and your body knows that fastest and surest way towards more calories is fat/sugar. According to Chinese Traditional Medicine, when we are having too much protein (which is yang) we swing back the other way and crave more sugar (which is yin) to balance the your body.
  2. Comfort. Sometimes when we are sad/lonely/scared, we reach for the comfort foods. They can be foods from childhood or the nearest snack or sweet. Really think about your state of mind when having a craving to see what you think you are really craving. It could be a cuddle and reassurance from your sweetie instead of that pack of cookies you are grabbing.
  3. Stress. Your body's chemistry literally changes when you are stressed. You release cortisol and adrenaline, which changes your state of mind and your nutritional needs. Many people reach for food in order to deal with stress. If you are feeling very stressed, it is time to re-evaluate your lifestyle especially in time for baby. When baby comes the world will slip away and you will be focused on other things. Maybe it is time to look at your job and begin setting new boundaries there. Maybe it is time to relax and let a bit of the housekeeping go (or hire someone to offload the burden) or shuffle some of the household responsibilities with your significant other. But really taking time for yourself will be better for you and better for baby. Your pregnancy and labor, not to mention transition into motherhood will be better for it.
  4. Water. Sometimes we get hungry when we are really thirsty. So keep yourself hydrating and take a sip of water before reaching for any sweets. You may find the craving goes away.

Now, that is not to say we should never give into our sweet cravings, but maybe we can attempt to eat the healthiest versions of what we are craving and dig a little deeper into the reasons we think we are craving those foods. I crave baked goods occasionally, and I try to make some healthy versions that will deliver some whole grains and important nutrients while at the same time satisfy my sweet tooth. I often do that in forms of breads made with fruits, veggies, and gentle sweeteners.

Buttercup Squash Quick bread with Flax

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (pastry if you have it)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tbs flax meal
3/4 cup honey
1 cup buttercup squash cooked/mashed (can replace with pumpkin, butternut squash, or kumbacha)
1/2 cup grape seed or canola oil
1 beaten egg
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves

opt: chopped walnuts

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine first 4 ingredients (dry) in a bowl.
  3. Combine honey, squash, oil, egg, and water in separate bowl. Stir in spices.
  4. Add the dry mixture into the wet mixture and mix until just combined.
  5. Scoop into 5x9x3 greased loaf pan.
  6. Top with chopped walnuts if desired.
  7. Bake for 50-60 min until toothpick comes out clean.
  8. Serve with a little drizzle of honey to sweeten it up.

Makes one loaf but you can double the recipe and freeze one to save for another craving day!