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Eating Right for Moms

Ingredient #2; Five to Seven Servings of Fresh Vegetables, and One to Two Fruits
Vegetables are about the only thing that all nutritionists agree on, and they all agree that you should eat a lot. They're rich in vitamins and minerals, and they contain phytonutrients such as carotenes and bioflavonoids, as well as phytoestrogens, hormone-like substances that seem to help balance estrogen. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that everyone has three to five servings a day (a serving is half a cup for most vegetables, and one cup for leafy greens). But since you have special needs as a mother, we recommend two additional servings, for a total of five to seven per day. So when you tell your kids to eat their veggies, that means you, too! We recommend fresh vegetables because they have many more nutrients than ones that are canned, dried, or frozen; if you can't get them fresh, frozen is your next best option - and freeze-dried vegetables make great snacks. Fresh fruits are also nourishing, filled with vitamins, phytonutrients, and fiber. But most are also very sweet, so they are best eaten in moderation.


  • Eat a variety of high-quality vegetables, especially roots (carrots, beets), cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower), dark greens (kale, collard, spinach), and sea veggies (kelp, kombu, nori).
  • Eat raw vegetables when you can. Washed well, a couple of carrots, broccoli florets, or cauliflower nuggets are delicious and surprisingly sweet.
  • Make several days' worth of vegetable snacks at a time, stored in plastic bags in the refrigerator. If you combine them with some whole grain rolls or pretzels, almonds, chunks of cheese, or jerkies, you can avoid pre-packaged snack packs. (This is one way that Ricki survived her residency and long days at the hospital delivering babies.)
  • With a sturdy juicer, you can have a vitalizing elixir in just a few minutes. If it's strong enough to make your hair stand on end and your toes curl - as some veggie tonics can - then you know it's good for you! And you can dilute it if you like.
  • Enrich salads by adding grated carrots, beets, or dark leafy greens. It's also easy to make a little extra salad for dinner, refrigerate it in a plastic bag without dressing, and have it with lunch the next day.
  • Try a "green drink" from your health food store for a serious blast of nutrients. (Pregnant or nursing moms should check with a health practitioner if the drink contains herbs, or find one without herbs; either way, start with a small amount of the drink and see how your body likes it.)
  • Cooking can make vegetables easier to digest, but that takes some time, so we like to keep it simple. Try steaming four cups of veggies in the morning, and eat them throughout the day. A baked sweet potato with some protein (see the suggestions above) makes an excellent breakfast, Jan's morning fare for several years. If your oven has a delayed timer, you could pop it in the night before and wake up to a delicious smell. Substituting sweet potatoes or yams for regular potatoes provides variety, plus additional nutrients like tons of carotenoids.
  • We like to make a big pot of hearty vegetable soup on the weekend that can last most of the week, perhaps adding some dark, leafy greens that may taste too strong for you when they're raw, but are milder in soup. If you toss some protein (meat, beans, tofu, peas, lentils, etc.) into your soup, you've got a wonderfully nutritious meal (several, in fact!) in a pot.
  • The best way to eat fruit is when it is fresh and whole, rather than canned, frozen, or in juice. Cooked fruits - like baked apples with a little maple syrup on them, or berries with a cobbler topping - make a wholesome, delicious dessert.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables are foods that are still alive. Every time you eat them, you can take a moment to sense that the living energy within them is entering your body, giving you a feeling of peace and a serving of stress relief with every meal.

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From Mother Nurture: A Mother's Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships by Rick Hansen, Jan Hansen, and Ricki Pollycove. Copyright © 2002 by Rick Hanson. Jan Hanson, and Ricki Pollycove. Used by arrangement with Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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