Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mamas & Muffins: Baby Food

Last Monday was the Mamas & Muffins group, so I got to snuggle some sweet little babies and we all talked about baby food. If you couldn't make it, here's some of the information we discussed:

… there’s no rush …

Frank Greer, M.D., FAAP, member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) Committee on Nutrition, says breastmilk is the optimal choice of nutrition for your baby for the first 12 months.

“The AAP Section on Breastfeeding, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Academy of Family Physicians, Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, WHO, United Nations Children's Fund, and many other health organizations recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life.”

… it’s a go …

Signs baby may be ready for solid food include:

  • baby sits upright
  • baby has lost tongue-thrust reflex
  • baby watches people eating & imitates
  • baby can pinch-grasp smaller objects
  • baby may have doubled(ish) birth weight
  • baby may be teething

    There is no definitive sign, I don't think. I used the examples of my children. I started them both with solid food at about 5.5 months, when they could both sit up, they seemed interested, and could swallow tiny spoonfuls of food. Madelyn was still a few pounds off from doubling her birth weight, but she was teething. Owen was still months from getting teeth, but had long since doubled his birth weight.

    In my opinion, the best way is to be guided by baby. If baby likes the food you offer, has no trouble swallowing it, and is happy at mealtimes, than it sounds like she's ready!

    … first foods …

    first: bananas, pears, unsweetened applesauce, avocado, sweet potatoes, rice cereal, peaches

    and then: yogurt, egg yolk, oatmeal, finely chopped chicken, beans, cheese, cheerios, baby biscuits

    I love the list of food suggestions in the Sears' Baby Book

    I also mentioned to the Mamas about the BRAT & anti-BRAT foods, because I learned this the hard way. Madelyn wouldn't take rice cereal, so this wasn't a problem for her, but after I'd been feeding Owen solids for a month or so (applesauce, bananas, a bit of rice cereal), he became wicked constipated. Poor bubby. I hadn't heard of the BRAT diet, that people sometimes eat if they're recovering from a stomach bug or something else that may have caused diarrhea. Basically, it's Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast - which all have binding-up properties. Turns out I was feeding a lot of those foods to Owen. Then someone (thankfully!) told me that P fruits tend to have the opposite effect, loosening things up: pears, peaches, plums, prunes. All of these are good first foods for babies too, so it became a matter of simply adjusting amounts depending on the desired effect. I'd mix pears and applesauce, or peaches and banana, for example.

    ... make your own…

    Making your own baby food can be easy. Roast vegetables like sweet potatoes or winter squash. Peel and use fruits like bananas, pears, and avocados. Mash with a fork, or food process. Scrape into ice cube trays; freeze; remove from the trays and store in freezer bags. Thaw the cubes in the refrigerator, or warm in the microwave. Check temperature and texture and feed to baby. Or if you want some real excitement, hand baby the spoon!

    It really is that simple.

    Once the baby was just a bit bigger, I'd spend an hour every few weeks - roast a few sweet potatoes; poach some skinless chicken breast; briefly cook a few peaches in a pot of boiling water (X the skin before you put them on so it slips off easily) and then puree it to the texture I wanted in the food processor. Put in the ice cube trays and I had baby meals for several weeks. Add to that the things I fork-mashed (banana, pear, avocado) or made to order (egg yolk) and some plain yogurt, and we were pretty much all set.

    One of the other nice things about making your own baby food (beyond knowing exactly what's in it!) is that you can feed your baby more local foods, and foods that are in season. When Owen was a baby I got a huge box of peaches, in season, and pureed/froze them until he was ready for them. When we picked apples, I froze plain applesauce for him. I know that isn't a huge motivator for some people (and he had plenty of non-local bananas and avocados!), but it was something I felt good about.

    … resources …

    The Z Recs Guide publishes information about harmful chemicals in common baby products.

    Also, a post I wrote about toxins in children's toys and products.

    All about Baby-Led Solids

    Foods to avoid, and why

    KidSafe Seafood

    Baby Safe feeder

    The Baby Book by William Sears, MD and Martha Sears, RN

    Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron

    Feel free to leave any of your favorite baby feeding tips, recipes, links, cookbooks etc. in the comments!

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
    Mamas & Muffins: New Moms Group

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    Tuesday, January 26, 2010

    More on Eating, Drinking and Labor

    This is just a quick post to highlight an article in today's New York Times Health section (by the way, I love getting this free, weekly, via email). The article is called, "In Labor, a Snack or a Sip?", and in it, an obstetrician is quoted giving the same example situation I give in my classes:
    '“My own view of this has always been that you could say one shouldn’t eat or drink anything before getting into a car on the same basis, because you could be in an automobile accident and you might require general anesthesia,” said Dr. Marcie Richardson, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates in Boston, who was not connected to the new study.'
    I wonder if more people need emergency general anesthetic after a car accident or during a Cesarean birth?

    I imagine this article in the Times was prompted by the recent Cochrane review of the seven-decades-long ban on eating and drinking in labor enforced by many (but not all) hospitals. The review, Restricting Oral Fluid Intake and Food Intake During Labour is available online.

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
    Mamas & Muffins: New Moms Group

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    Thursday, March 26, 2009

    Help from Good Guide

    I know I'm not the only one who is sometimes overwhelmed by the number of choices available at grocery stores, health food stores, and pharmacies. Not to mention online options! For example, I would stand in front of the rows of bread, reading labels - which ones were 100% whole grain? which had no HFCS? how much protein per slice? About six months ago, I decided it would just be easier to bake my own bread, which I've been doing since. So that solved that decision - but what about body wash for the kids? dishwashing soap? etc & etc!!!

    Well, the Mothering e-newsletter included a link to Good Guide this week and wow, let me tell you - I'm impressed. It rates products on a variety of scales, including the product's effectiveness, its ingredients, and how the company produces it. It also has links to buying products online.

    If you find yourself picking up product after product to read labels, this website might simplify the process for you.

    If you do go and look, could you please leave a comment about the products you looked up & what you learned? The only thing about this new site is it seems like it could be a little addictive! Maybe we could save each other some time if we compiled some information here...

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
    New Mothers Support Circle

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    Thursday, March 5, 2009


    I posted the "You Get Your Hair Done by a Doctor?" Sweet Surprise advertisement yesterday, soliciting comments.

    Kathy, of Woman to Woman Childbirth Education, commented
    "Y'know, I read something recently that said something along the lines of HFCS and sugar being "nearly identical" or "almost chemically identical." Hmm, well, oxytocin and Pitocin are exactly identical... but one crosses into the brain and makes the mother feel good and has benefits for the baby, while the other just makes her uterus contract and slams her baby. So, maybe they're not as "identical" as they thought, hmm? :-)".
    I hadn't even thought of that! But I do think it's a very interesting thought, and it does connect the ad with birth... which was what I thought about the first time I saw it. It totally raised my hackles because it shows a woman elevating her doctor as the only credible expert. The way I read the ad, it simultaneously elevates the doctor, puts down the hairdresser, and attempts to make the woman who considered her hairdresser's opinion seem foolish.

    I realize that it is no small thing to go through the education and training necessary to become a medical doctor. This eduction, training, and practice should certainly lend weight to a doctor's opinion. However, I also believe that good information is usually available to all intelligent people who take the time to seek and evaluate it. Even if they're "just" hairdressers... or everyday moms... or construction workers etc. & etc. I truly resent the insinuation that the hairdresser has nothing of value to add to the conversation.

    Especially because the advertisement was created by Sweet Surprise, according to their website titled "High Fructose Corn Syrup Health and Diet Facts". Facts according to whom?? Facts according to the Corn Refiner's Association, that's who:
    "The Corn Refiners Association (CRA) is the national trade association representing the corn refining (wet milling) industry of the United States. CRA and its predecessors have served this important segment of American agribusiness since 1913. Corn refiners manufacture sweeteners, ethanol, starch, bioproducts, corn oil, and feed products from corn components such as starch, oil, protein, and fiber."
    Not that they might have a stake in it, or anything...

    And those are the thoughts I applied in my head to birth: don't devalue the laywoman who has made it her business to learn about birth, just because she doesn't have a medical degree; and don't underestimate the strength with which people will fight to keep their power, and the dollars that come with it.

    In case you were expecting this post to actually be about high fructose corn syrup, here is a sampling of the interesting links I found:

    The Murky World of High Fructose Corn Syrup explains the process of making high fructose corn syrup, as well as how the production of high fructose corn syrup fits into the big picture of big farm and food conglomerates:
    "The development of the HFCS process came at an opportune time for corn growers. Refinements of the partial hydrogenation process had made it possible to get better shortenings and margarines out of soybeans than corn. HFCS took up the slack as demand for corn oil margarine declined. Lysine, an amino acid, can be produced from the corn residue after the glucose is removed. This is the modus operandi of the food conglomerates--break down commodities into their basic components and then put them back together again as processed food."
    Here's what the Mayo Clinic says about HFCS, including that
    "research has yielded conflicting results about the effects of high-fructose corn syrup. For example, various early studies showed an association between increased consumption of sweetened beverages (many of which contained high-fructose corn syrup) and obesity. But recent research — some of which is supported by the beverage industry — suggests that high-fructose corn syrup isn't intrinsically less healthy than other sweeteners, nor is it the root cause of obesity."
    Maybe you've heard about mercury in high fructose corn syrup? You can read more information on Web MD, including a list of the 17 products that tested positive for mercury.

    The Washington Post also reported on mercury and HFCS, in "Study Finds High-Fructose Corn Syrup Contains Mercury." Here is part of that article which I found interesting,
    "HFCS has replaced sugar as the sweetener in many beverages and foods such as breads, cereals, breakfast bars, lunch meats, yogurts, soups and condiments. On average, Americans consume about 12 teaspoons per day of HFCS, but teens and other high consumers can take in 80 percent more HFCS than average."
    Okay, that just grosses me out: there's HFCS in lunch meat?? The article goes on,
    "Mercury is toxic in all its forms. Given how much high-fructose corn syrup is consumed by children, it could be a significant additional source of mercury never before considered. We are calling for immediate changes by industry and the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply," the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy's Dr. David Wallinga, a co-author of both studies, said in a prepared statement."
    About a year ago, the Washington Post published a very informative article about the impact of HFCS on health - the health of our planet, "High-Fructose Corn Syrup: Not So Sweet for the Planet."

    Apparently I'm not the only one insulted by the "Sweet Surprise" advertisements. Marion Nestle, author of the Food Polictics blog, writes that
    "OK, so lots of people think HFCS is the new trans-fat. It isn’t, but is insulting your intelligence an effective way to deal with that concern? It’s hard to know what on the website is most offensive: the videos of dumb people being condescended to by friends who think they know better (and what’s up with the race and gender combinations?), the slogans (“HFCS has no artificial ingredients and is the same as table sugar”), the quiz questions (“which of the following sweeteners is considered a natural food ingredient: HFCS, honey, sugar, or all of the above”), or the take home message: “As registered dietitians recommend, keep enjoying the foods you love, just do it in moderation.”"
    Nestle continues:
    "Let’s agree that HFCS has an enormous public relations problem and is widely misunderstood. Biochemically, it is about the same as table sugar (both have about the same amount of fructose and calories), but it is in everything and Americans eat a lot of it—nearly 60 pounds per capita in 2006, just a bit less than pounds of table sugar. HFCS is not a poison, but eating less of any kind of sugar is a good idea these days and anything that promotes eating more is not."
    "Ad Wars: Is High-Fructose Corn Syrup Really Good for You?" was published in Time Magazine, and brings up what I believe is one of the most important points.
    "The commercials claim that just like sugar, high-fructose corn syrup isn't unhealthy when consumed in moderation. But it's hard to know exactly how much of it we're actually consuming because it shows up in so many unexpected foods. "It was in my children's vitamins!" said Elise Mackin. Because high-fructose corn syrup extends the shelf life of foods, and farm subsidies make it cheaper than sugar, it's added to a staggering range of items, including fruity yogurts, cereals, crackers, ketchup and bread — and in most foods marketed to children. So, unless you're making a concerted effort to avoid it, it's pretty difficult to consume high-fructose corn syrup in moderation. "We did a consumers survey," says Doug Radi of Boulder, Colo., based Rudi's Organic Breads, "and less than 25% of them realized that high-fructose corn syrup is commonly used in bread.""
    Yes, bread! For the past thirteen years or so that I've been buying my own bread, I've almost always chosen whole-grain breads - partially for taste, and partially for nutrition. A while back, I realized that seeing "made with whole grains" wasn't a good indication of nutrition, because bread that was mostly processed flour could still be labeled that way. So I got all vigilant about it, and only bought breads that listed a whole grain flour first, or that were labeled as 100% whole grains. Country Kitchen, which is a local company, made one of the best-tasting, most-affordable 100% whole wheat breads, so I had been buying that for years. Then the whole HFCS thing came up. And that's when I threw in the towel and became my own bread baker.

    That's right: I make two loaves every week and half or so, and I get to know exactly what's in it. I have a thirty-year old stand mixer that makes it easy - takes about fifteen minutes to make the dough and then only a few more minutes to punch it down, shape it, and slide it into the oven. I've even learned to cut the thin & straight slices!

    If you're interested in becoming your own bread baker, here are a few homemade bread recipes that are easy and nutritious. They're the ones I make over & over again...

    Light Wheat Bread
    from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice

    2 1/2 cups (11.25 oz) unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
    1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz.) whole-wheat flour
    1 1/2 tablespoons (.75 oz.) granulated sugar or honey
    1 1/2 teaspoons (.38 oz.) salt
    3 tablespoons (1 oz.) powdered milk*
    1 1/2 teaspoons (.17 oz.) instant yeast
    2 tablespoons (1 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1 1/4 cups (10 oz.) water, at room temperature

    1. Stir together the high-gluten flour, whole-wheat flour, sugar (if using), salt, powdered milk, and yeast in a 4-quart mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). Add the shortening, honey (if using), and water. Stir (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) until the ingredients form a ball. If there is still flour in the bottom of the bowl, dribble in additional water. The dough should feel soft and supple. It is better for it to be a little too soft that to be too stiff and tough.

    2. Sprinkle high-gluten or whole-wheat flour on the counter, and transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mix on medium speed with the dough hook). Add more flour if needed to make a firm, supple dough that is slightly tacky but not sticky. Kneading should take about 10 minutes (6 minutes by machine). The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 to 81 degrees F. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

    3. Ferment at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

    4. Remove the dough from the bowl and press it by hand into a rectangle about 3/4 inch thick, 6 inches wide, and 8 to 10 inches long. Form it into a loaf by working from the short side of the dough, rolling up the length of the dough one section at a time, pinching the crease with each rotation to strengthen the surface tension. It will spread wider as you roll it. Pinch the final seam closed with the back edge of your hand or with your thumbs. Place the loaf in a lightly oiled 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch bread pan; the ends of the loaf should touch the ends of the pan to ensure an even rise. Mist the top with spray oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap.

    5. Proof at room temperature for approximately 60 to 90 minutes, or until the dough crests above the lip of the pan.

    6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with the oven rack on the middle shelf.

    7. Place the bread pan on a sheet pan and bake for 30 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue baking for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the oven. The finished loaf should register 190 degrees F in the center, be golden brown on the top and the sides, and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.

    8. When the bread is finished baking, remove it immediately from the loaf pan and cool it on a rack for at least 1 hour, preferably 2 hours (yeah, good luck with that), before slicing or serving.

    Makes one 2-lb. loaf


    2pkgs (or equivalent) active dry yeast
    1 1/2 C boiling water
    1C quick cooking oats (I use regular oats)
    1/2C molasses
    1/3C butter
    1T salt
    6 1/4C white flour (I do 3C whole wheat; 3C-ish white)
    2 slightly beaten eggs

    Soften yeast in 1/2C warm water. In a large bowl, combine the 1.5C boiling water, the oats, molasses, butter and salt; cool to lukewarm. Stir in 2C of the flour; add eggs; beat well. Stir in the softened yeast; beat well.

    Add remaining flour, 2C at a time, mixing vigorously after each addition, to make moderately stiff dough. Beat vigorously til smooth, about 10 minutes. Grease top lightly. Cover tightly; place in refrigerator at least 2 hrs or overnight.

    Turn out on well-floured surface; shape into 2laves. Place in 8.5 x 4.5" loaf pans. Cover; let rise in warm place until double 1-2hrs. Bake at 375 for about 40 minutes.

    Makes 2 loaves

    And Whole Wheat Bread with Wheat Germ and Rye
    from Cook's Illustrated - The New Best Recipe Cookbook

    2 1/3 cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
    1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
    1/4 cup honey
    4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    2 1/2 teaspoons salt
    1/4 C rye flour
    1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
    3 cups whole-wheat flour
    2 3/4 C unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface

    1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, mix the water, yeast, honey, butter, and salt with a spatula mix in the rye flour, wheat germ, and 1 cup each of the whole-wheat and all-purpose flours.

    2. Add the remaining whole-wheat and all- purpose flours, attach the dough hook, and knead at low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Knead just long enough to make sure that the dough is soft and smooth, about 30 seconds.

    Note on hand kneading: Mixing the water, yeast, honey, butter, salt, rye flour, and wheat germ in a large mixing bowl. Mix 2 3/4 cups of the whole- wheat flour and the all-purpose flour in a separate bowl, reserving 1/4 cup of the whole-wheat flour. Add 4 cups of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients; beat with a wooden spoon 5 minutes. Beat in another 1 1/2 cups of the flour mixture to make a thick dough. Turn the dough onto a work surface that has been sprinkled with some of the reserved flour. Knead, adding only as much of the remaining flour as necessary to form a soft, elastic dough, about 5 minutes. Continue with step 3.

    3. Place the dough in a very lightly oiled large bowl; cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm, draft-free area until the dough has doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

    4. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Gently press down the dough and divide into two equal pieces. Gently press each piece into a rectangle, about 1 inch thick and no longer than 9 inches. With a long side of the dough facing you, roll the dough firmly into a cylinder, pressing down to make sure that the dough sticks to itself. Turn the dough seam-side up and pinch it closed. Place each cylinder of dough in a greased 9 by 5-inch loaf pan, seam-side down and pressing the dough gently so it touches all four sides of the pan. Cover the shaped dough; let rise until almost doubled in volume, to 30 minutes.

    5. Bake until an instant thermometer inserted at an angle from the shot end just above the pan rim reads 205 degrees, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer the bread immediately from the baking pans to wire racks; cool to room temperature.

    Makes two loaves.

    Do you have a favorite bread recipe? A story about reading the label & seeing HFCS listed in an unlikely-seeming food? An advertisement that aggravates you? Leave a comment & add to the conversation...

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
    New Mothers Support Circle

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    Wednesday, March 4, 2009

    You Get Your Hair Done by a Doctor?

    I bet you've probably seen the "Sweet Surprise" commercials and print ads defending high fructose corn syrup.

    What do you think of this one: You Get Your Hair Done by a Doctor?


    posted by Christina Kennedy at 2 Comments

    Monday, February 16, 2009

    Safer Bottle Feeding

    I've already written about safety & children's products in several times, with lots of links in my Pregnancy Awareness Month: Week Three - Nutrition & Green Living and Toxins in Children's Toys and Products posts.

    The third Z Report on BPA was available last September, and full of very useful information re: BPA (bisphenol A) in children's feeding products, especially bottles & sippy cups. I hadn't noticed their wallet-sized card before - it lists BPA-free bottles, sippys, pacifiers, and tableware. What a fantastic resource!

    So I'm revisiting this because I just read an email with a link to this website, EWG's Guide to Infant Formula and Baby Bottles: Guide to Baby-Safe Bottles & Formula, which discusses how to make bottle-feeding as safe as possible. There's a one-page poster pdf and an executive summary that explains the findings regarding BPA in formula packaging. Explore the site for additional information, BPA in Formula -- How Harmful? as well as ways to Take Action!

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
    New Mothers Support Circle

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    Friday, February 6, 2009

    Prenatal Vitamin & Iron Supplements Recalled

    Well, in case the link to Survey Data on Lead in Women and Children's Vitamins in my How to Choose a Prenatal Vitamin post wasn't disturbing enough...

    I just read in a Raising Maine post by Gooddogz that some prenatal vitamins were just recalled by the FDA. But of course you knew that already, right?? Because of all the press coverage that information has already received. Not.

    Here's the list:

    Prescription Iron Supplement Products:

    Chromagen® Caplet
    Chromagen® FA Caplet
    Chromagen® Forte Caplet
    Encora® Capsule
    Niferex® Gold Tablet
    Niferex® 150 Forte Capsule
    Repliva 21/7® Tablet

    Prescription Prenatal Vitamin Products:

    PreCare® Chewable Tablet
    PreCare® Conceive Tablet
    PreCare Premier® Tablet
    PremesisRx® Tablet
    PrimaCare® Capsule/Tablet
    PrimaCare® Advantage™ Capsule/Tablet
    PrimaCare® ONE Capsule

    courtesy of this press release: Voluntary Nationwide Recall Of Prescription Prenatal and Iron Supplements .

    And there's more!

    Prescription Prenatal Vitamin Products:

    Advanced NatalCare® Tablets
    Advanced-RF NatalCare® Tablets
    Cal-Nate™ Tablets
    CareNatal™ DHA Tablets
    ComBgen Tablets
    NataCaps Capsules
    NatalCare Gloss Tablets
    NatalCare PIC Tablets
    NatalCare PIC Forte Tablets
    NatalCare Plus Tablets
    NatalCare Rx Tablets
    NatalCare Three Tablets
    NataTab FA Tablets
    NataTab RX Tablets
    NutriNate® Chewable Tablets
    NutriSpire™ Tablets
    Prenatal MR 90 FE Tablets
    Prenatal MTR w/Selinium Tablets
    Prenatal Rx 1 Tablets
    Prenatal Z, Advanced Formula Tablets
    Ultra NatalCare Tablets

    Prescription Iron Supplement Products:

    Anemagen Caplets
    Anemagen Forte Caplets
    Conison™ Capsules
    Fe-Tinic™ 150 Forte Capsules

    from this press release: Voluntary Nationwide Recall Of Prescription Prenatal and Iron Supplements .

    For more of my blog posts on vitamins and supplements, click on the nutrition tag below.

    Feel free to pass this information on in whatever way makes sense to you!

    Oh, and I'm writing this amid stacks of seed catalogs and lists of seeds. While I can't grow my own vitamins, it's recalls and information like this that makes me feel so lucky to be able to feed my family from my garden!

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
    New Mothers Support Circle

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    Wednesday, January 21, 2009

    Lecithin, Plugged Ducts & Mastitis

    I had not heard of lecithin until today, in the Midwifery Today e-newsletter, where they featured this information about it:
    Lecithin is present in many of the foods we eat, but it is most concentrated in foods that are high in cholesterol and fats. Organ meats, red meats and eggs are the most concentrated sources of dietary lecithin. With the current trend of reducing cardiovascular disease and improving overall health quality, many breastfeeding women lean toward low-calorie, low-cholesterol diets. People are limiting their consumption of organ meats and eggs, thus limiting their intake of lecithin (USDA 1979 and 1992). This reduction most likely results in an inadequate dietary intake of lecithin.

    The diet of the average American today also has less lecithin than that of the previous generation because purified and refined foods comprise the bulk of their diet. With the current demand for highly processed foods, refined sugars and hydrogenated fats, consumption of lecithin is further decreased, possibly even to the point where consumption of foods containing lecithin is at suboptimal levels for health.

    The average pregnant and breastfeeding woman eating the Standard American Diet (SAD), which is high in saturated fats, is not able to naturally produce enough lecithin to assist with the emulsification of fats in her blood stream and carry out milk duct cleanup.

    Scientists tell us that the body, without dietary sources, is not able to synthesize an adequate supply of lecithin. Lecithin is produced in the liver, and small amounts are present in foods such as brewer's yeast, grains, legumes, fish and wheat germ. People who eat the SAD, elderly people, breastfeeding women, infants, children and those who would like to improve memory, strengthen nerve growth and decrease buildup of fatty deposits in liver, heart and brain would benefit from supplemental lecithin.

    The best form of supplemental lecithin is the granular form. Avoiding liquid lecithin, usually found in gel capsules, is advisable. It is primarily designed for commercial use as an emulsifier in food, cosmetics, paints and so on. It is a bad-tasting, sticky material and consists of about 37% oil and only 60% phosphatides. This combination would add to the high dietary fat content that lecithin has to clean up in the body. Capsules are a high-calorie, low-potency supplement, but if a pregnant or breastfeeding woman cannot find granulated lecithin locally or has difficulty adapting to sprinkling granules on her food, taking lecithin in capsule form is far better than not taking it at all.

    — Cheryl Renfree Scott
    Excerpted from "Lecithin: It Isn't Just for Plugged Milk Ducts and Mastitis Anymore," Midwifery Today, Issue 76
    I thought it was particularly interesting in relation to plugged ducts and mastitis. Kellymom also has a page about plugged ducts and lecithin, Lecithin treatment for recurrent plugged ducts.

    Plugged ducts can be very uncomfortable and can lead to mastitis. Kellymom has some excellent general information on plugged ducts and mastitis: Plugged Ducts and Mastitis.

    These are the recommendations I share with my clients on how to avoid plugged ducts & mastitis:

    ** Do not wear bras that are too tight.

    ** Do not wear underwire bras.

    ** Take care of yourself: get some rest, and eat nutritious food.

    ** Breastfeed frequently, making sure to empty both breasts over the course of several feeding sessions.

    ** Pay attention to how you sleep – avoid compressing breast tissue overnight.

    ** Make sure to feed baby from both breasts during the night, too. Sometimes it’s easier to favor one breast if baby is sleeping with you.

    When I had mastitis (thankfully, only once) from a plugged duct, what helped me the most was hot showers and really hot compresses over the blockage and feeding my son from that side first, when he was hungriest. The trick that I didn’t hear about until later: point the baby’s chin toward the blockage (try different positions as necessary), as that tends to direct the most efficient pressure at the plugged duct.

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine

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    Thursday, December 4, 2008

    Vitamins: A Few Additional Resources

    Over the past several weeks, I've written posts about folic acid, calcium, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as how to choose a prenatal vitamin.

    To close this series of blog entries, here are some additional links on prenatal nutrition:

  • Navalgazing Midwife's very informative post on Vitamin D & Its Role in Women and Children

  • A Good Pregnancy Diet according to Dr. Tom Brewer

  • Excellent articles on prenatal nutrition from the Drs. Sears

  • offers lots of useful information on particular food items (processed and unprocessed) by typing in a food into the "enter food name" field at the top of the page. The site also has a Nutrient Search tool that allows you to select a particular nutrient and then view their list of foods that contain high amounts of the selected nutrient.

    If you can recommend any particularly useful or interesting books or websites on prenatal nutrition, please leave them in the comments!

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine

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    Wednesday, November 12, 2008

    Folic Acid (Folate)

    The importance of folic acid is becoming fairly well known because of an advertising campaign sponsored by the CDC (Center for Disease Control), the March of Dimes, and the National Council on Folic Acid. I think many women are aware of the link between adequate folic acid and reduced risk of neural tube defects, like spina bifda.

    Folic acid is critical very early in pregnancy. By the time many women realize they are pregnant, their baby's spinal column and brain are already fully formed (around week four). Many women plan pregnancies, but just about as many are surprised by an unplanned pregnancy. For these reasons, all the books I read recommend that women of childbearing age take a daily multivitamin that contains at least 400 mcg of folic acid, whether they are planning a pregnancy or not.

    During pregnancy, most of the books recommend 600-800mcg of folic acid, daily. All the prenatal vitamins I reviewed contained 800mcg of folic acid. While getting some folic acid through diet is certainly do-able, this particular vitamin is another one, like calcium and iron, where supplementing with a vitamin can make a lot of sense.

    What does Folic Acid do?
    Folic acid is best known for what it prevents: say folic acid and many of us think "prevent spinal bifida", even if we're not sure what spina bifida is. Inadequate folic acid has been linked to neural tube disorders, which are malformations of the central nervous system. Spina bifida is the most common of these neural tube disorders. Many studies have shown that adequate folic acid during the first weeks of pregnancy dramatically reduce these very serious disorders.

    In Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy, Elizabeth Somer explains just how important folic acid is: "Neural tube defects are the second leading cause of death among infants who die from birth defects in this country (Downs syndrome is the leading cause). One nutrient known to prevent NTDs is folic acid. Numersous studies since they early 1990s have consistently found that folic acid supplementation in women around the time of conception and during pregnancy reuces the risk of NTD, especially spina bifida and anencephaly. Women who supplement with folic acid also deliver babies at low risk for urinary tract, cardiovascular, and limb defects. You also tend to improve your fertility, are less likely to miscarry, and should suffer less from nausea" (6).

    It is important to continue to get adequate folic acid because low levels may increase the risk of complications during pregnancy. Some studies show that a deficiency of folic acid during pregnancy can also increase the chance of preterm birth.

    Having a Baby, Naturally also mentions folate's importance in DNA synthesis and the formation of red blood cells.

    What are good food sources for Folic Acid?
    Because folic acid is so important, many foods are now fortified with it, including cereal, pasta and rice.

    Good natural food sources of folic acid include: beans and peas, leafy green vegetables, asparagus, sunflower seeds, whole grains, papaya, oranges, blueberries and strawberries.

    According to Peggy O'Mara in Having a Baby Naturally, "you can get 400mcg of folate in your daily diet if you eat:
  • 1 glass of orange juice or 1/4C of wheat germ or a small handful of dried soybeans and
  • 1 egg or 2 slices of bread or 1/4 of a cantaloupe and
  • 1 cup of pinto, black or navy beans or two cups of cooked turnip greens, spinach or asparagus or 1 tablespoon brewer's yeast" (25).
  • Other excellent food sources include:
    1 cup of most breakfast cereals = 100mcg
    1/2 cup boiled lentils = 180mcg
    1/2 cup pinto beans = 147mcg
    1/2 cup boiled asparagus = 130mcg
    1/2 cup boiled spinach = 130mcg
    1/2 cup wheat germ = 100mcg
    1/2 cup orange juice, from concentrate = 109mcg
    1/2 cup chickpeas, canned = 80mcg
    1 cup spinach, fresh = 109mcg
    1 cup split peas, cooked = 123mcg

    How is Folic Acid absorbed?
    Folic acid is not stored in the body, according to The Pregnancy Book, by Dr. Sears, which is why it is so important for women of childbearing age to have a consistently adequate intake of folic acid. Dr. Sears also explains that the kidneys excrete more folic acid during pregnancy, which is one of the reasons why pregnant women need more folic acid than when they're not pregnant.

    Folic Acid supplements
    Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy explains that, unlike many other vitamins, folic acid supplements actually work better than food sources. "Supplements are better than food when it comes to raising blood levels of this B vitamin and reducing birth defects . . . Folic acid levels in the blood increased only in the women who supplemented or consumed fortified foods, while dietary intake of folic acid-rich foods produced no change in folate status . . . Your best bet is to include two or more servings of folic acid-rich foods in your daily diet AND take a supplement that includes at least 400mcg of folic acid" (8).

    Below are the books I used to write this post:
    The Pregnancy Book, by William Sears, MD and Martha Sears, RN
    The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating During Pregnancy, by W. Allan Walker, MD
    Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy, by Elizabeth Somer, MA, RD
    Having a Baby Naturally, by Peggy O'Mara

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine

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    Wednesday, November 5, 2008


    During pregnancy, women need various vitamins and minerals to grow the baby - both the process and the baby's actual body. If a woman does not obtain enough of these vitamins and minerals to support her own body as well as the pregnancy, her body will always provide for the baby first, and her own nutrition will suffer.

    Women who do not get enough calcium through food or supplement are at risk for osteoporosis (a reduction in bone mass) because of this fundamental principle. A pregnant woman's body will use the calcium stores in her bones to build the baby's skeleton.

    Most sources recommend at least 1200mg of calcium each day for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

    Do you know how much calcium is in your prenatal vitamin? Here are a few common brands and how much calcium each contains:
    Rite Aid Brand Prenatal: 200mg
    Rainbow Light Prenatal: 200mg
    GNC Prenatal: 500mg
    One-a-Day Prenatal: 300mg
    Stuart Prenatal: 200mg

    Clearly it's important for pregnant women to avoid counting on a prenatal vitamin to meet all of their calcium needs during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

    What does calcium do?
    As many of us know, calcium builds bones, so it is important prenatally for the baby's bones. Most us also know that calcium is in milk products - it's in breastmilk too! So, nursing mothers need calcium after baby is born too.

    Several studies suggest that optimal amounts of calcium decrease the risk of pregnancy-induced high blood pressure (PIH) and pre-eclampsia.

    In the Sears' Family Nutrition Book, Dr. Sears writes that "calcium is one of the most vital minerals for optimal functioning of your entire body" 955).

    What are good food sources for calcium?
    Good sources for calcium include dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese; fortified products like soy milk, orange juice, and cereal; fish; soy products; and greens. Here are some specific numbers:
  • Milk, low-fat: 1 cup = 300mg
  • Cottage Cheese: 1 cup = 155mg
  • Yogurt, low-fat, plain: 1 cup = 400mg
  • Parmesan cheese: 1 ounce = 336mg
  • Cheddar cheese: 1 ounce = 200mg
  • Sardines: 3 ounce = 371mg
  • Orange juice, calcium-fortified: 1 cup = 300mg
  • Tofu: 3 ounces = 190mg
  • Salmon: 3 ounces = 180mg
  • Broccoli, chopped (raw): 1/2 cup = 47mg
  • Almonds: 1 ounce = 80mg
  • Cereal, calcium-fortified: 1/2 cup = 100-200mg
  • Spinach, cooked: 1/2 cup = 136mg
  • Orange: 1 medium = 50mg
  • Soybean nuts: 1/4 cup = 116
  • Honestly, calcium was never a problem for me, because I love dairy. If I had one serving of cheese during the day (approximately 150mg), plus two glasses of milk for dinner (which equals 4 cups of milk, for a total of 1200mg), that was my calcium. People who don't tolerate dairy well, though, or who simply don't like it, need to be more mindful about including non-dairy calcium-rich foods in their daily diets.

    O'Mara offers these suggestions for obtaining 1,000mg of calcium through food sources:
  • 1 cup of milk or fortified soy or rice milk and
  • 1 cup of yogurt or fortified soy or rice yogurt or 1 cup of cooked collard or turnip greens and
  • 3 ounces of sardines or 1 stalk of broccoli and 1 cup of cooked turnip greens (26).

  • How is calcium absorbed?
    In Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy, Elizabeth Somer explains that "the total cost of pregnancy for a woman who has had two babies and has breast-fed them both for three months is approximately 100,000 mg, the equivalent of more than 333 extra glasses of nonfat milk!" (77).

    Somer offers this explanation for how the body handles its need for calcium during pregnancy and breastfeeding:
    "During gestation, it helps compensate for higher calcium needs by increasing the average amount absorbed into your bones from food - from about 20 to 25 percent prior to pregnancy to as much as 50 percent during pregnancy. While nursing, your body compensates for the loss in breast milk by reducing calcium losses in the urine . . . Regardless of absorption, you need to make sure you get enough of this mineral prior to, during, and after pregnancy" (78).
    In Having a Baby, Naturally, Peggy O'Mara explains that calcium is aborbed better when taken with vitamin C and vitamin D (26).

    O'Mara adds that "new research on calcium is beginning to make some experts believe that getting the body to retain calcium stores is much more crucial in the prevention of osteoporosis than how much of it you consume. Consuming too much alcohol and caffeine and eating a high-protein diet seem to deplete the body of its calcium stores more quickly. Exercising helps the body to hold on to its calcium supply" (26). These habits - avoiding alcohol, limiting caffeine, and exercising regularly - have many health benefits for pregnant women and their babies beyond calcium retention, but that's certainly one more good reason to make them a priority.

    Finally, calcium is aborbed best when smaller amounts of calcium-rich foods are eaten through the day and with meals.

    Calcium supplements
    For women who do not get enough calcium through their diet, a calcium supplement can make up the difference. Here is a list of recommendations to keep in mind if you decide to take a calcium supplement:
    Avoid "natural source" calcium pills like bone meal or oyster shell because they might contain lead, a very toxic metal.

    Take the calcium supplement at a different time - not at the same time as a prenatal or iron supplement, because calcium interferes with iron absorption, and iron interferes with calcium absorption.

    Take calcium with vitamin C and vitamin D (400IU) to increase absorption.

    Know how much of the calcium in your supplement is elemental - that's the amount that's actually usable by your body.

    Taking calcium before bed may help you sleep.

    Below are the books I used to write this post:
    The Pregnancy Book, by William Sears, MD and Martha Sears, RN
    The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating During Pregnancy, by W. Allan Walker, MD
    Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy, by Elizabeth Somer, MA, RD
    Having a Baby Naturally, by Peggy O'Mara

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine

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    Wednesday, October 22, 2008

    Prenatal Nutrition: Iron

    The sources that I read consistently suggest a goal of about 30mg per day of iron for pregnant women. This is a lot of iron for most women, and it can be a challenge to get that much iron through food. Iron is one of the nutritional needs that many pregnant women do not meet through diet, which is why prenatal supplements can be so helpful.

    What does iron do?

    The Family Nutrition Book, an excellent resource by Dr. William Sears and his wife Martha Sears, an R.N., explains why iron is critical to health:
    "Iron is necessary to make hemoglobin, the substance that carries oxygen through your blood to all the cells in your body. Hemoglobin is what makes red blood cells red. With insufficient iron, and therefore not enough hemoglobin, red blood cells become small and pale and don't carry enough oxygen. You may have heard the expression, 'tired blood.' This refers to blood that is low in iron and that can't carry enough oxygen to vital organs and muscles. 'Tired blood' results in a tired body.

    Iron is needed not only for blood but also for brains. Neurotransmitters, the neurochemicals that carry messages from one nerve to another, require sufficient iron to function properly. A person with an iron deficiency may have a tired mind as well as a tired body" (Sears 58).

    During pregnancy, a woman's blood volume increases by 40%, so additional iron is essential to maintain good health and energy levels. It is also important for the creation of the baby’s red blood cells. In Having a Baby, Naturally, Peggy O'Mara states that the health benefits of "getting enough iron during pregnancy may also reduce the risk of premature delivery and low birth weight" (26).

    Elizabeth Somer's book Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy explains the additional need for iron during pregnancy in even more detail, "The iron costs of pregnancy are high. More than 246mg of iron is stockpiled in the baby's tissue prior to delivery, and another 134mg is taken up by the placenta, and about 290mg is used to expand the volume of the mother's blood. That equates to about 2.4mg a day during pregnancy just to cover the iron costs of pregnancy. In addition, 1.0mg or more is needed to maintain the mother's normal body processes. Since you absorb only about 10 percent of dietary intake (although iron absorption increases as much as 50 percent during pregnancy in some women), you must consume about 30 to 60mg or more of iron daily to ensure optimal iron status" (84).

    What are the symptoms of iron deficiency?

    According to The Family Nutrition Book, the following are possible signs of iron-deficiency anemia:
    paleness (especially in the face, palms and nail beds)
    shortness of breath
    difficulty concentrating
    increased susceptibility to infections
    intolerance of cold temperatures
    brittle, thin, spoon-shaped nails (63).

    What food sources are good sources of iron?

    Beef (4oz): 3.5mg
    Ground beef (4oz): 2.5mg
    Chicken (4oz): 1.6mg (dark meat) to 1.0mg (white meat)
    Turkey (4oz): 2.5 (dark meat) to 1.6 (white meat)
    Potato with skin: 2.5mg
    Beans (1/2C): 2.0mg
    Lentils (4oz): 3.0mg
    Barley (4oz): 2.0mg
    Sweet Potatoes (4oz): 1.7mg
    Pumpkin seeds (1oz): 4.0mg
    Cream of Wheat (4oz): 5.0mg
    1/2C cooked spinach: 3mg
    1C dry roasted mixed nuts: 5.0mg
    1 egg: .7mg
    Quinoa (grain): 9.0mg
    Dried Fruit (1/4C): 2.0mg
    Iron-fortified breakfast cereal: check your favorite brands

    Peggy O'Mara writes that "You need 27mg of iron in your daily diet. You can get enough of it by consuming:
    1/2C of cream of wheat (fortified) or 2 servings of beef, turkey, or clams or 1 cup of lentils and

    1 cup of lima or kidney beans or black-eyed peas or 1/2C of prune juice, and

    1 wedge of watermelon or 12 dried apricot halves or 1T of blackstrap molasses or 2 eggs, and

    1 cup of cooked spinach or 2 cups of cooked kale or 4 oysters and

    2 slices of whole wheat bread or 1/2C of tofu or 1 chicken leg" (26).

    That equals out to some interesting food combinations, in my opinion, but it gives an idea of some iron-rich food sources and combinations. This is one way I can imagine including these selections in a day:
    Breakfast: Cream of wheat cereal and 6 apricot halves
    Snack: Wedge of watermelon
    Lunch: Sandwich on two slices of whole wheat bread
    Snack: Prune juice (?? but then I don't like beans)
    Dinner: Omelet of quiche with eggs and spinach

    There, that sounds more appetizing.

    How can I maximize iron absorption?

    "Eating food rich in vitamin C along with plant sources of iron helps to unbind phytates and the oxalic acid and increase iron absorption. Vitamin C can double the amount of iron absorbed from a food. Meat, poultry, and fish also enhance the absorption of iron from plant sources . . . Meat can double the amount of iron absorbed from veggies. The best partners for getting the maximum amount of iron out of food are meat and foods high in vitamin C eaten together at the same meal" (Sears 59).

    Here are some suggestions of food combinations to maximize iron absorption listed in the Sears book: spaghetti with meat and tomato sauce; meat and potatoes; chicken fajitas with broccoli, sweet peppers and tomatoes; fresh fruit, iron-fortified cereal.

    Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy offers this helpful information, "Iron intake involves a balance between iron promoters and iron inhibitors, and entails more than just eating iron-rich foods. Here are a few ways to maximize your promoters to guarantee you get the most from your diet:
    1. Always consume a vitamin C-rich food with every meal, such as orange juice, a tossed salad, broccoli, more most fruits. Vitamin C improves the absorption of iron and counteracts some of the inhibitors in foods, such as phytates in whole grains and tannins in tea and coffee.

    2. Consuming small amount of red meat, such as extra-lean beef, with large amounts of iron-rich plants, such as split pea and ham soup, increases the absorption of the plant iron.

    3. Cook in cast-iron skillets. The iron leaches out of the pot into the food, raising the iron content of the meal.

    4. Select iron-fortified foods.

    5. Drink tea and coffee between meals. Tannins in these beverages (even if they are decaf) reduce iron absorption by up to 80 percent if consumed with food.

    6. Take iron supplements on an empty stomach to improve absorption [as long as this doesn't cause nausea!]" (85).

    Additional suggestions I can think of:
    Potato with skin, chopped broccoli, and a little chopped ham (or bacon)
    Beef-barley stew
    Mashed sweet potatoes with a little orange juice and honey
    Cream of Wheat cereal with chopped almonds and chopped dried fruit
    Breakfast cereal and a glass of orange juice
    Breakfast cereal, nuts, and dried fruit trail mix
    Quinoa hot cereal for breakfast with chopped dried fruits
    Qunioa pilaf
    Chili with ground beef and tomatoes

    It's important to remember that iron from animal ("heme" iron) sources is absorbed much higher amounts than iron from plant sources ("non-heme" iron). Heme iron is absorbed at a rate of 15-35% whereas non-heme iron is absorbed at a rate of only 2-20%. Dr. Sears reminds us that "the percentage of iron listed on the package label is certainly not the amount of iron that gets into your bloodstream. This is especially true of iron-fortified cereals, in which only 4 to 10 percent of the iron listed actually gets absorbed. The amount of iron absorbed from any food depends on the type of iron in the food, the body's need for iron, and the company of other foods eaten at the same meal" (65).

    Peggy O'Mara writes recommends concentrating on "dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale. Also eat plenty of whole grains, seaweed, soy products and fortified cereals" if you follow a vegetarian diet (26).

    Finally, "The following foods hinder iron absorption: tea and coffee; high fiber foods such as bran; soy proteins; antacid medicines; milk or dairy products consumed with a meal" (Sears 60).

    What about iron supplements?

    Because adequate iron intake is critical for mother and baby during pregnancy, and because it is higher than what many women are able to consume through food alone, some women find that they need to take an iron supplement. I have heard good things (anecdotally) about Floradix, which is available at many health food stores and on Amazon, where you can check out their reviews, too. Here's what The Motherwear blog had to say about Floradix, Help for the Weary.

    O'Mara does caution: "Most prenatal vitamins will provide the amount of iron necessary for expecting women. It is very important, however, to check with your health care provider before taking any additional supplements because too much of it can be toxic. Also keep in mind that some women will experience more constipation with increased iron supplementation" (26).

    If anyone has any experience with overcoming anemia or any iron-rich recipes, please leave a comment!

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine

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    Thursday, October 16, 2008

    How to Choose a Prenatal Vitamin

    Many women take prenatal vitamins during their pregnancy. Some expectant moms take store brand vitamins, others get a prescription from their care provider for a specific brand. Since taking a prenatal vitamin is such a common aspect of pregnancy, I thought I'd spend the next few "Nutrition Wednesday" posts on it. This post will be an overview - and then each week I'll highlight a few common vitamins/minerals contained in the vitamin: what each does for mom and baby; common dosages; what foods contain this nutrient etc.

    Interestingly, as I checked in several pregnancy and prenatal nutrition books, I found that there was not a consensus on prenatal vitamins: several books went so far as to explain that if mother's diet is excellent, prenatal vitamins are unnecessary. Most of the my sources, however, did suggest using prenatal vitamins almost as insurance:

    The Harvard Medical Guide to Healthy Eating During Pregnancy has a helpful chapter called "Dietary Supplements - What's Good and What's Not". In this chapter, the author explains that
    "Most physicians recommend taking a prenatal vitamin to ensure that pregnant women are not deficient in nutrients. This is an important point, because the goal of taking a vitamin is not to 'boost' the levels of any one nutrient to excess but to bring abnormally low levels of nutrients to a normal level. A reputable supplement with the right amount of vitamins and minerals can serve as a safety net in case the foods you eat fail to supply a critical nutrient that your baby needs, or if nausea and vomiting are preventing you from eating a balanced diet" (92).

    Peggy O'Mara writes in Having a Baby, Naturally :
    "Taking a prenatal vitamin can help ensure adequate vitamin levels, although it should not be used as a substitute for a good diet. Experiment with the best time of day to take your supplement, because taking it on an empty stomach may contribute to nausea. Taking it with a meal is usually best" (11).

    Okay, so that's why many doctors and midwives recommend taking prenatal vitamins... now, which one to take? Here are some guidelines:

    First, take a prenatal supplement, meant specifically for pregnant or breastfeeding (lactating) women. Prenatal vitamins have been modified to correspond with pregnant women's needs, and will work better than a traditional multivitamin.

    The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating During Pregnancy offers these additional considerations:
    "It is safest to choose a supplement from a large, reputable manufacturer at a retail pharmacy, because these companies will be under higher scrutiny to provide a safe product than small companies that sell products over the Internet or in smaller stores. Choose a formula specifically designed for pregnant women, and check to see that it provides the level of vitamins and minerals that you need. You can ask your doctor to recommend an over-the-counter vitamin or to prescribe one through your pharmacy. Some people may also choose not to take a multivitamin, instead preferring individual supplements of the nutrients they need most. In this case, it's important to make sure you are getting the right dose, because individual-nutrient supplements are often sold as doses above the recommended daily dose" (93).

    According to this same book, here is a list of Dietary Reference Intakes During Pregnancy, for women 19 years old or older:

    Calcium: 1000mg
    Phosphorous: 700mg
    Magnesium: 350mg
    Vitamin A: 770mcg (2,560IU)
    Vitamin D: 5mcg (200IU)
    Flouride: 3mg
    Thiamin: 1.4mg
    Riboflavin: 1.4mg
    Niacin: 18mg
    Vitamin B6: 1.9mg
    Folate: 600mcg
    Vitamin B12: 2.6mcg
    Panthothenic acid: 6mg
    Biotin: 30 mcg
    Choline: 450mg
    Vitamin C: 85mg
    Vitamin E: 15IU
    Iron: 27mg
    Zinc: 11mg
    Copper: 1000mcg
    Selenium: 60mcg
    Iodine: 220mcg

    Elizabeth Somer writes in Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy that
    "the secret to supplementation is to do it sensibly. Choose a multiple vitamin and mineral that supplies at least 400mcg of folic acid and approximately 100-200 percent of the Daily Value for all other nutrients. If you don't consume daily at least two calcium-rich foods, such as nonfat milk and fortified soy milk, and lots of magnesium-rich whole grains, wheat germ, and legumes, then consider supplementing your multiple with extra calcium (500mg) and magnesium (250mg) since no one-pill multiple contains enough of these two minerals. In addition, you will need additional iron if blood or tissue iron levels are low" (10).

    Here is Mothering's response to "I'm looking for a really good prenatal vitamin and wondered what your suggestions would be."
    I have used DaVinci Laboratory's Ultimate Prenatal Vitamins for 20 years with excellent results. It is in a base of herbs so consult with your midwife or doctor about your own health needs in this area. Some vitamin shops carry this product although it was formerly for professional use only. Ask your doctor to order it for you if you cannot find it locally visit their website at Wishing you a beautiful pregnancy and birth experience.

    So there are a few caveats about prenatal vitamins:

    1. Don't assume all prenatal supplements (or supplements in general) are safe.

    The author of the Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating During Pregnancy cautions that "dietary supplements are regulated differently from either food or medications. The responsibility for ensuring a supplement's safety lies with the manufacturer, not an overseeing agency such as the FDA . . . supplements that contain the same ingredient have been found to vary widely in quality and content. This doesn't mean that all supplements are dangerous; most reputable companies know that ensuring a safe, consistent product is in their best interest. But you can't assume that everything sold on your pharmacy's shelves [or online!!] has been tested for quality and safety" (92).

    For example, you might want to check out a vitamin on this list before you buy it: Survey Data on Lead in Women's and Children's Vitamins. I was shocked to notice a significant overlap between health food store vitamins and the vitamins on the list for the highest lead content.

    2. Prenatal vitamins sometimes cause nausea in pregnant women, especially in the first trimester. If your prenatal vitamins make you nauseous or add to your morning sickness, consider switching brands or - what I've found anecdotally to help the most women - take them at night after dinner rather than in the morning on an empty or nearly empty stomach. The Midwifery Today e-newsletter had an article about this common problem just recently: Nausea and Prenatal Vitamins

    3. While taking prenatal vitamins can be "insurance" against a nutritional deficit, it's critically important to eat a balanced, healthy diet during pregnancy. Our bodies absorb nutrients much better from food than from vitamins, and many times the combinations involved in foods or traditional recipes combine together to work better in our bodies. Also, there are lots of important phytochemicals in fruits, vegetables and whole grains that are not available (yet?) in prenatal supplements.

    Several of the books mention iron, calcium, and folic acid as three nutrients in prenatal vitamins that are particularly important, because many pre-pregnant and pregnant women do not get adequate amounts of these nutrients through the foods they eat. We'll start with those next week. In the meantime, these are the books I used to compile this information, and would recommend reading as additional resources:

    The Pregnancy Book, by William Sears, MD and Martha Sears, RN
    The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating During Pregnancy, by W. Allan Walker, MD
    Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy, by Elizabeth Somer, MA, RD
    Having a Baby Naturally, by Peggy O'Mara

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine

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    Wednesday, October 15, 2008

    Prenatal Vitamins

    Many pregnant women take prenatal vitamins, as recommended by most care providers. If you take prenatal vitamins, do you know what vitamins and minerals they contain, and at what levels?

    This is a "quiz" I do with families during our first class:

    How much of your daily requirements are supplied by your prenatal vitamin?

    Write down your estimate by each of the following ingredients:

    1. Vitamin A ______%

    2. Vitamin C ______%

    3. Folic Acid ______%

    4. Iron ______%

    5. Protein ______%

    6. Calcium ______%

    7. Omega-3 Fatty Acid ______%

    Some people believe that by taking a vitamin (or vitamins), they're covering their nutritional "bases" without eating a variety of foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Does taking a prenatal vitamin make up for a poor diet?

    I'll post a follow-up discussion and resources on prenatal vitamins tomorrow!

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine

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    Wednesday, October 8, 2008

    Meals to Freeze

    Many women are approached with offers to help "after the baby comes". I suggest considering asking these generous friends to bring a meal that you can eat and freeze the leftovers (or make two meals: one for now and one for later!). Or, when things are going smoothly during pregnancy, make a few extra meals "for your freezer".

    Postpartum life is busy with lots of new adjustments, and although everyone knows good nutrition is important, it can be easy to sacrifice to sleeping, or baby care. Breastfeeding mothers, in particular, need to be sure they are eating well.

    Here are a few recipes that I've enjoyed postpartum - they do run the gamut from easy/quick to more involved as well as from lower-fat to yum: cheese! They all freeze well, just be sure to store them carefully in freezer bags, foil (line casserole dish with two criss-crossing layers of foil; fill; lift out of casserole and seal foil), tupperware, etc. Many of the recipes can be portioned out and stored in one-person sizes, so they can be reheated easily without waste.

    Keep in mind, too, that other things you already make might also freeze well: soups, muffins, breads, pesto, oven-baked "fried" chicken, pizza dough, pie crust etc. Frozen berries and vegetables are also great to stock up on to round out a meal.


    2 cups regular oats
    1/2 cup pecan pieces
    1/2 cup maple syrup
    1/4 cup packed brown sugar
    2 tablespoons canola oil
    1/8 teaspoon salt

    Cooking spray

    Preheat oven to 300°.

    Combine oats and next 5 ingredients (through salt); spread on a large jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 300° for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Cool completely.

    Serve with plain or vanilla yogurt and fruit (banana, berries, etc).

    Freeze in freezer bag.


    This doubles easily and freezes well.

    6-8 chicken breasts or thighs, boneless
    4-6 Slices Swiss Cheese
    1 Can Cream Of Mushroom Soup
    1/2 C White Wine
    2 C Seasoned Stuffing Mix
    4 Tbsp Melted Butter

    Wash chicken pieces with cold water and pat dry. Cut off any extra fat. Place in a greased casserole dish large enough to hold them in ONE layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with cheese slices.

    Mix wine and soup until smooth and pour over everything.

    Mix stuffing with melted butter and sprinkle evenly on top.

    Bake at 300 F for 1 1/2 hours.

    Serves 4-6

    Freeze cooked casserole in portion sizes to reheat in the microwave, or freeze unbaked casserole, thaw in refrigerator and bake.


    This is more work and a lot of ingredients, but really, really good.

    2 tablespoons (2 turns around the pan) extra-virgin olive oil
    4 cloves garlic, chopped
    1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
    1 cubanelle Italian long green pepper, seeded and diced
    1 large sweet onion, peeled and chopped
    2 ribs celery, chopped
    1/2 cup large green olives, pitted and chopped
    1/2 cup Kalamata black olives, pitted and chopped
    1 (3-ounce) jar capers, drained
    1/2 cup (a couple of handfuls) golden raisins
    1 medium firm eggplant, diced
    1 (32-ounce) can diced tomatoes
    1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
    1 handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
    Penne pasta (12-16oz)
    Mozzarella Cheese or Italian blend cheese, shredded (8oz)

    Place the cutting board near the stovetop. Preheat a big, deep pot over medium heat. Add oil, garlic, and crushed pepper. As you chop vegetables (peppers, onion, and celery), add them to the pot. Once vegetables are in there, increase heat a bit.

    Stir in olives, capers, and raisins. Salt the diced eggplant and stir into the pot. Add tomatoes, diced and crushed, to the pot and stir caponata well to combine. Cover pot and cook caponata 15 to 20 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Stir in parsley and remove pan from heat.

    Combine half (freeze other half) and pour over cooked penne pasta. Sprinkle with parsley, red pepper flakes, and shredded cheese. Bake until cheese melts.

    I freeze the caponata mix already cooked and then thaw/microwave; make pasta and bake.


    2lbs Italian sausage
    2t garlic, minced
    2C onions, chopped
    5 jars commercial spaghetti sauce (12C)
    ½ C green pepper, chopped
    4 16 oz cans Italian-style stewed tomatoes, cut up, undrained
    ½ C celery, chopped

    Brown sausage, onion, green pepper, celery and garlic in large pot. Add sauce & stewed tomatoes. Simmer on low to medium for at least one hour. Stir occasionally. Allow to cool. Set aside sauce needed for other recipes and freeze the rest in bags/containers for sauce over pasta.


    These freeze very well (as burritos, or the mix) and it's easy to make a much larger batch of filling. I’ve used one chile from a can of chipotle/adobo instead of the jalapeno and that works fine too.

    3/4 cup rice (I use brown)
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    2 medium onions, chopped
    4 garlic cloves, chopped
    1 jalapeño chile, chopped (ribs and seeds removed, for less heat) or 1 canned chipotle chile
    1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    coarse salt and ground pepper
    3 tablespoons tomato paste
    3 cans (15 ounces each) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
    1 box frozen corn kernels (10 ounces)
    6 scallions, thinly sliced
    8 burrito-size (10-inch) flour tortillas
    2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (8 ounces)
    Salsa and sour cream (optional)

    Cook rice according to package instructions; set aside.

    Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add onions, garlic, jalapeño, and cumin; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 10to 12 minutes. Add tomato paste, and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

    Add beans and 1 1/2 cups water; bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 10 to 12 minutes. Add corn; cook to heat through, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in scallions. [I just mix rice into bean mixture at this point.]

    Heat tortillas according to package instructions; fill with rice, bean mixture, and cheese.

    Assemble: Mound 1/4 cup rice, 3/4 cup bean mixture, and 1/4 cup cheese on one side of tortilla. Fold, and hold in sides. Starting from filled end, holding sides in as you work, tightly roll into a bundle. Place on a baking sheet, seam side down, and prepare remaining burritos.

    Serve immediately, with salsa and sour cream, if using, or wrap individually in plastic and freeze up to 3 months.

    Reheating From Frozen

    Microwave and oven: Remove frozen burritos from plastic wrap. Place on a microwave-safe plate; microwave on high for 3 minutes. Transfer to baking sheet; bake at 450° until crispy, about 10 minutes. This is our favorite quick method. (I do it this way, but crisp up in my toaster oven.)

    Oven only: Remove frozen burritos from plastic wrap; rewrap individually in aluminum foil. Place on a baking sheet; bake at 450°, 40 minutes; remove foil, and bake to crisp, 5 to 10 minutes. (To reheat defrosted burritos, remove any wrapping, and bake for 10 minutes.)

    Microwave only: Remove frozen burritos from plastic wrap. Place on a microwave-safe plate, covered with a microwave-safe bowl, and defrost at high power for 3 to 4 minutes; uncover, and microwave on high, 3 to 4 minutes longer.


    6 beaten eggs
    12 oz grated cheddar cheese
    6 T flour
    half a stick of butter
    1 - 24 oz carton of cottage cheese
    1 large bag of frozen broccoli (I prefer about same amount of fresh, washed/chopped/steamed - about one large head)
    Garlic powder

    Melt butter in a 9 x 13 dish as oven is preheating to 350. Combine all the rest of the ingredients and pour into the dish. Make for 1 hour or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes and then eat.

    Can be frozen either in a large blocks for dinner or small squares of foil for lunches.


    This doubles, triples etc. very easily.

    Mix 1 pound of Ground turkey
    2 eggs
    enough Pepperige Farm stuffing to hold the loaf shape
    1 jar turkey gravy per loaf

    Shape into loaves, wrap well and freeze.

    Can bake from frozen - put in 350 degree oven for 1.5 hours. Can also be cooked in the crockpot - start in the morning on low.

    Put turkey gravy over it as it bakes. If you like sweet potatoes or baked potatoes, throw in oven to cook while turkey loaf does.


    You can use half sharp cheddar cheese and half Monterey jack cheese. Easy to make half for dinner and freeze other half. To save time, you can use no-bake lasagna noodles and/or shredded cheese.

    2 Lb Low-Fat Cottage Cheese
    1 Tbsp Parsley
    1/4 C Butter -- Melted
    2 Eggs
    1 C Parmesan Cheese -- Grated
    1 Lb Monterey Jack Cheese -- Grated
    9 Lasagna Noodles
    3 Pkg Spinach – Chopped – thawed and drained
    Garlic Powder

    Mix cottage cheese, parsley, butter, eggs, and seasonings.

    Grease a 9x13" baking pan and layer as following: 3 noodles, 1/2 cottage cheese mix, 1/2 jack cheese, 1/2 spinach, and 1/2 Parmesan cheese.

    Repeat, ending with noodles.

    Dot with a little more butter and sprinkle with a bit of Parmesan cheese.

    Bake at 350 F oven for 35-40 minutes.

    Garnish with basil and/or parsley and serve.

    Freeze in portion-sizes, or in unbaked in an 8x8" pan. Reheat in microwave (portion-sizes) or thaw and bake in the pan.

    Do you have a favorite meal that freezes well? To share it, just leave the recipe in the comments section.

    PS. This is my fiftieth blog post - the first one published 4/30/08. My web traffic has more than doubled - almost tripled (!!) since then.

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine

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    posted by Christina Kennedy at 1 Comments

    Wednesday, October 1, 2008

    Local Eating Part Two: More Recipes

    What a delicious time of year this is: many get the urge to bake, or to cook warm, hearty meals as the weather gets cooler. And there is still lots of choices for local eating. At my local farmstand (that carries only locally-grown food), there are late-season tomatoes, peppers, green beans and corn, plus potatos, lots of winter squash, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, lettuce and spinach, and maple syrup and honey. The local apple orchards are offering picking on at least five kinds of apples. Yum!

    Last week, I offered recipes for foods with kale, pears, and apples. This week, I will focus on root vegetables, winter squash and spinach.


    Spinach, either raw or cooked, can be very tasty and is very nutritious. It is a good source of Niacin and Zinc, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Vitamin K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.

    One of our favorite spinach side-dishes takes about 15 minutes, and there really is no recipe. It's just a simple fresh spinach saute: wash spinach very well, and spin mostly dry; heat a little olive oil in a saute pan, and add a few cloves of chopped garlic. Saute the garlic on low-medium heat for a minute or two until it is just starting to turn golden (not brown!). Add the spinach, stir to combine, and cover until the spinach starts to wilt & cook down. If you're cooking a lot of spinach, you may need to add the spinach in intervals so it all fits into the pan (when the first bit cooks down, add the second bit, etc.). When the spinach is wilted/sauteed how you like it, season with salt and pepper & serve. Variations include adding a little bit of red pepper flakes with the garlic; squeezing lemon, or a little of your favorite vinegar just before serving. Some people even add oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, olives, capers, golden raisins, or pine nuts.

    A delicious spinach meal comes from the Everyday Food magazine:

    Easy Egg Florentine with Baby Spinach and Goat Cheese

    4 slices (1 inch thick) sourdough bread
    3 tablespoons olive oil
    Coarse salt and ground pepper
    2 scallions, thinly sliced
    1 pound baby spinach
    1/3 cup crumbled fresh (pasteurized) goat cheese (3 ounces)
    4 large eggs

    Heat broiler, with rack set 4 inches from heat. Place bread on a baking sheet, and brush both sides with 2 tablespoons oil. Season with salt and pepper. Broil until golden, 1 to 3 minutes per side; set aside.

    In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium. Add scallions and as much spinach as will fit; season with salt and pepper. Cook until wilted, tossing and adding more spinach as room becomes available, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain off excess liquid; mix in goat cheese. Transfer to a bowl; cover to keep warm. Set aside.

    Wipe out skillet; heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil over medium. Gently crack eggs into skillet; season with salt and pepper. Cook until whites are almost set, about 1 minute. Cover, and remove from heat; let stand until whites are set but yolks are still soft, about 3 minutes.

    Top each piece of toast with spinach mixture and 1 egg; serve immediately.


    Root vegetables include potatoes, parsnips, carrots, turnips, etc. A large potato, with skin is a good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Potassium and Manganese, plus has 7g of protein. Carrots are, of course, a very good source of Vitamin A, as well as Dietary Fiber, Vitamin K and Manganese. You can check out other root vegetables on this nutrition data website.

    Here's a simple recipe that uses a delicious variety of root vegetables:

    Roasted Root Vegetables

    3 1/2 cups coarsely chopped carrot (about 1 1/2 pounds)
    3 cups coarsely chopped parsnip (about 1 pound)
    1 3/4 cups coarsely chopped peeled turnips (about 1/2 pound)
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1 teaspoon brown sugar
    1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    2 medium red onions, each cut into 8 wedges
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
    1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

    Preheat oven to 450°.

    Combine first 7 ingredients in a shallow roasting pan; toss well. Bake at 450° for 1 hour, stirring after 30 minutes. Add parsley, vinegar, and pepper, tossing to coat.

    Nutritional Information
    Calories:175 (26% from fat) Fat:5.1g (sat 0.7g,mono 3.4g,poly 0.6g) Protein:2.9g
    Carbohydrate:31.9g Fiber:6.7g Cholesterol:0.0mg Iron:1.3mg Sodium:267mg Calcium:80mg

    And here's a potato chowder that also uses fresh corn:

    Corn and Fingerling Potato Chowder with Applewood-Smoked Bacon

    2 slices applewood-smoked bacon (I used regular)
    1 3/4 cups diced onion
    3 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 7 ears)
    1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
    1/2 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
    1/2 cup half-and-half
    8 ounces (1/4-inch-thick) rounds fingerling potato slices (I used red potatoes)
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    Thyme sprigs (optional)

    Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; crumble. Add onion to drippings in pan; cook 8 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add corn, chopped thyme, and garlic to pan; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in broth, milk, half-and-half, and potatoes; bring to a simmer. Cover and cook 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally.

    Transfer 2 cups potato mixture to a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth; return pureed mixture to pan. [Or, if you have one, use an immersion blender!!] Stir in salt and black pepper; sprinkle with crumbled bacon. Garnish with thyme sprigs, if desired.

    Nutritional Information
    Calories:186 (27% from fat) Fat:5.5g (sat 2.7g,mono 1.2g,poly 0.4g) Protein:7.6g
    Carbohydrate:27.8g Fiber:3.4g Cholesterol:18mg Iron:1.1mg Sodium:398mg Calcium:84mg


    There are so many interesting pumpkin recipes that go beyond pie - one of my new favorite uses for canned pumpkin is in pasta sauces, but I also have two favorite pumpkin muffin recipes, and a recipe for pumpkin butter that is especially wonderful at this time of year. These recipes call for canned pumpkin, but skinned, roasted, pureed fresh pumpkin can easily be substituted. If you roast your own, be sure to save & roast the seeds, too! Pumpkin is a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Iron and Manganese.

    Winter squash can also be cooked lots of ways - my family's favorite is the winter squash puree below, but we also enjoy it roasted. Winter squash is very nutritious - to see the analysis of a particular winter squash, check out NutritionData.

    Pumpkin Butter

    This is good swirled in plain yogurt and granola; over cream cheese served with whole-grain crackers; in oatmeal; and on toast.

    1 (29 ounce) can pumpkin puree, approx. 3 1/2 cups
    3/4 cup apple juice
    2 teaspoons ground ginger
    1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
    1 1/3 cups brown sugar
    1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    Juice of half a lemon (I don't actually use this)

    1. Combine pumpkin, apple juice, spices, and sugar in a large saucepan; stir well. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes or until thickened. Stir frequently. Adjust spices to taste. Stir in lemon juice, or more to taste.
    2. Once cool, pumpkin butter can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge.

    To preserve: Spoon hot pumpkin mixture into hot jars, filling to within 1/4 inch from top. Remove air bubbles; wipe jar rims. Cover at once with metal lids, and screw on bands. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

    (I haven't canned it, but I have frozen it.)

    Pumpkin Muffins

    These very simple muffins are so good. They can easily be made into mini-muffins, too; mini chocolate chips are a delicious addition.

    1½ cups all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin (from a 15-oz can)
    1/3 cup vegetable oil*
    2 large eggs
    1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice
    1¼ cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar**
    ½ teaspoon baking soda
    ½ teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon cinnamon

    Put oven in middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Put liners in muffin cups.

    Whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs, pumpkin-pie spice, 1¼ cups sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until smooth, then whisk in flour mixture until just combined.

    Stir together cinnamon and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in another bowl.

    Divide batter among muffin cups (each should be about three-fourths full), then sprinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake until puffed and golden brown and wooden pick or skewer inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.

    Cool in pan on a rack 5 minutes, then transfer muffins from pan to rack and cool to warm or room temperature.

    Ginger-Pumpkin Muffins

    These muffins are a little more complicated to make, but so good.

    5 1/2 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger
    1/2 cup dried currants or raisins
    2 tablespoons brandy

    2 cups sifted unbleached all purpose flour
    1 tablespoon ground ginger
    2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cooked pumpkin puree or canned solid pack pumpkin
    1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons low-fat buttermilk
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    2 large egg whites
    1 large egg
    3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
    1/2 cup unsulfured (light) molasses
    1/4 cup vegetable oil

    Preheat oven to 375°F. Line sixteen 1/3-cup muffin cups with paper liners. Mix 2 1/2 tablespoons crystallized ginger, currants and brandy in small bowl.
    Sift flour, ground ginger, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt into medium bowl.

    Whisk pumpkin puree, buttermilk and vanilla in another bowl. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites and egg in large bowl until foamy. Add 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar; beat until light, about 2 minutes. Beat in molasses and oil. Beat in dry ingredients alternately with pumpkin mixture in 3 additions each. Stir in currant mixture.

    Divide batter among prepared muffin cups.

    Mix 3 tablespoons crystallized ginger and 1 tablespoon brown sugar in small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over muffins. (I just sprinkle with the sugar, as my kids don't like the lumps of ginger on top...)

    Bake muffins until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

    Butternut Squash Puree with Orange, Ginger and Honey

    This can be made with acorn squash as well.

    Nonstick vegetable oil spray
    5 pounds butternut squash, each cut in half lengthwise, seeded (about 2 very large)
    1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
    2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
    2 tablespoons honey
    2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger (I just use some powdered ginger)
    1 teaspoon grated orange peel (I leave the peels out)
    1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
    3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon (scant) ground allspice (I sprinkle some nutmeg instead)

    Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray large baking sheet with nonstick spray. Place squash, cut side down, on prepared sheet. Bake until squash are very tender when pierced with fork, about 50 minutes. Cool slightly. Scoop out pulp from squash and place in processor. Using on/off turns, puree pulp until smooth. Transfer squash puree to bowl.

    Combine butter, orange juice concentrate, honey, ginger, and orange peel in heavy small saucepan. Boil until mixture is reduced to 1/3 cup, about 3 minutes. Stir mixture into squash puree. Mix in lemon peel, cinnamon, and allspice. Season generously with salt and pepper. (I do this differently; I just add the oj concentrate, honey and spices to the squash in the food processor and puree, then serve.)

    (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium-low heat, stirring often, or cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high until heated through, about 5 minutes.)

    Transfer to bowl and serve.

    Happy eating!

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine


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