Pregnant and nursing mothers never agree about food -- which foods they crave, which soothe them, which give them trouble or cause colic in their baby. They do agree on two things: They feel compelled to eat healthful foods, and they have neither the time nor the energy to prepare them. Make-ahead meals and snacks (prepared in quantity) are one solution. Quick, nutritious recipes are the other. It's never been so important to eat right or to make every ingredient count, and we've gathered some great ideas to help you maximize the nutrition in all of your meals. To see recipes for any of the foods mentioned in the following pages, just click on the links. Or download all of our printable recipe cards below.
Breakfast foods are always appealing no matter what time of the day you actually manage to prepare them. These recipes are rich in nutrients and simple to prepare.
Hot milky oatmeal, grits, and polenta are soothing and quick. Stir in granola and dried fruit, two basics that are easy to keep in the cupboard. Also very soothing is the creamy smooth center of a poached egg over hot grits.
Toasted with cinnamon, ginger, and blackstrap molasses, homemade low-fat granola is a delicious and sustaining snack (store-bought is too often full of sugar and fat) and keeps for weeks. Eat it with milk or yogurt and sprinkled with blueberries. Or just eat a handful as a snack.
Vitamin Rich Drinks
This delicious drink, made from strawberries, orange juice, blueberries, and lemon juice, is loaded with vitamin C and can be blended with low-fat milk or yogurt to create a rich smoothie. Add a banana for potassium and to make the shake a little more filling. Drink it icy cold.
Snacks are meals and meals are snacks when you're in the harried world of infant care or pregnancy. Foods with a long shelf life, foods with mild flavors, and foods with portability are what you're looking for. Whatever food you crave, make or buy extra, and freeze half to warm up for nighttime feedings.
Homemade Molasses Wheat Bread
This hearty bread can be toasted and slicked with butter and marmalade for a snack. The recipe for the bread involves no yeast, so two loaves are quick and easy to make. Freeze one; use the other for sandwiches and nibbling for up to one week.
Two sandwiches on toasted whole-wheat English muffins -- peanut butter, banana, and raisin; strawberries and yogurt drizzled with honey -- balance fat and protein. And they're portable.
They may seem indulgent, but they're protein rich. Sprinkled with lime juice and filled with tuna and sunflower seeds, avocados make an excellent snack. Use them as a base for salad, citrus, or beans drizzled with vinaigrette. Here are three of our favorite recipes: Avocado Halves Stuffed with Tomato and Feta, Lemon Tuna Avocado Snack, and Avocado with Pink Grapefruit and Lime.
Hot Baked Potatoes
They are hard to beat when you want food that tastes good and sticks to your ribs. Trusty Idaho baking potatoes and slightly caramelized sweet potatoes, cooked in a high-heat oven for an hour, are even better dressed with delicious, healthy toppings.
Sweet potatoes are actually a member of the morning-glory family, but they and real potatoes are full of potassium, iron, calcium, and vitamins A and C. Be sure to eat the skin: It retains about 80 percent of the vitamins' value after cooking. Rethink your need for four pats of butter and all that sour cream.
Potatoes themselves aren't fattening; it's the heavy toppings that can do you in. Make each potato an entire little meal in itself. Enjoy the flavor of fat, but remember that a little goes a long way. Good combinations to try: low-fat sour cream or yogurt with black-olive tapenade; steamed asparagus and green peas, lemon, and extra-virgin olive oil; sea salt, cracked black pepper, and a bit of butter; lentils, feta cheese, and extra-virgin olive oil; and tofu with scallions, sesame seeds, and low-sodium soy sauce.
Get the work over with. That's the idea behind healthy, quick meals that can be served up at whatever time of the day or night you need them
Meals with Roast Chicken
One way to create at least three strikingly different meals: roast chickens, not one but two at a time; and load the pan with a variety of vegetables, such as potatoes -- sweet and white -- carrots, and onions. Add protein to a green salad laden with roast vegetables by tossing in shredded chicken. Top off with some light vinaigrette and a handful of crumbled feta cheese to round out the flavors. Simple is best when time is at a premium; try a sliced roast chicken breast with a creamy mash made from roasted vegetables.
Versatile Red Sauce
Red sauce is perfect for big batches. It can be frozen in small, airtight containers and later used for a wide range of hearty meals. Simmered with zucchini, squash, and a mixture of herbs, the sauce spices up a beans-and-rice dinner. Use warm corn tortillas to envelop all of it together if you're on the go. Hot penne is a natural to toss with the versatile sauce. Shavings of fresh Parmesan cheese add flavor and creaminess to the dish. Couscous topped with chunky red sauce and sprinkled with chickpeas, golden raisins, and slivered almonds -- staples from the pantry -- is also simple and satisfying.