Friday, June 29, 2012

Weekend Foodie: Pregnancy Superfoods (Part 1)

Yup, it's official. I am, as they used to say, "in the family way". I just reached the halfway mark (20 weeks) and am feeling great. I'm a big believer in the power of food to affect our well-being and health and this is no more important than during pregnancy. So here's a list of the superfoods that I've been tucking into with some suggested recipes for including them in your daily meals and snacks. Delicious and nutritious whether you're pregnant or not!

1. Eggs

Why the poor egg yolk has been so maligned during the past 20 years I don't know (I was astounded to watch someone in America order an egg white omlette with bacon, erm?). Yes, eggs contain cholesterol, but so do all animal products. As long as you eat them (and meat and dairy) in moderation, they are a fantastic complete food source. Eggs contain protein (more than chicken), iron (to help avoid fatigue and anaemia as your blood supply increases), vitamin B12 and phosphorus (both needed to produce DNA and also for development of the brain and nervous system, so very important in pregnancy). And that's just a few of their many properties.

Here's one of my favourite, and quick, ways with eggs that I often make for lunch. It combines all the goodness of eggs, with tomatoes for vitamin C, cheese for extra protein and calcium and basil, which can help ward off nausea and anxiety.

Tomato, Basil and Cheese Omelette (serves 1)

2 eggs, beaten
4 cherry tomatoes, chopped
very small handful of chopped basil
1/2 handful of grated hard cheese
wholegrain toast and olive oil, to serve

Gently cook the chopped tomatoes in a frying pan with a little sunflower oil, after a couple of minutes, add the eggs, scramble lightly then form into a round shape in the middle of the pan. Sprinkle the basil and cheese on top. When the bottom of the eggs is starting to cook and hold together, flip half of the omelette over the other half, cook for another minute and then turn over and cook a little longer to make sure both sides are lightly browned. Serve with wholegrain toast drizzled with a little olive oil.

2. Avocados

I'm a little obsessed with avocados. I can't get enough of them. They make a great and easy spread on toast (with a little olive oil and seasoning), as a salsa or dip (mix in some chopped tomatoes, chilli and a squeeze of lime or lemon), or simply chopped and added to a salad. And they are another great complete food source, being rich in calcium, omega 3 and vitamin B6 (both involved in baby's brain development), and folate (crucial in the first trimester). You may have been told they are high in fat, but not all fats are equal (neither are all calories) and the fat in avocado is the good kind - the kind that makes your skin lovely and soft and your brain function better, not the artery clogging kind.

* Tip: To avoid bruised or hard avocados, buy them when they are reasonably firm and store them right next to your bananas which will help ripen them after a few days (keep bananas away from other fruit that you don't want to ripen so quickly).

3. Bananas & Berries

Bananas are such a great food source and a handy snack, so I always make sure I have some at home.  We've all heard that they are good source of potassium, but they are also a good source of iodine, zinc and iron. As well as just eating them straight from their own packaging, there are so many things you can do with bananas: Mash them and add them to porridge (instead of sugar for sweetness) or spread on toast (see below), chop and add to muesli, make my Guilt-free Banana Loaf, or use them to make this dairy-free ice-cream:

Guilt-free chocolate ice-cream (serves 1)

1 banana
1/2 cup milk/oat milk/rice milk (whatever your preference)
1 tbsp cocoa powder

Chop the banana and freeze in a plastic food bag for at least 3 hours. Using a hand blender, blend with the milk and cocoa powder. Eat straight away before it melts. If you want to be fancy you can grate some dark chocolate on top and serve with some fresh rasberries. I was amazed how good this tasted when I first tried it. It's also a great way to use up bananas that are ripe.

I particularly love the combination of bananas with vitamin and antioxidant rich berries, for example in my Creative Juice Smoothie or as in this recipe for Mashed Bananas & Blueberries on Toast which I confess I have had on occasion for lunch although breakfast would probably be more appropriate (I simply added a little agave nectar, cinnamon to the mashed bananas and topped with blueberries):

* Tip: Cinnamon helps regulate blood sugar levels so is a great addition to anything containing sugar (even natural sugars in fruit can impact on your blood sugar levels).

4. Chickpeas

Cheap, convenient (if you buy canned) and full of goodness! Chickpeas are a great source of protein (especially when mixed with other plant protein sources), fibre and are a low GI (slow energy releasing) carbohydrate (so you don't feel hungry again so quickly).

I add them to stews or make a Hummous Spread, which is dead easy: I simply drain and rinse a can of chickpeas and whizz them up using a hand blender with a good glug of olive oil, some lemon juice and whatever herbs and spices I have to hand.

5. Canned fish

I don't know where I'd be without canned fish, like tuna, mackerel and sardines to throw into a quick dinner. They are another thing always on my weekly shopping list. When you're pregnant, you have to be a bit careful with eating large fish at the top of the food chain (like marlin, swordfish and fresh tuna) as it may contain levels of mercury which can be harmful to the baby. However, canned tuna, because it comes from smaller fish, is considered to be safe enough to eat daily. Mackerel and sardines are also smaller fish and, as well as being great value, are a great source of omega 3 and calcium, both vital in pregnancy.

I flake mackerel into salads, or use it in Kedgeree (fish and eggs are a great combo).

I have a fantastic sardine recipe to share with you in Part 2 of Pregnancy Superfoods. And of course, canned tuna is endlessly useful, again in salads, like the classic tuna nicoise or my Italian style Tuna, Bread and Tomato Salad:

or in tuna pasta bakes, such the one below, which has to be the easiest, laziest recipe ever. It takes about 3 minutes to prepare followed by 40 minutes in the oven.

Easy-peasy Tuna Pasta Bake (serves 4-5)

350g wholegrain pasta (I use spelt, but wheat is fine too)
2 cans chopped tomatoes
handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
(optional) pitted olives, chopped
2 cans tuna, drained
splash of balsamic or red wine vinegar
some sprigs of basil, spinach (or dried mixed herbs if you don't have any basil or spinach to hand)
a large handful of grated hard cheese, such as cheddar or parmesan

Preheat the oven to 200C/350F. Put all of the ingredients except for the grated cheese into a large baking dish, together with two canfuls of water, mix well and bake for 20 minutes. Stir, then top with the grated cheese and bake for another 20 minutes until the pasta has cooked and the cheese is turning brown. Serve with a lovely green salad, steamed broccoli or even some mashed avocado with chopped fresh tomatoes and a squeeze of lemon juice.


  1. You see, I need a bump again! Mind you, maybe I can just feed the tasty food to my little post-bumps!

    1. ha ha, well, you know, 3 is all the rage now ; )