Saturday, March 17, 2012

Eating well in pregnancy: 21-24 weeks

Can I go on a diet during pregnancy? 

It’s not a good idea to go on a diet during pregnancy, as it could harm your developing baby. Some diets can leave you low on iron, folic acid and other importantvitamins and minerals

If you are overweight, you can improve your diet by cutting out foods high in fat and sugar and taking some exercise. However, see your doctor first for advice before changing how much you eat or doing more exercise. 

Is vitamin A important during pregnancy? 

You need vitamin A during pregnancy and at other times. It is important for night vision, cell growth, healthy skin and red blood cell production. Vitamin A exists in our food in two forms, retinol and betacarotene. Both are good for your health, but retinol is much stronger, and during pregnancy too much of it can harm a developing baby. 

Retinol is in egg yolk, butter, margarine and milk, all of which are fine to eat during pregnancy. Liver is very high in the retinol form of vitamin A so it's best not to eat this when you are pregnant. 

You can get plenty of good sources of betacarotene from carrots, sweet potatoes, papaya, oranges, and green vegetables, especially broccoli, watercress, spinach and spring greens. 

Have a look at our daily meal planners, specially drawn up by BabyCenter nutritionistNg Yee Voon to help you get the right nutrition at the right time. 

Recipes rich in betacarotene 

Lunch: Watercress and celeriac soup 
This is a simple homely soup which uses watercress to provide a fabulous green colour and lots of vitamin A. This soup is great for one of those days when you don’t feel like eating very much. It serves four, and freezes well if you have leftovers. 

Preparation time: 20 minutes 
Cooking time: 30 minutes 

  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
  • 400g potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 400g celeriac, peeled and cubed
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 75g washed watercress
  • black pepper and grated nutmeg (optional)
In a large non-stick saucepan gently fry the onion in the oil until softened. Add the potatoes and celeriac, and continue to cook gently over a low heat for 10 minutes, stirring often. 

Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Simmer the soup for 10 to 15 minutes or until the vegetables are nearly soft. 

Add the watercress and heat for another five minutes until the cress is wilted and the stalks begin to soften. 

Blend the soup until smooth, adding black pepper and nutmeg to taste. Serve the soup with some fresh multigrain bread and a chunk of cheddar cheese for a simple, satisfying lunch. 

Snack: papaya smoothie 
Papaya is an excellent source of betacarotene, and it tastes delicious. 

Preparation time: 10 minutes 

  • small, ripe papaya
  • 100ml apple juice
  • 100ml mango juice
Take half the papaya, and remove seeds and skin. Chop roughly and place in a small blender, juicer or food processor. Add the chilled apple and mango juice, and blend until smooth. Serve in a glass with ice if you would like it cold. 

Dinner: sweet apple lamb 
This is an easy lamb dish which will provide essential iron for you and baby, and the sweet potatoes are rich in betacarotene. If you use bramley apples they will melt into the mixture, providing a hidden sweetness, but you can use other apples if you don't have any bramleys. This recipe serves four and is suitable for freezing. 

Preparation time: 25 minutes 
Cooking time: 30 to 40 minutes 

  • 500g lean lamb mince
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • quarter of an average celeriac, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium bramley cooking apple, peeled, cored and diced
  • 2 tsp dried thyme, or 1 large sprig of fresh thyme, leaves removed
  • 400ml water
Gently brown the lamb in large saucepan, stirring in the onion and garlic after a few minutes. Continue to cook until the lamb is browned all over and the onion is soft. 

Stir in the cumin, sweet potato, celeriac and cooking apple and cook gently for another few minutes. Lastly add the thyme and water, and bring slowly to the boil. 

Stir, cover and cook over a low heat for 30 to 40 minutes until all the vegetables are softened, adding more water if necessary. 

Serve the lamb with rice, couscous or mashed potato, and a green vegetable such as broccoli or green beans. 

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