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Eating Right for Moms

Ingredient #4: Two to Five Servings of Unrefined, Varied Whole Grains
Refining grains takes away the fiber and nutrients (B vitamins, etc.) present in the outer hull, but you need these to keep your GI tract running smoothly and meet the increased stresses and energy demands that come with children. Refined grains (e.g., white flour, pasta, white rice) also convert quickly to sugars in the body, further straining an insulin system that is already challenged by stress.

Grains definitely have a place in well-balanced nutrition. But we don't think they should make up as large a portion of a mother's diet as they do in the standard Food Pyramid, where they crowd out other kinds of carbohydrates and nutrients (plus, certain chemicals within grains called phytates can interfere with the absorption of minerals). It's also important to eat a variety of grains besides wheat, because different grains or sources of flour - such as rice, barley, millet, quinoa, corn, or soy - provide other nutrients, as well as complementary amino acids for maximum protein. Varying your grains also lowers the chance of digestive problems or inflammation, since wheat is one of the two foods that people are most often allergic or sensitive to.


  • Increase your carbohydrate intake from other sources, such as nuts, bananas, yams, other vegetables, etc.
  • Try to get the majority of your grains intact, not ground up in flours. These could be fresh oatmeal for breakfast, a side dish of millet or quinoa at lunch, or a casserole with brown rice at dinner.
  • If you have an allergy or sensitivity to wheat, try rice, millet, quinoa, soy, or corn flour products.
  • Replace white flour with good-tasting whole wheat pastry, rice, or soy flours.
  • Most of us do all right with having the occasional treat made from white flour, but try not to bring home white flour products in bulk (e.g., packaged noodle foods, pasta, white bread, frozen pizza, cake).
  • Try pasta made from brown rice. It's delicious and can leave you feeling lighter than if you'd eaten wheat.

Ingredient #5: Organic Foods Whenever Possible
Organic foods have fewer toxic molecules because they contain no pesticides or artificial fertilizers. The "safety" of these chemicals has usually been established through short-term studies using single substances, often on laboratory animals. But the experiment that counts is the one that is being carried our on human beings who consume many chemicals in combination for a lifetime - and the real-world findings over the past hundred years include a dramatic increase in cancer and autoimmune conditions. Anyone who is developing rapidly or is vulnerable - such as a child, or a pregnant, stressed, or depleted mother - is particularly likely to be affected by the mounting accumulation of potentially toxic molecules.

Organic foods also tend to have more nutritious molecules - especially minerals - because they come from richer soils. And besides being a two-part prescription for a mother's health - fewer bad molecules and more good ones - organic foods usually taste better: just compare an organic tomato with one that has been grown conventionally.


  • Avoid foods with artificial ingredients such as preservatives, colors, or flavor enhancers. (This will have the additional benefit of steering you away from packaged foods).
  • These days, you can get almost any food product you want from organic sources, including meats, pasta, soup, macaroni and cheese, milk, catsup, or even wine (wines, especially red ones, have particularly high concentrations of pesticides if they weren't grown organically). Besides finding them in health food stores, they are increasingly available in regular supermarkets. Farmers markets are another source, plus they can be an easier place to shop with young children. Food co-ops may have organic foods, and they're a good way to meet other parents. Organic foods sometimes cost a little more, but for a few pennies extra per meal, you'll be making a smart, long-term investment in your body.
  • Nobody should drive herself crazy to eat strictly organic foods, since a single episode - whether it's lunch at McDonald's or a salad of organic greens - doesn't make a big difference either way. It's the accumulation over time that counts.

There's no way around it: preparing wholesome meals from fresh, mainly organic ingredients takes longer than popping a TV dinner into the oven or opening a can of stew. If you're reluctant to spend more time in the kitchen, the reasons may be nothing more than feeling too busy, or cooking bores you. But sometimes a woman has mixed feelings about walking too closely in the footsteps of her own mother, or taking on some of the trappings of a traditional housewife.

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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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