If you are not familiar with preparing vegetables and whole grains, invest in a few vegetarian or whole-foods cookbooks to learn how to simply prepare vegetables and whole grains. Cooking whole grains in a rice cooker is as easy as adding one part grain to two parts liquid (water or broth) and turning it on. The cooker will turn itself off when the grain is cooked. Add flavor with a dash of tamari (soy sauce) and a small pat of organic butter or ghee. Use uncooked grains when making soup, or add leftover cooked grains after the soup is cooked.
Add small amounts of meat or fish to vegetarian fare for flavorful, well-rounded meals. Recommended types of meat include free-range beef, lamb, and poultry, or game meats such as venison or buffalo. Think of meats as side dishes and veggies and grains as your main courses. If you eat according to our guidelines, your protein intake will be balanced and adequate, and you will not need to make any special adjustments to ensure that you are getting enough protein. Even if you prefer to refrain from meat other than fish, your two-to-three-times-weekly fish and omega-3 eggs on other days of the week will satisfy your protein requirements.
Many nursing mothers find that they crave meat more than they did before they were pregnant. You can follow this craving as long as you avoid fast-food burgers and fried meats. Always eat a substantial amount of vegetables with meat to help keep the acid/alkaline ratio balanced in your body.
Don't feel you need to adhere to recipes exactly just use them to get a feel for which herbs and spices go best with which whole foods and for basic cooking guidelines. The Co-Op Cookbook: Delicious and Healthy Meals in Less Than Half an Hour by Rosemary Fifield (Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 2000) is a great cookbook that contains lots of simple, fast, wholesome recipes. Feeding the Whole Family: Whole Foods Recipes for Babies, Young Children and Their Parents by Cynthia Lair (Moon Smile Publishers, 1998) is another great resource that can help you to incorporate natural whole foods into your childrens' diets from the time they are ready to eat solid foods. Other good cookbooks include Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon (New Trends Publishing, 1999); any of the Moosewood series by Mollie Katzen and the Moosewood Collective (these have had a number of different publishers over the years); and A Vegetarian's Ecstasy by Natalie Cederquist and James Levin (Avery Publishing Group, 1996).
Soups and salads are the quickest and easiest ways to get good nutrition without spending a lot of time at food preparation. You can make soups or stews in a slow cooker, so that you can have a hot meal without putting in much time in the kitchen. Soups with well-cooked fish, meat, poultry, legumes, whole grains, and vegetables are easy to digest and contain the nutrients you and your baby need. Just fill a pot with prepared broth and add chopped vegetables, meat, beans, and a grain, and simmer until the grain is cooked.
If you plan to have a soup or stew once a day, a salad once a day, and a protein-and-grain meal once a day, you have covered all of your bases!
Let us look at an example of how all this might come together in a day's meals.
A good breakfast could consist of one or two hard-boiled DHA eggs with sprouted grain toast, or three-grain cereal composed of one part quinoa, one part millet, and one part amaranth, cooked in your rice cooker. Before eating the cereal, you can stir in pure maple syrup or honey and rice milk, or add fresh fruit or a dollop of plain yogurt. You can eat any leftover grains with veggies and chicken for lunch or dinner.
Don't rule out having soup for breakfast. A steaming bowl of vegetable-beef, chicken, or fish soup with a warm chunk of whole-grain bread topped with butter or melted cheese is much more satisfying and nutritious than a bowl of sweetened cereal!
Smoothies make a great hot-weather breakfast or snack. Grind 1 tablespoon of raw flaxseeds in a blender or coffee grinder. Add the resulting flaxseed meal to 2 cups of apple, pear, or papaya juice, or to two cups of rice milk; then add one banana and 1/4 to 1/2 cup of frozen blueberries or strawberries. Blend until smooth. Try other fruits or juices, too. You can add spirulina powder for extra B vitamins and antioxidant vitamins. You can also add some protein powder for extra amino acids.
When you need a snack to keep your energy up, choose a healthful, nutrient-rich one such as the following:
- Organic applesauce.
- A smoothie (see the previous section on breakfast).
- Fresh fruit or vegetables with protein for example, a sliced apple spread with almond butter, or celery sticks spread with cashew butter, or carrot sticks dipped in tahini dressing.
- A slice of whole-grain bread with nut butter, organic cheese, tuna, or sardines.
Salads make excellent and easy meals or components of meals. Simply mix and match the ingredients kept in your refrigerator. Start with torn pieces of lettuce or spring greens and add grated beets and/or carrots, bean sprouts, chilled steamed asparagus or broccoli, and a protein source such as grilled fish or chicken. Slices of avocado are a tasty addition, rich in healthy fats. Top with toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds if you like.
For a grain/vegetable/protein meal, try salmon with brown rice and chard or chicken with quinoa and green beans. You can also leave out the grain and have two vegetables; try turkey with garnet yams and sweet peas, or lamb with zucchini and new potatoes. Another tasty option: black beans, chicken, or cod; avocado slices; and thinly sliced raw cabbage (if it agrees with your baby) with salsa, served with warm corn tortillas. Add grated cheese if you like.
Soups are always good choices. Cut up some onion, carrot, and celery, and place them in your slow cooker. Add 1/2 cup lentils, 4 cups of mushroom or vegetable broth, a pound of lamb for stewing, and torn pieces of kale and/or chard. Add four diced tomatoes and a handful of diced red or green bell pepper, add water if necessary for consistency, and let the soup simmer for four hours. You can walk away from your Crock-Pot and go about your day while your soup cooks. Season the soup with whatever herbs you like. (Most canned broths contain salt, so you shouldn't need to add more.)
Alternatively, try four cans or two boxes of organic chicken broth and add various chopped vegetables such as onion, celery, carrot, zucchini, yellow squash, peppers, green beans, peas, potato, and spinach. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup barley and diced chicken thighs or breast and allow the mixture to simmer for four hours in a slow cooker.
Making a creamy soup is easy with prepared broth. Bake a butternut squash and put the baked flesh into a blender with 4 cups of broth and blend until smooth. You can sip this soup hot or cold.