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Getting Enough Iron During Pregnancy

Rachel O'Reilly

Iron is one of those buzzword nutrients that almost every woman knows about. Groups at highest risk for iron deficiency include teenage girls, women of childbearing age, pregnant women, children under 2 years of age, and the elderly. According to the World Health Organization, iron deficiency affects a large number of children and women in developing countries and is the only nutrient deficiency that is also significantly prevalent in industrialized countries.

Some degree of iron deficiency occurs in 35-58% of healthy women of childbearing age. But why does this occur? Mostly due to inadequate dietary intake, blood loss, lack of iron absorption/utilization, increased demand by the body (such as during pregnancy), or a combination of all these factors.

Iron deficiency anemia is one of the common nutrient anemias that can occur during pregnancy (others are a deficiency of folic acid and B12). Symptoms include:

  • Extreme fatigue

  • Dizziness

  • Shortness of breath

  • Paleness of skin, fingernail beds, and mucous membranes

  • Loss of appetite (especially past the first trimester)

  • Heart palpitations

  • Gastrointestinal disturbances such as constipation and abdominal pain

  • Frequent colds or infections
     

Iron’s role in the body

Iron plays an important role in transporting oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues, and carbon dioxide from the tissues to the lungs. For this reason, sufficient iron availability allows for optimal oxygenation of fetal tissue. Additionally, iron is a key enzyme in metabolism and DNA synthesis. The body’s need for iron will increase dramatically during pregnancy, as well as lactation, and proper optimal iron levels leads to adequate iron stores for the newborn.

Food Sources of Iron

There are two types of iron, heme and nonheme. Heme iron is found in animal sources, and is the most efficiently absorbed form of iron. Non-heme refers to iron found in plant foods, and is poorly absorbed.

Here’s an example of foods containing bio-available iron (heme):

  • 3 oz clams (cooked) 23.8 mg

  • 3 oz beef liver 5.3 mg

  • 3 oz Sirloin steak 2.9 mg

  • 3 oz shrimp 2.6 mg

  • 3 oz lean ground beef 2.3 mg

  • 3 oz turkey breast 1.3 mg

 

Other heme iron food sources include:

  • Poultry such as chicken, duck, and turkey

  • Meats such as beef, pork, and lamb

  • Seafood including sardines, anchovies, and oysters

 

Non-heme food sources: (in plant sources, ~17% of iron is absorbed)

  • 1 cup lentils 6.6 mg

  • 1 cup cooked spinach 6.43 mg

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa 5.3 mg

  • 1 cup kidney beans 5.2 mg

  • 1 cup cooked beet greens 2.74 mg

  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds 2.62 mg

  • 5 figs, dried 0.85 mg

Other sources include:

  • Blackstrap molasses (also has a lot of sugar, so use sparingly as a sweetener)

  • Nettles (tea)

  • Kelp (seaweed - kombu and dulse)

  • Nutritional yeast  

  • Organic, unsulphured dried fruits including raisins, prunes, black Mission figs, apricots, and cherries)

 

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of iron during pregnancy is 27mg, and 9-10 mg during lactation.  Keep in mind that the RDA is a guideline that was originally created in 1941 and was designed to reduce the rates of severe nutritional deficiency disease, such as scurvy. In other words, consider the RDA the minimum amount necessary, and these amounts will not take your individual need into consideration. To check your individual iron status, talk to your healthcare provider; they will be able to run a CBC test, or complete blood count, and interpret the results for your needs.

Can I get all my iron needs from food?

Even for women who eat a healthy, whole foods diet, and have reasonable iron stores prior to conception, supplementing (via your prenatal vitamin, not as a single supplement) will ensure sufficient iron levels during pregnancy, as well as for a good length of time postpartum. Supplementation may also be helpful in protecting against iron deficiency in subsequent pregnancies . Always talk to your health care provider and/or midwife before supplementing.

 

Honey Iron Syrup

Ingredients:

Raisins

Black Mission figs

Dried dark cherries

Dates

Carob pod

Directions: 

  1. Mix equal parts of each to add up to 1 cup

  2. Place in a 1 quart canning jar

  3. Pour honey to fill and cap the jar

  4. Place into a hot water bath, and heat gently for three hours.

  5. Let sit at room temperature for 1 week

  6. Can strain or use as is

Dose: 1 tablespoon per day, in Nettle herbal tea. To bump up the iron levels even more, use a combination of nettles, yellow dock, and dandelion root. 

4 Things I love to do with my 4 year old

Rachel O'Reilly

Having a four year old is a game changer. I still hold all of our previous years together near and dear to my heart, but this stage I am really enjoying parenthood more than I ever have. Things are A LOT easier and, just being honest here, way more fun. If you are in the woods with your toddler, trust me - it gets better and way sooner than you think. Not only am I not feeling as much like a human porta potty, I now have a little person to hang out with who has real opinions and is pretty damn entertaining. Here are the top four things I am currently enjoying with my four year old:

Bake something new. I know, this one is a real shocker, right? We love to look up a recipe on Instagram and watch the video together a couple of times to get excited about trying it. We recently made these skinny banana muffins and they were fantastic. She snuck four of them before I blinked.

Go for a walk. This has always been one of our favorite things to do ever since she was literally in my stomach. I love it even more now because it doesn't require any hardware - aka stroller. I no longer need to pack a “baby bag” with snacks, wipes, and water and instead we can just throw our shoes on and head out. I especially love that she walks our dog herself and takes so much pride in it. He probably has another opinion on the matter! I find that whenever she might be a bit fussy or we need to kill some time, a walk is undoubtedly the best solution. We look at flowers, talk about other dogs we see, and the world is able to slow down, which is what I’m liking these days.

Write cards to people. We love to pick out new cards at the store and talk about who we are going to send them to. I always let her draw or write her name in them, if appropriate, and, of course, put the stamps on, which she sometimes steals and pretends are stickers. She is still a small child! She loves taking them to the post office herself, picking out the stamps, and popping them in the mail slot. Call me old fashioned but I’m hoping this small joy of mine sticks with her.

Sushi lunch date. This has become one of our little traditions I started when she was about two. It’s the one meal my husband never craves and one that I do all too often. Luckily, my baby is totally on board. I think sushi is such a great meal to take a young one to. The variety of small dishes, dipping sauces, and chopsticks make it more of a game than a meal. Which if you have a four year old, you know that getting them to actually eat something substantial is a challenge. The catch twenty-two is your child will become all too addicted and start to order rounds of sashimi which gets a little taxing on the wallet. Whoops!

Episiotomy and Natural Tear

Rachel O'Reilly

Once a routine part of childbirth, an episiotomy is now recommended in certain cases only.

First and foremost: what is an episiotomy exactly?

  • An episiotomy is an incision made in the perineum - the tissue between the vaginal opening and the anus - during childbirth.

And why would you want anyone to cut your vagina during childbirth??

  • For years an episiotomy was thought to help prevent more extensive vaginal tears during childbirth and heal better than a natural tear. The procedure was also (incorrectly) thought to help preserve the muscular and connective tissue support of the pelvic floor.

Thankfully over the years research suggests that routine episiotomies don’t prevent these problems after all. The recovery is very uncomfortable since it requires a deeper layer of tissue to be stitched. And it’s often said that the incision is more severe than a natural tear would have been. One midwife helped me understand this by explaining trying to tear or rip a piece of fabric with my bare hands. She said it’s very challenging and takes a lot of effort. But, if you just snip a little bit of the fabric with scissors and then pull it’s a breeze. The incision in your pelvic floor tissue reacts very similarly. Once you cut the tissue it gives much more leeway to cause a deeper longer tear from the pressure of your baby making its way out. OUCH. NO THANK YOU.

Just like any medical intervention during birth, I’d prefer something like an episiotomy to be done only when it is really necessary. Often during emergency cases your healthcare provider will need the extra space at the vaginal opening to allow for an easier instrumental birth, i.e. the use of forceps or vacuum extraction. A few other reasons I’ve heard of episiotomies being absolutely necessary are if:

  • Your baby is in an abnormal position and needs more assistance to make it out

  • Your baby is very large (fetal macrosomia)

  • Your baby needs to be delivered quickly

Now that episiotomies are not a routine function in birth (please ask your healthcare provider what their percentage of episiotomies are, some still practice them more frequently than I’d like to see) there are a few things that many healthcare providers suggest doing in preparation for birth and during the birth process to lower the chances of needing an episiotomy.

Once you are 34 weeks it’s common for your healthcare provider to recommend doing perineal massage at home. This can be an uncomfortable exercise for some, but if it can help avoid a longer, harder recovery from birth, it’s worth reaching out of your comfort zone and getting busy. Make sure to have natural lubricant near by and lay in a supported position on your bed so that you are able to reach both of your thumbs to your vaginal opening. Place your thumbs just inside and press downward toward your rectum. Hold for one to two minutes and repeat for a total of ten minutes. If you are enjoying baths in your pregnancy this is a great place to give yourself a daly perineum massage and even more effective when your tissues are relaxed and warm.

During the second stage of labor, your OBGYN, Midwife and sometimes a nurse or doula will often use a hot compress to apply pressure against the perineum and vaginal opening. Sometimes a warm oil will be used along with applied pressure to the lower part of the vagina to encourage stretching (not too warm, don’t worry!). The goal is to soften the tissue with heat to allow it to stretch easier and to avoid tearing.

What are the benefits of a natural tear?

There have been several studies conducted to show the frequency of a natural tear versus an episiotomy during childbirth. Many studies show the occurrence of a natural tear of the perineum over an intentional cut of an episiotomy during childbirth. Part of the reasoning for this is the data suggest that women who have an episiotomy do not have significantly improved labor, delivery, or recovery compared with those who do not have one (ACOG statement). Also, by foregoing a routine episiotomy, the mother has a chance to stretch the perineum during the course of the second stage of labor (the pushing phase) and may avoid any perineal damage altogether. With an episiotomy, the connective tissue, muscles, and skin are cut and therefore their strength will be permanently compromised.

I know I want to give my body the chance to do what it is naturally capable of and to be supported during the second stage of labor in a way that allows my perineum to take its time to stretch and allow my baby to enter this world with as little medical interventions as possible.

Have you ever experienced an episiotomy or severe natural tear? If so, how was the recovery for you? How long do you feel like it took to have your body feel normal again?

This brings me back to thinking about postpartum support and care after delivery. It’s essential after all types of birth, especially when your pelvic floor experiences any trauma due to tearing or cutting, to search for additional support to help heal your body from birth.

Healthy Hippity-Hoppity Easter Ideas

Rachel O'Reilly

By Rachel O'Reilly

Easter is an especially whimsical holiday… I’m sure we can all remember the enchantment we felt as children waking up Easter morning and finding bunny paw prints leading us to our Easter basket, or the exhilaration of an Easter egg hunt, or the simple joy of gathering with family and community. Holidays are a sweet opportunity to relive that magic with your own kids and remember how special all those little traditions were to you!

Infusing more meaning and fun into family life with rituals and traditions is something we love to do at Cherish, so we’ve put together a few simple ideas, some borrowed from generations of Easter Bunnies, and some new hippity-hop ones that we hope you enjoy sharing with your little honey buns!

Dyeing Easter Eggs, Naturally

The hues that natural egg dyeing produces are so rich and beautiful, and most importantly are non-toxic and safe for children. This visual ingredient guide shows how simple natural dying really is. Most of these ingredients are things you probably already have in your kitchen. Thanks to Kristen Rickert for these instructions for natural egg dyeing. Eggcellent!

Healthy Bunny Treats

  • We’re big fans of Annies Organic Foods, and so are our kids. Luckily you can find these bunny fruit snacks and bunny crackers, (available gluten-free) at any Whole Foods or natural foods store, and they are a fun treat to incorporate in Easter baskets or to stuff Easter eggs with for a hunt.

  • Sometimes, if the Easter Bunny leaves baby carrots behind, kids will happily munch them down… Another way to sneak in healthy foods as festive fun is by cutting fruit, these homemade nutritious bars, cheese or other wholesome options with these Easter-themed cookie cutters.

Holidays often mean processed candy and unhealthy levels of sugar for kids, but rather than avoiding sweets entirely, these less sugary options will make any bunny happy!

  • Jelly beans made with organic fruit juice.

  • Sunflower seeds covered in chocolate or yogurt-covered raisins.

  • Gut-healthy gummies (which can be made in any festive shape you desire).

  • We were surprised by how easy these vegan, gluten-free, and overall healthy homemade chocolate bunnies are to make. Check out the Hippy Homemaker for the recipe.

Eggcellent Egg Hunt

  • Put a crystal inside an egg like rose quartz with an explanation of it's magical power (this is great for children 3 years+ so there's no risk of choking). 

  • Stuff eggs with special “coupon” notes for gifts and family activities. For example, “An afternoon at the Discovery Museum!” or, “A new soccer ball!” or, “Let’s go fly your new kite!” or, “A picnic at the park with grandma and grandpa!"

  • You can create an egg hunt anywhere, like in your house or backyard, but it can also be fun to use the hunt as an excuse explore somewhere new! Check out a different park or adventure on a new trail (where Dad or Mom can run ahead or go beforehand to place eggs before the kids reach the mysterious egg hunt spot), or even visit a local farm or petting zoo, and give kids the chance to see baby chicks, bunnies, or other farm animals up close. These kinds of outings can create thrilling and lasting memories as a family. Spring is such a great time to cherish nature and blooming life all around!

Happy Easter EveryBunny!

Herbs for Pregnancy

Rachel O'Reilly

By: Erica Favela

As many people are becoming aware and questioning the safety of synthetic and prescription drugs, the interest in alternative medicine or more “natural” remedies is rising. For many, this looks like turning to herbs or herbal infused products. Herbs are powerful and have been used for centuries. They’ve been a mainstay in folk medicine, and many cultures around the world continue to use them.

How do we know what's safe for pregnancy?

Botanical medicine is not included in the training of physicians and pharmacists. Furthermore, the risk of using herbs during pregnancy has not been scientifically evaluated, mostly due to the ethical considerations of clinical investigation on humans during pregnancy. Therefore, most of what is considered safe to use during pregnancy is based off of historical, empirical, and observational evidence. Although most herbs have a high safety profile, especially if used in modest amounts and in simple home remedies, lack of proof of harm does not always equate to safety, especially for women who are pregnant. During pregnancy, you should always discuss the use of herbs with an experienced herbalist, midwife, or physician trained in the use of botanicals.

As you do your research on herbs, you may find that some herbs have been identified as generally safe, while another source may put that same herb as unsafe. For instance, in China dong quai is prescribed as a blood tonic for pregnant women, however, Western scientific research on this same herb concludes it to be unsafe during pregnancy. Additionally, the safety of herbal use during pregnancy can also depend on the dosage and form in which it is taken. Fresh parsley as a garnish on food is generally safe for pregnant women, however parsley in an herbal supplement form has been deemed as contraindicated.

Pregnancy is not a time to test any herbs that you have had no experience with and that are not considered safe via clinical trials. A very judicious approach to using herbs during pregnancy is: avoid them during the first trimester (unless medically indicated), and then afterwards, using herbs that are scientifically proven as safe or historically known to be safe during pregnancy. Here are a few other things to take into consideration before turning to herbs:

  • If you are taking any medications, make sure you research if there are any contraindications between the herb and your medication. Some combinations of herbs and pharmaceuticals can be dangerous or cause undesirable side effects.

  • Be aware of source and quality. If you’re interested in taking herbs in supplemental form via pill, capsule, or tincture, do your research about the manufacturer. If buying herbs in bulk, check that they were grown organically. Be aware that the word “natural” is not synonymous with safe; many botanical products can contain other pharmacological substances.

  • When considering the use of herbs, they are best used in smaller doses and with gentler herbs as a preventative measure or for use before a symptom becomes advanced.

  • During pregnancy, the body goes through many physiological and metabolic changes, which may influence the impact of an herb in the body. For instance, licorice may be considered safe if used short-term during mid-pregnancy, yet long-term use of the herb has been associated with preterm birth.

  • Herbs are potent plants, and some have the ability to affect hormones, stimulate the uterus, or promote menstruation (known as emmenagogues). For these reasons, some herbs should be completely avoided during pregnancy, including:

  • Angelica

  • Arnica

  • Black walnut

  • Blue flag

  • Black/blue cohosh

  • Catnip

  • Chicory

  • Comfrey

  • Dong quai

  • Ephedra

  • Elder

  • Feverfew

  • Henbane

  • Licorice

  • Lobelia

  • Wormwood

  • Mugwort

  • Red clover

During pregnancy, herbs should be used as gentle forms of nourishment, or as general health promoting tonics. There are many herbs that can provide additional vitamins and minerals to your diet, and also act as gentle aids in strengthening the digestive system, nervous system, liver, womb, and urogenital tract. Because they are naturally biochelated, their high vitamin/mineral content is easily assimilated. In most cases, smaller doses are best, and in general, herbs that are considered food or tonic herbs are safe to use during pregnancy. For example, dandelion, raspberry leaf, oat straw, and chamomile.

Always ask a qualified herbalist or health professional when introducing herbs during your pregnancy.

The following list of herbs have been deemed safe to use during pregnancy. Many of the following comes from one of my favorite go-to herbal books, Maria Gladstar’s Herbal Healing for Women.

 

The Classics:

  • Red Raspberry leaf (rubus idaeus and related species) - perhaps considered the herb for pregnancy, this is safe to use throughout all nine months; nourishes uterine muscles, high in iron, can help increase milk flow, restore the system after childbirth.

  • Chamomile flowers (matricaria chamomilla/matricaria recutita) - gentle, relaxing tea; can be combined with ginger for digestive disorders or morning sickness.

  • Ginger Root (zingiber officinale) - excellent for morning sickness and digestive problems.

Excellent nutritive aids:

  • Dandelion greens and root (taraxacum officinale) - potent source of vitamins and minerals; mild diuretic and can help eliminate excess water from the system; the root is primarily for digestive disturbances and for cleansing/toning the liver.

  • Nettle leaf (urtica dioica) - rich in vitamins and minerals, including calcium and iron. Can be good for energy for those who have chronic fatigue due to low iron.

  • Alfalfa - contains many nutrients and trace minerals, including Vitamin K, which is necessary for blood clotting. Many midwives advise this herb to help prevent hemorrhaging, decrease postpartum bleeding, and to increase breastmilk.

For soothing the nervous system, uterus, liver, and more:

  • Black Haw (viburnum prunifolium) - can help relieve leg cramps, calm uterine muscles.

  • Blessed Thistle (cnicus benedictus) - liver tonic, stimulates blood flow/enriches flow of mother’s milk.

  • Cramp Bark (viburnum opulus) - recommended by herbalists as preventative for miscarriage due to stress and anxiety; antispasmodic (relieves muscle cramps).

  • Lady’s Mantle leaves (alchemilla vulgaris) - tones the uterus, can help with morning sickness, and may help in preventing hemorrhaging during childbirth.

  • Lemon Balm leaves (melissa officinalis) - can help calm and relax the system, and digestive. Can be combined with nettle for those dealing with allergies during pregnancy.

  • Oat straw stalk and unripe fruit (avena sativa) - helps soothe the nervous system, can be a safe remedy for yeast infections during pregnancy.

  • Squaw vine (mitchella repens) - traditionally used by Native American women; often combined with red raspberry for toning the uterus.

My body, my choice, my birth

Rachel O'Reilly

 Tiff Delancy

Tiff Delancy

By Aaryn Leineke

I’ll admit it. I am a bit indecisive about how I want to present this post. Should I state a bunch of facts that support how safe a home birth is? Could I suggest to others that home birth might be the best choice? Do I want to list all the reasons why a hospital birth is not right for me? Although doing all of those things might be helpful, none of those things really speak to the honest reverence I have for wanting a homebirth for my impending first child and any other children my husband and I might have in the future.  

Homebirth is instilled deep in my core, it runs through my veins and fills my body and mind with so much light and a passion I have lived for my entire life. I have photos and newspaper clippings of my mother and auntie fighting for their rights to have their own home birth and for the rights to legalize midwifery and homebirth everywhere. I have had the pleasure of watching my very own homebirth on video and ever since I can remember, I have marveled at photos of my mother working so hard to bring me earthside. She did this in her home, lovingly surrounded by those she trusted most to support her. Now, as a doula, I’ve been fortunate to assist with some incredible births at homes as well as many in hospitals.

Having a homebirth wasn’t a decision I had to think about once I became pregnant. There wasn’t any other way for me to even consider.  And when I say there isn’t any other way for me, it doesn’t mean that I’m not aware of complications that can arise in birth or even early on in pregnancy. I work very hard to stay current with my education on all of the important advances in obstetric care. I acknowledge and commend how far formal practices have come and how many lives have been saved over the years, in the last century particularly. That is precisely why, if and when I need any medical assistance, my baby and I will be taken care of both at home, with my very qualified midwife and/or in the hospital if we need to make a transfer for any reason.

One of the most frequent questions I am asked is how will my midwife know if something's not right? How will I make it to the hospital in time if I need to? What if something goes wrong? It’s actually really simple, my very qualified and licensed midwife is trained for this very thing along with countless other scenarios. She will be monitoring me and my baby continuously while in labor, just like she would at a hospital, and she will know if a transfer out of the home is needed. That decision is made well in advance in order to avoid an emergency situation, so there is time to get to a hospital to have any medical interventions that may be needed.

It is my fervent belief that if I am healthy and my baby is healthy the safest place for me to give birth is at home. And it’s the safest place for me, because home is where I feel most comfortable and relaxed and at peace and that is exactly the type of environment in which I want to bring my baby into this world. I have unshakable confidence with this decision. The real question is how can I convince anyone who is doubting me? It’s tricky because although I know what is best for me and my baby (as do all mothers and fathers), these doubts, whether they mean to or not, call into question my strength, my intelligence and my capability to make responsible decisions for myself and my baby. I know the answer is I can’t change others’ minds, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone respected and celebrated women’s choices, especially when they differ from our own? This is why I will forever fight for a woman’s right to choose. And I am so thankful for my mother and aunties before me who fought, so I can choose and write my baby’s beautiful birth story.

I just worked out in Frozen headphones

Rachel O'Reilly

 @choosetorun

@choosetorun

By Courtney Ward

This morning I did my usual routine of getting my child to preschool, followed by crossing off that first to do item which is a workout. I’m not some die-hard spinner, cross-fit, step class addicted Mama, but I like to get a solid hour walk or yoga class in first thing to ensure I have a small portion of the day just to myself. It helps me shake off a hectic morning of getting my daughter to eat more than one bite of waffle, convincing her not to dump cereal on the dog’s head, and filling her Frozen lunch box with something that resembles a healthy and edible meal.

I pulled up to one of my favorite walks. The sun was calling my name and the spring crisp air was crystal clear. I was all amped and ready to go when I realized that I forgot my headphones. Panic started to set in. I had a couple of my favorite podcasts all lined up to entertain me and doing an hour walk with just my thoughts was the most unappealing thing ever. I didn’t have enough time to run home to get mine and still get everything else done that I needed to, so I dug through my car searching for an extra set. I must have ten pairs of the uncomfortable, tangled Apple headphones lying around at all times, how could I not today!?

Then I saw it - my daughter’s Frozen headphones sitting in her seat, in all of their full coverage, ear-muffed glory. A thought went through my head and my first reaction was oh no - no way could I. Followed by, well shit, looks like this is happening. And ending with, fuck it, let’s ride Elsa.

Full disclosure here Disney, you make terrible headphones. The poor quality is, undoubtedly, the reason my daughter must have missed half of the lessons Daniel Tiger was telling her on our last road trip, which must be why she won’t, “Try new food because it might taste good.”

I looked around as I set out, but not before snapping a quick, proud selfie that I sent to my non-parent girlfriends with a simple text: 

"Your future"

The path was unusually busy. So many thoughts were running through my head. What if one of the new cool Mom’s from my daughter’s preschool saw me? Of course today would be the day I run into an ex - decidedly unambiguous headphones angled weirdly on my head because they were designed for someone who may or may not be potty trained. Clearly I wasn’t going to impress anyone over the age of four with my new accessory, never mind the thought of possibly running into an ex. Of course, if it were going to happen, this would be the time right?

Parenting is all about compromising and throwing any scrap of dignity you ever had directly out the window - you get a crash course in that the day you give birth.

Four years in and I’m still surprised that I am willing to “Let it go” as much as I do, and to be honest, I am not quite at peace with that yet. Part of me feels like I am so far removed from the person I was before I had my daughter. Little by little I am learning to embrace the new me, because I have realized that change is mostly good, even when it comes disguised as a pair of Disney headphones.

Natural Remedies for Morning Sickness

Rachel O'Reilly

 

By Erica Favela 

Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (NVP), also known as “morning sickness,” occurs in approximately two-thirds of pregnancies. In most cases, this occurs during the first trimester, but only about half of women are free from this symptom by week 14. In most cases, it is resolved by week 22

Regardless of how sick you may feel, you can rest assured that having morning sickness is not associated with negative affects on your growing child. Although many theories about nausea and morning sickness exist, the cause of NVP is still a mystery that even our advanced scientific research has not been able to consistently conclude. It can stem from a myriad of things, including nutritional imbalance, hormonal changes, altered thyroid function, stress, emotional blocks, and lifestyle habits.

Easing nausea and the general discomfort during the beginning months of pregnancy should be handled specifically to your unique lifestyle and health history. Because we still do not have conclusive evidence about the cause, it’s worth trying multiple things. All aspects should be considered here, both physiologic and psychological factors. As is the case with many things, there’s usually not one sole culprit. Rather, self-care and dealing with these symptoms can come from a mind, body, spirit approach.

For instance, was the pregnancy a surprise? It’s natural that with such news, feelings of fear, ambivalence, resentment, or other unresolved conflicts can arise, and our emotions can take on physical manifestation. Or consider your environment - do you work in a place where toxicity exposure should be considered? Are you feeling stressed or anxious about the future? Acupuncture and acupressure have been shown to be great aids of alleviating NVP, and are also excellent ways to slow down and de-stress.  While this post will only focus on nutritional aspects, be aware that food is only one part of the equation, and don’t forget to nurture your mental and emotional sides too.

Whether you’re already in the thick of NVP, or just want to know how you might handle it when the time comes, here are some nutrition basics:

Nutrient density. As previously mentioned in other posts, and probably obvious, eat a balanced, nutrient-dense, whole foods diet. This includes fresh vegetables, especially dark leafy greens, proteins, whole food fats like avocados, complex carbohydrates like summer/winter squashes, and plenty of fiber (which will naturally come in whole food form). Although nausea and vomiting are common, symptoms like these are the body’s way of coming back into balance. Eating foods that are unprocessed, organic, and in their whole form, will support the body with the raw materials it needs. 

Drink plenty of fluids. Dehydration can contribute to nausea and vomiting. Aim for at least half your bodyweight in ounces, and focus on fresh water or herbal teas (not juice, coffee, sodas, or other bottled beverages). Avoid large amounts of liquid at meals, as this can dilute digestive juices. Try ginger tea right upon waking in the morning. 

Aim to eat smaller meals more frequently. Eat in a relaxed state, and chew your food completely. This will help the stomach from emptying and blood sugar from dropping. Both of these are associated with nausea and vomiting. You may want to try eating first thing in the morning. 

Reduce high-fat foods. During pregnancy, bile (which is used to digest fats) can reduce, making high-fat foods harder to digest and potentially causing nausea. This does not mean you need to completely eliminate fatty foods, such as pastured butter, avocado, etc. Fats will be excellent in keeping blood sugar stable, and avoiding low blood sugar is helpful in preventing nausea. If fats are causing nausea, try eating your meal/snack with sour fermented foods, which can help digest the fats.

Take a prenatal multivitamin. This can support an already-healthy diet and due to restoring certain vitamins and minerals may help reduce NVP. If this is nauseating, try taking your vitamin during or after your meal.

Ginger. Ginger is well known for its long tradition of being used for reducing nausea, and clinical trials demonstrate its effectiveness during pregnancy. When enjoying ginger, you’ll also get the bonus of its carminative effects, which helps relieve gastrointestinal distress.  An easy way to enjoy the benefits of ginger root is in tea form. Grate 2-3 teaspoons of fresh ginger with hot water, adding honey and or fresh lemon juice to taste. Upon waking, sit up slowly and enjoy your tea. An alternative to fresh ginger tea, is this one by Yogi.  Other great herbs to try include raspberry leaf, mint, or chamomile tea.

Snacks. Keep easily digestible snacks on hand to keep blood sugar normal.

Consider Vitamin B6. This vitamin is essential for maintaining hormonal balance, proper immune function, chemical transmitters in the nervous system, and a deficiency in this vitamin is often associated with nausea and leg cramps. Clinical studies have shown that supplemental B6 can be helpful in conditions such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and morning sickness. Before supplementing, get enough of this nutrient via food from salmon, cooked spinach, avocado, poultry, gluten-free whole grains, legumes, bananas, seeds and nuts, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. If considering supplementing, ask your healthcare provider or midwife about a high quality B6 supplement. 

Vitamins K and C. The effectiveness of these two vitamins occurs with their synergy - when used together, they have been shown to be clinically effective. A study cited in The Clinician’s Handbook of Natural Medicine reports that in one study, 91% of patients had complete remission of NVP in seventy-two hours.

 

 

An open letter to our readers: Journey of a New Blogger

Rachel O'Reilly

By Courtney Ward

I started writing for Cherish almost two years ago and the experience has evolved for me in so many ways. First, I was grateful to have a place to share the many ideas I thought about and talked about with my husband, other Moms, and family members.

The process wasn’t easy at first, even though I had many ideas to write about. Once I sat down to write them, I often found it very hard to get my point across or make the time to do so when I wasn’t exhausted. The biggest chunk of time I used to have was at the end of the night and usually the only profound or creative thing that comes to mind then, is finding that perfect meme on Instagram to tag a friend.

Writing for me has been eye-opening. It has forced me to come forward with ideas that I was really shy about sharing. It makes me feel stronger. I established a process, beginning with ideas, then turning them into bullet points, then sentences and editing a few times, writing got easier. I got more confident. Of course all of your support has been so helpful and has not gone unnoticed or under appreciated. It motivates me to try harder, to write more, and to deliver useful information.

I was inspired to do this because I felt that there were topics I was passionate about that weren’t discussed on parenting blogs in ways I could relate. I would either find super preachy posts, or overly whiny ones, neither of which were helpful to me. Motherhood is hard and I wanted a safe shared space where that was represented truthfully.

The writing process for me has been a leap of faith. Honestly, I am scared to death before many posts go live, wondering, “What will my Grandmother think of this one?” Or did I offend someone accidentally? I have learned to let go of most of these worries and embrace the fact that sharing my experiences with parenting is an awesome way for me to preserve my memories, especially the life changing milestones.

These days, I often take Blake to preschool and once or twice a week come home and write a blog post. I try to do this early in the morning with a good cup of tea, music blasting and my snorting dog at my feet. I feel so accomplished when I get a few of these things done.

The most rewarding part is when I hear someone got something out of my posts. It makes me feel like my efforts are worthwhile and that I am not alone in my thoughts or my situation.

If you had asked me a few years ago (before I had Blake) if I would be doing something like this, honestly, I would have answered no. Writing has turned out to be so therapeutic and inspiring. It’s made me read more because I want to improve and learn more. It’s also made me appreciate literature immensely and in ways I never did before, even in college.

Earlier this year I took my craft one step further and enrolled in a fabulous writing class in San Francisco, Blog Writing 1. It was like going back to college but for something you are totally interested in. Also, paying my own way made me take it seriously and show up in a way I never did in school. It has been the best part of my year - learning techniques, tips, and tricks to help make it all easier and more fun. There is something that really connects you to people when you share your writing. It’s one of our greatest forms of vulnerability and being able to do that in a room full of strangers has been such a cool thing. I have been able to spark more ideas, work hard on developing posts that would have just been okay, and embrace where I have room for improvement.

I am completely honest with myself that I am no Kerouac. I have a long road to travel,  but I am taking the baby steps that are necessary to get there. For now, it feels so wonderful to be self-indulgent and do something just for me for a little while. You lose sense of that when you become a new mother and getting back into something, especially if it is a form of work, is the most gratifying feeling.

So if you are contemplating getting into something new, do it. You might just surprise yourself with where an unexpected hobby can lead.  

Mama's herbal Tea

Rachel O'Reilly

By Aaryn Leineke

One of the greatest gifts I received in early pregnancy was a big beautiful jar of Mama’s herbal loose tea. It was from my dear friend Grace who I asked to be my doula for the most precious time my husband and I would have together, the birth of our first baby.

This herbal tea is a mixture of amazing and nourishing ingredients that help with nausea. Thus, the reasons it’s one of the essential products on my first trimester survival kit. It provides essential nutrients, while strengthening and toning the womb during and after pregnancy, which helps foster an ideal environment for a growing baby.

Ingredients to the special tea:

  • Organic Red Raspberry Leaf: This is the queen of herbs for women’s health. It’s medically proven to help strengthen the womb of a pregnant women and it is also reported to be effective in restoring the womb (uterus) after delivering. Drinking red raspberry tea is also great while menstruating and suffering from menstrual cramps.

  • Organic Alfalfa: Is said to ease morning sickness. It contains a wide variety of minerals including iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sulfur, chlorine, sodium, potassium, silicon, and trace elements. It is also a good source of Vitamin E, Vitamin C and Vitamin K, which is necessary for blood clotting. Many midwives advise drinking mild tasting alfalfa tea or taking alfalfa tablets during the last trimester of pregnancy to decrease postpartum bleeding or chance of hemorrhaging.

  • Organic Nettle: A nutrient loaded with magnesium, calcium and iron, which are all excellent and essential minerals to ingest during pregnancy.

  • Organic Oatstraw: Rich in both calcium and magnesium, which work together in the body, with calcium stimulating muscles to contract and magnesium relaxing them. The way these elements work in a yin-yang way is why herbalists and midwives believe that oatstraw can be particularly valuable for pregnant women.

  • Organic German Chamomile: For centuries chamomile has been used as a mild relaxation remedy.

  • Organic Rosehip: Great source of vitamin C for boosting the immune system.

  • Organic Peppermint: Great for flavor It also helps with nausea and aids digestion.

Often, I would make my tea when I got home from work, and if I steeped extra I would store it in a jar in the fridge and have it served over ice the next day. Drinking this daily was such a wonderful way to treat myself to something delicious and nutritious. It was especially enjoyed while getting through my first trimester, particularly on rainy days while snuggling with my gorgeous man and sweet pup.


You can make this at home by finding the loose tea ingredients at your local natural grocery or herb store or even find some similar products on Etsy that can be delivered to your door. I would recommend measuring a quarter cup of each ingredient in a mixing bowl, give a light toss to mix together and store in a big glass mason jar that has a screw top to keep it fresh. For taste you can go a little heavier on the peppermint and lighter on the rosehip. Be sure to keep in a cool area away from moisture and direct heat (including sunlight).

Spring Menu

Rachel O'Reilly

By Erica Favela 

When the seasons shift, it’s a great time to see where else in our lives we can make some adjustments or take on a new frame of mind for the next few months. Spring represents newness, birthing, and laying the seeds that will sprout into future crops. We also get to welcome lighter days, and after a restful winter, you may be experiencing more energy, or an urge to move swiftly forward with goals and projects. This is a great time of year to see where you can initiate or even trailblaze. We can use food as a helpful tool for shedding both the physical and mental/emotional/spiritual heaviness of winter, and as a way to initiate feeling fresh and enlivened for the next season.

Spring is also a time when people cleanse and detoxify. In fact, you’ve probably seen plenty of marketing going on for juice cleanses or detoxes. If you’re pregnant or nursing, remember that programs like these may not be ideal for you and your baby’s needs, so always speak to your midwife or other partner in natural healthcare before jumping on the “cleansing” bandwagon. If breastfeeding, resist the urge to do something drastic to get back to pre-baby weight; significantly dropping calories and consuming simple sugars from a juice cleanse will not be healthful for breast milk production.

In general, the best foods for spring include foods that will disperse waste (support the liver’s detoxifying abilities), reduce heat and move stagnation (more raw foods), reduce weight (which will naturally come as you move more with longer, lighter days), and cool or refresh (think seasonal fruits like grapefruit and Valencia oranges).

Here’s an example of what a few days of Spring-inspired eating might light look (no juice fasting required!). Start each morning with tongue scraping, and 1 cup warm lemon water upon waking.

Day 1

Breakfast: 1 cup plain yogurt with 1/2 cup berries with 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds and generous sprinkle of cinnamon

Lunch: Kale salad (4 cups kale), 1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, dulse flakes, plus a few slices of chicken breast

Dressing:

  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

  • 2 1/2 teaspoon olive oil

  • fresh pepper

  • dash salt

Dinner: Vegetable mineral broth or bone broth and Quinoa Tabbouleh (recipe)

Day 2

Breakfast: Smoothie with greens (kale, spinach) 1 cup berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries), with boosters such as green powders or maca, coconut or almond milk base, 1 tablespoon almond butter, and plant-based protein such as pea protein.

Lunch: Pineapple avocado gazpacho with large mixed green salad with 1/2 cup garbanzo beans or sprouts. Dressing for the salad: lemon, garlic, dulse, and basil

Dinner: Asparagus and veggie tempeh (or other preferred protein) stir-fry over kelp noodles. Try this recipe from Dr. Mark Hyman.

Day 3

Breakfast: 1 cup fresh mixed berries with coconut chips, 1-2 tbsp hemp seeds, in 1 cup nut milk

Lunch: Red Leaf Lettuce salad, thinly sliced basil (or other fresh herbs), black olives, and thinly-shaved red onion. Add protein such as sliced chicken breast or cooked salmon.  Dress with 1 part apple cider vinegar to 2-3 parts olive oil and crushed garlic

Dinner: Miso soup with 1/4 cup Adzuki beans and 1/2 cup brown rice with steamed broccoli

Other foods to incorporate or use as snacks:  

  • nuts/seeds & their milks

  • bone broths

  • sprouts

  • fresh melons

  • vegetable juices (no carrots or beets)  

  • moderate amounts non-gluten grains like quinoa or brown rice  

  • leafy greens and other non-starchy vegetables

  • algae, seaweeds, fermented veggies

  • water and herb teas


Recipes

Easy Pineapple Avocado Gazpacho

Makes 1 large, or 2 small servings

  • 2 cups pineapple, diced small

  • 1 avocado, diced small

  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

  • juice of 1 lime

  • fresh sprouts or cilantro (garnish) 

  1. Set aside about 1/4 cup pineapple and 1/4 of the avocado

  2. Add rest of the ingredients except garnish to blender

  3. Blend just until smooth

  4. Pour into a bowl and fold in pineapple and avocado pieces (to chew!)

  5. Garnish with sprouts or cilantro

  

 

Quinoa Tabbouleh

makes 3-4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa

  • 1 tsp chopped parsley

  • 1/4 cup currants

  • 1/4 cup chopped raw almonds

  • 1/2 cup diced carrots

  • 1/4 cup chopped mint

  • 1/4 cup scallions diagonally cut, thin

  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

  • 1/4 cup lime juice

  • 1 tsp honey

  • 1/2 tsp cumin

  • 1 tsp sea salt

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and let sit for 20 minutes (to allow flavors to blend) before serving.

  2. Enjoy with zucchini hummus and raw vegetables! (celery, cucumber, carrots, red bell pepper, etc.)

 

First trimester exhaustion, blues and doubts

Rachel O'Reilly

A daily challenge I faced was finding ways to connect with my baby. Connect in a way that kept me excited while believing all is still well with the growth of this little embryo. Each day I would wonder, are you still in there little June Bug?  Are you growing and will you really be my baby come June 2017?

I found it hard to stay patient and trust all was going well with my body and my baby’s growth. I kept reminding my husband that we have to be cautious and not get too attached because it was still so early, and anything could happen. I would give him the statistics of miscarriages for first pregnancies, and he’d tell me to stop thinking that way. I didn’t intend to be negative, I just wanted to stay careful, and keep a safe distance just in case we’d be confronted by any sort of disappointment. I started to feel guilty about keeping a safe distance and not letting myself get too excited. And, often, I would ask myself “when will I start feeling love and admiration for this little being?”

The signs of my first trimester appeared like clockwork, with minimal challenging symptoms. Did I feel nausea? Yes. Maybe for a week or so. Did I feel exhausted? Yes. To say I slept a lot is an understatement. However, I could get through my day-to-day activities and 9 straight hours at the office with relative ease, but as soon as I got home I would pass out. After sleeping for hours, my husband would ensure I ate dinner and made it into bed with brushed teeth and a washed face. And then we’d do it all over again the next day. I made up for years of lost sleep in just the first 3 months of this pregnancy--it was actually amazing! All of this rest felt mostly guilt free because it happened during our coldest months of fall that lead into the craziest rainy winter we’ve seen in years. So, not going outside for a workout, or not making it to my yoga class because it was dark by 5pm was okay with me. I'd find myself being disappointed here and there with my lack of physical activity. But, rest was what my body needed (there was no choice in the matter really), so I let it do just that.

Finally my 12th week hit and we had our first prenatal meeting with our midwife, which meant we were going to attempt to hear the heartbeat of our growing baby for the first time. For weeks and weeks, I couldn’t help but want that day to just hurry up and arrive already! When our midwife came into the room she prioritized listening to the heart beat before everything else. It took some time but once she found it, and we were able to give my husband some time to distinguish the difference between my heartbeat and the baby’s on the doppler, we both were in tears. It was the best feeling finally knowing it was true. We were really having a baby (le swoon).

How did you stay patient and trust everything was going well with your body and your baby’s growth?  What are/were some of the biggest fears and challenges you faced during your first trimester?

 

Beyond Barbie: Raising a daughter Barbie-free

Rachel O'Reilly

“Let’s teach our daughters to worry less about fitting into glass slippers, and more about shattering glass ceilings.” -Unknown

Igniting the budding minds of little girls in playtime activities that engage their interests outside of Barbie play can help to establish a strong sense of worth that has nothing to do with appearances. 

We all know how much little girls and big girls are capable of when their unique abilities and interests are honored and nourished. When I was 4 years old my Mom let me pick out my own outfit in a department store for the first time. I chose a white blazer and matching pants. I wore that outfit every chance I got till I literally busted out of it! It’s hysterical to me to look back on what seemed like a funny and cute act of individuation at the time and realize that was me starting to articulate my desire to lead and understand the business world. As I grew older I did pursue those desires to learn about that "other" world that was business-minded and very different from the more emotive focused activities my wonderful artistic mother shared with me. I deeply treasure the creative interests my mother fostered in me, but I also would have loved for someone to see my desire to understand  the “adult world” from a younger age. Who knows what a little mentoring in that department could have resulted in! 

So, whether it’s a fascination with bugs, the stars that twinkle at night, mom’s business clothes, a drum set, or whatever it may be, try exposing your little one to all sorts of activities and games that are not gender-specific and see what you notice that sparks them! It could just be the very thing they spend a lifetime exploring and gaining true fulfillment from.

To be clear, we're not suggesting that Barbie should never be a part of playtime. And, if your little one really wants a Barbie, we love these Lammily dolls which represent how most women actually look.

If you decide to be a “Barbie free” home it’s OK to share with friends/family that you’re doing so. Who knows, you may start a trend! You can also consider not mentioning Barbie at all and just say “We’re working to reduce plastics in our home, and as such prefer toys/gifts that are plastic-free!” You’ll be amazed by the variety of thoughtfully crafted toys, games, books, and other interesting items that will be gifted.

Here are a few ideas for expanding the minds and hearts of little girls beyond Barbie:

GoldieBlox: Award winning construction toys for girls ages 4+ that strengthen the parts of the brain that are focused on STEM.

Roominate: For girls ages 8+ and similar to GoldieBlox, these toys enable girls to build their dream space, complete with circuits and motors that create lighting and other elements of the built environment.

Matching Animal memory game: We love this memory game made Fair Trade by Moms in vulnerable rural communities. Your purchase means a meaningful toy for your preschooler and an income and independence for Moms who need it most!

Bug/outdoor kits: Turn a walk in the park or a hike into a fun activity to get curiouser about the critters and the natural world around us.Musical kits: For toddlers who just want to rock… This kit comes with everything you need and all components are BPA free.

Musical kits: For rockin' toddlers, this kit comes with everything you need and all components are BPA free.

We appreciate EVERYTHING that Mighty Girl is about, especially their list of empowering shows, movies and books for girls.

Arts and crafts: For toddlers to older kids art is a great way to express creativity, work various parts of the brain and keep them interested for more than 5 mins! Here are some options we think are great.

Inchimals: A fun way to learn about measurements and get the left brain firing!

Interlocking beads: These colorful plastic BPA-free beads are safe for toddlers age 3+, are easy to put together, and encourage sensory development.

Grow crystals: For ages 10+ these crystal making kits are perfect for the curious budding geologist, scientist, or lover of the beauty of the natural world.

The Night Sky: This is a fun book for kids age 8+ and parents to learn more about astronomy and stargazing.

DNA Experiment: This kit makes biology fun and playful for ages 7+!

Monster bowling: An activity for indoor or outdoor that helps gently establish hand/eye coordination at a very young age.

Genius Box: For ages 8-11 these monthly boxes are designed to trigger STEM thinking by putting your kid in the driver's seat to solve the problem at hand with minimal help from adults.

We love Pretty Brainy as a resource and community for parents looking to get their girls more involved in STEM learning… You can even get ideas for DIY STEM activities at home, here!

Any ideas you've experimented with to engage your girl in play time activities sans Barbie? We'd love to hear.

Parenting Goal: Camping Edition

Rachel O'Reilly

 Thomas Story

Thomas Story

By Courtney Ward

When I envision the childhood I want for my daughter, it includes things that I didn’t do in mine, like camping. I grew up in Orange County, near the beach. Our vacations were mostly to Colorado to ski every winter. Camping was the last thing my Mom wanted to do.

Now that I have a child, sleeping in the great outdoors seems like the perfect family activity and I’ve been thinking about it more than I care to admit. I picture us all around a campfire roasting hot dogs, telling funny stories, wearing Patagonia fleece jackets and Ugg boots. I guess it needs to be cold which leads me to another point, I don’t even know where to go. I also don’t even like hot dogs, but the visual I have in my head includes them so I’m going with it.

A few months ago I was getting my bridesmaid dress altered for my best friend’s wedding. My seamstress is a wise Great Grandmother and further sparked my interest for tackling this family tradition. She said in her family, they camped all the time with her kids and even go now with their grandchildren. She spoke of it with the same fondness that my husband and I do of our trips to Paris pre-babe.

A Grandfather, who was also there getting some pants taken in, shouted from the dressing room, “Take her camping! For our family, it was the glue that stuck us together.”

Wow.

Now that really stuck with me (pardon the pun). Often times, I receive (and dismiss) unwarranted parenting advice from strangers, but I try to heed the wisdom from elders, especially when it’s a good nugget like this that’s straight from the heart. I actually wrote this quote down right then in my phone and look at it to further motivate me to pull the camping trigger.

Here’s the thing: I know nothing about how to camp. I don’t even know where to start, except I know I need a tent and a sleeping bag and a flashlight and some hot dogs. Beyond that, I’m lost.

Last summer, my family took a road trip to Southern California to visit my Mom and stopped at this great place, El Capitan Canyon. Although I hate the term, we glamped for one night and it was so much fun. We stayed in a little yurt that had beds and electricity. My daughter loved it, especially making her own s’mores and waking up under the trees. They have a nice pool and play structure for kids and little log cabins to stay in, if fabric for walls isn’t your thing. It’s a great in between place to stop if you are driving from San Francisco to Orange County and also an awesome gateway camping excursion. Next time I want to stay for a couple more days to let sleeping in nature soak in and get a fuller experience.

I guess it doesn’t really matter as long as you go for it, right? What I have realized about parenting, is that adventure and taking that leap is what creates good memories and often that’s what kids cherish the most.

Do you have any new parenting goals for this spring that you would like to share? Tell us in the comments below!

Best Foods for Folate

Rachel O'Reilly

By Erica Favela 

One of the most widely known nutrients that is known to be important for pregnancy is folate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend folic acid supplementation for all women of childbearing age because the biggest need is during the first trimester.

Folate works with vitamin B12 in many processes. It is especially important during pregnancy because of it’s role in DNA synthesis and cellular division. Right from conception, growth and cellular division begins. New DNA is required for new cells, and mother must increase her red blood cells, which requires folate.

Research has found that adequate supplies of folate can:

Folate comes from the Latin word folium, or foliage. This may help you remember that folate is found in green leafy vegetables including spinach, kale, beet greens, and swiss chard. Folate is naturally found in food, while folic acid is the synthetic compound often used in supplements or fortified foods. 

Try to eat these greens in their raw form, as folate is heat sensitive and cooking will diminish this nutrient. Here’s some examples of how to get in these greens:

  • Spinach salad tossed with pesto, sliced cherry tomatoes, and slice of salmon on top

  • Massaged kale salad with pine nuts and currants

  • Throw any combination of the above listed greens into a smoothie (see recipe below)! 

Here are some other go-to foods that have good amounts of folate (per 3.5 ounces) :

  • Black-eyed peas (prepared from dried beans, not canned) 440 mcg

  • Kidney beans 180 mcg

  • Mung beans 145 mcg

  • Asparagus 110 mcg

  • Lentils 105 mcg

  • Walnuts 77 mcg

When choosing any of the above beans, opt for dried beans that you soak and then cook. Canned beans will have gone through processing and manufacturing that can lower their nutritional content. For instance, once cup of cooked garbanzo beans (prepared from dried beans) versus the same amount of canned garbanzo beans will offer around ~275 mcg vs. ~75 mcg of folate, respectively.

Again, remember that nutrients work synergistically. Folate absorption is affected by zinc status, so don’t forget to eat high zinc foods. Foods that are highest in zinc are shellfish, oysters (cooked), and red meat. Others include nuts, seeds, eggs, and chicken. If you’re thinking that you need detailed charts that outline the varying amounts of different nutrients in all foods, and measuring so that you get everything you need, please reconsider!


The purpose of taking a deep dive into nutrients like folate is simply to showcase the powerful effects that nutrients have on our bodies (and growing babies), and to encourage you to do the planning that’s necessary for creating whole food meals, rather than quick-and-easy meal replacements or ready-made dinners that frequent many grocery store aisles. If you’re having trouble getting whole food meals on the table, check out Meal Planning 101

 

Mama's Go-To Green Smoothie

Here's an easy way to get some folate-rich greens in your day. This recipe also includes ginger, which is an excellent remedy for nausea. If struggling with digestion/constipation, add a tablespoon of chia seeds or fresh ground flax seeds. 

  • Large handful spinach or kale 

  • 1 cup water or coconut water 

  • 1/2 cup frozen mango chunks

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil 

  • 1/2 inch grated ginger 

  • 1 scoop protein powder of choice or 1/2 cup full fat greek yogurt

  1. Add greens and water first. Blend 20 seconds. 

  2. Add the remaining ingredients and blitz until smooth. 

To make this into a "smoothie bowl," add 1/4 - 1/2 avocado for a thick texture and pour into a bowl. Top with toasted coconut flakes and sunflower seeds. Chewing helps with digestion and nutrient absorption.