Herbs: Best & Worst During Pregnancy

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Herbs are a great way to add flavor to your food, and some herbs even help your pregnancy run smoothly. Many health practitioners are cautious when using herbs, and only recommend using them after the first trimester. Listed below are the top 3 herbs to add to your diet, along with the top 3 herbs to stay away from when you are expecting.

The Best: The following herbs are super beneficial to have while pregnant. Make sure to have these herbs on hand and in the pantry at all times!

  • Ginger Root What is not to love about ginger? The taste is spicy yet sweet and, oh yeah, all that morning sickness can be nipped in the bud with a small dose per day. Add to a stir fry skillet, a smoothie or even nibble on a small piece of crystallized ginger throughout the day.
  • Red Raspberry Leaf This herb has been shown to ease labor pains! Red Raspberry Leaf is iron rich and can help increase milk production, tone the uterus and even decrease complications during labor. Make as a delicious tea (mix with some peppermint and rose hips) or even take 2 herbal capsules per day to get all the benefits.
  • Chamomile (Dried leaves, not oil!) Known as a natural relaxant, this herb is high in magnesium and calcium. Chamomile can help take some tension away in those tired muscles of yours and relieve some stress, along with helping you fall right asleep. Brew a cup of yummy chamomile tea at night and start relaxing!

The Worst: These herbs have been deemed unsafe to use while pregnant. To reduce any chance of harm to your and your baby, keep these out of the pantry for the next 9 months.

  • Aloe Vera Great for relieving sunburn, not so great during pregnancy. This herb initiates uterine contractions and can even be stored in breast milk as a toxin. While putting this herb on topically is not as dangerous as consuming it internally, like Aloe Vera Water, it is best to avoid this plant all together.
  • Licorice Root If you’re expecting and love licorice, I have some bad news for you. No more licorice root until after you are done breastfeeding! This sweet herb used in candies, teas, as well as natural medicines can stimulate uterine contractions and cause premature birth, cause headaches and excessive water and sodium retention. Yikes!
  • Nutmeg One of my favorite spices, especially come fall, nutmeg is actually a very toxic herb for pregnant women. Not only has it been linked to miscarriages, but also birth defects such as low birth weight. Bye-bye, nutmeg!

**As an expecting mother, it is very important to use herbs with caution. Each one of us is different and our bodies may not react the same as one another when taking herbal supplements. When introducing any new herbs or medicines into your diet, just make sure to check with your doctor first.**

 

Written by: Leana Varvella

Sources: americanpregnancy.org, pregnancyandchildren.com

Seaweed for the Soul

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When you hear the word “seaweed”, an image of a day at the beach ruined by slimy plants sticking to your body may come to mind (at least, it does for me). But what most people don’t realize is how nutritious and healthy this weed, also known as Nori, is! Sure, it may not be the most pleasant thing to play with in the ocean, but seaweed should start becoming a regular at your meals – especially for expecting moms! 

Scientists have found out that seaweed has an extreme abundance of minerals ranging from folic acid to magnesium to pantothenic acid; great for preventing anemia, aiding in the fetus’ development and fighting acne. It’s low in calories, high in fiber and has a salty taste to kick those cravings to the curb. Get a feel for seaweed with this delicious recipe below!

Savory Seaweed Chips

  • Preheat oven to 350°. In a bowl combine 1/4 coconut oil, sprinkle of salt & pepper, 1 clove garlic chopped, small handful sesame seeds and whisk. Cut 8 sheets raw Nori into strips and dip in water to soften. Place on lined sheet pan in even rows (don’t be alarmed if the seaweed starts to shrink!) and drizzle oil mixture over chips. Bake 12-15 minutes, flipping once. Allow the chips to cool and enjoy!

Baked chips are just one thing to make with seaweed. Pop the plant into a soup, stir it into a pasta dish, create a seaweed salad, or combine it with your regular vegetables for a new side dish. I hear the sea calling your name, so go out and get weeding!

Written by: Leana Varvella

Momma Mocktails

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Fellow Mothers and Soon-to-be Mothers, I have good news! Just because you’re expecting doesn’t mean you can’t wind down with a drink (non-alcoholic of course!). In fact, you should be taking some time to relax, de-stress and sip on something delicious. I’m talking about some Momma Mocktails! Best of all, these refreshing drinks pack in benefits for you and your baby!

Maternitini                                                                                                                                     This classy yet fun drink is perfect to pour into a martini glass and act like a sophisticated lady. Lucky for you, this drink is great for any expecting mom thanks to the health properties in ginger and watermelon. The ginger aids in morning sickness while giving it a kick for the taste buds. Watermelon contains vitamin A, C, potassium, B6 and magnesium – relieving heartburn and preventing preeclampsia. Mash 1/4 – 1/2 cup fresh watermelon and strain. Use watermelon juice with 2 oz. grapefruit juice, 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger, 1 oz. sparkling water and a squeeze of lime juice. Shaken or stirred is up to you!

Baby Blue-rita (Can be served frozen or on the rocks)                                                               I personally love my ‘ritas frozen; something about a slushy drink makes me feel as if I’m on vacation. This revamped margarita mixes blueberries with cranberries and grapes to give it a rich and sweet taste. Blueberries contain potassium which is vital for blood pressure control. They (along with the cranberries and grapes) also contain folate, vitamin C, calcium, antioxidants and fiber (great for preventing hemorrhoids and constipation). Mix 2 oz. each of pure cranberry juice, blueberry juice and grape juice with 1 oz. water. Garnish with a lime and voila! Note: To make frozen, replace water with 2 ice cubes and blend.

Mom-osa                                                                                                                                       Wake up to one of these Vitamin C and antioxidant boosters! We’ve put a spin on the classic mimosa by adding in some pomegranate juice (yum). Not only does Vitamin C aid in tissue building and collagen production, but it is also present in breast milk which can help your newborn reduce his/her risk of developing allergies. Antioxidant intake before and during pregnancy can prevent miscarriages as well as protect your child from diabetes and obesity. Combine 2 oz. fresh pomegranate juice, 2 oz. freshly squeezed orange juice (pulp encouraged) and 1 oz. of sparkling water or club soda. Garnish with a pineapple slice and enjoy!

With these fresh recipes, I think it’s time to invite the girls over and wow them with your recently acquired mixology skills. Pour them into fun glasses, garnish with a slice of fresh fruit and hey – if you’re feeling crazy you can go right ahead and salt or sugar your rims! Cheers!

Written by: Leana Varvella

Prenatal Pantry Makeover

Must-Haves for the Expecting Mother!

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Happy Monday everyone! Being pregnant is a wonderful time in your life and introduces many changes to your body. Newsflash: you are now eating for two! Time to re-evaluate what’s in your pantry; clean out the bad and bring in the good. Ditch the 4 Pregnancy “no-no’s” and stock up on the 6 must-haves to have a solid pantry while you are expecting.

Clear ‘Em Out! These 4 foods bring zero benefits to you and your child.

  • Animal Proteins Animal proteins are not 100% safe for human consumption, which must mean they can’t be safe for an expecting mother and growing baby! Meats, fish, poultry and yes, even dairy, can contain toxic substances along with added hormones and antibiotics that can harm you and your baby. Fish can contain high levels of mercury that can lead to neurological problems; dairy products made with unpasteurized milk harbors a dangerous bacteria called listeria that can do some serious damage to you and the baby (fever, nausea, muscle aches and even infant mortality). Best to become one with nature and stick to a plant based diet.
  • Alcohol/Caffeine Probably the biggest no-no in the book, alcohol especially can be extremely dangerous to fetal development. Some doctors say one glass every once in a while is okay, but remember: caffeine and alcohol can pass through the placenta to the fetus. Consumption of these two liquids have shown to raise heart rate and blood pressure, as well as lead to developmental and behavioral issues such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Better be safe than sorry and suck it up for nine months.
  • White, Refined Grains Brown is the new white. Get rid of all grains white and refined in your kitchen; I’m talking flour, rice, bread, sugar, pasta. Replace those with oats, brown rice, quinoa, barley, millet and ezekiel breads. Studies show that these carbs that break down into simple sugars can cause insane spikes in your blood sugar, putting stress on your body that can negatively affect the baby’s development. Doesn’t help that these grains cause constipation and have close to no nutritional value as well. Buh-bye!
  • Artificial Flavors, Additives and Colors Artificial anything is not supposed to be consumed by anyone! Artificial coloring has been linked to cancers and chromosomal damage in developing babies; artificial additives, or processed foods, have been linked to high blood pressure, increased risk of stroke, diabetes and heart disease; artificial sweeteners are not even recognized by the body so therefore are not digested. Trust me, I can go on forever! Just know this: artificial products prove no nutritional value to us, pregnant or not. Stick with natural foods that your body can handle and you’ll be good to go.

Stock Up! The more of these foods, the merrier. Each food on this list is packed with nutritional goodness!

  • Leafy Greens Who knew that a prenatal vitamin came in leaf form? Kale, spinach, romaine, collard greens – the list goes on, and they all contain the essential vitamins and minerals for an expecting mother. Folate? Check. Calcium? Check. Vitamins A, B, C, K, Magnesium, and Fiber? Check all those bad boys off. These dark, leafy vegetables don’t get enough credit for all that they do. Incorporate these into your everyday diet via smoothies, salads, veggie chips, etc. As an added bonus, these greens balance out any cramping due to their “expansive” properties. Get your green thumb on!
  • Chia Seeds Get those Omega-3’s in with a daily dose of chia! Just 2 tablespoons contain omega-3 fatty acids, all nine essential amino acids, fiber, antioxidants, and essential minerals that are sometimes hard to get in via diet (I’m talking calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, boron, manganese, copper, iron, zinc and niacin – phew!). All of the above are crucial to your baby’s development, from bones to brain to eyes! Throw some in your oatmeal, mix in a smoothie or top a salad.
  • Berries Who doesn’t love a good berry? Packed with fiber, antioxidants, vitamin C and potassium, berries are a convenient and beneficial snack to always have on hand. With so many berries to choose from, you’ll never get bored trying to satisfy your sweet tooth. Have some fun and try going exotic with goji and acai berries! Choose organic though to keep the pesticides away.
  • Beans Meet your new BFF. Beans contain high levels of protein and folate, two of the most important nutrients for a soon to be momma! Garbanzo, kidney, black, white, red, navy – they all got what you need and are super easy to store. Stock up on cans to always have these prenatal power foods on hand. Whip up some veggie burgers, homemade hummus, or black bean salad to keep the beans exciting.
  • Coconut Oil Move over olive oil! Coconut oil is the latest and greatest, packing in more benefits than you could imagine. The oil from this fruit contains lauric and capric acid, which actually makes up 20% of breast milk. It also has antiviral, antibacterial and parasitical properties that will help the baby’s immune system. Coconut oil doesn’t have a coconut taste, so feel free to use it for cooking or baking.
  • Fresh or Dried Herbs & Natural Sweeteners Just because you’re giving up artificial sweeteners and flavors does not mean you have to compromise on taste. Use fresh herbs to create a savory dish (without all the added sodium) and natural sweeteners (honey, maple sugar flakes, etc.) to satisfy your sweet tooth. Pregnancy hormones can cause crazy cravings so it’s important to have these on hand to get your fix.

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Following these guidelines will help jumpstart the process on converting your old pantry into a pregnant friendly and health beneficial one. Moral of the story: A plant-based, organic diet is the best you can give yourself, and your baby. Remember, the more natural the food, the better! My rule of thumb is: Look at the ingredient list. If there is an ingredient there that you can’t pronounce or wouldn’t buy separately to cook with (ex: maltodextrin) then it is not meant for your body and should be put back on the shelf.

Good luck on your makeovers!

Written by: Leana Vavella