Your Baby is What You Eat? How Eating During Pregnancy Influences Your Little One

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Every week, I receive emails from “The Bump,” containing awesome developmental facts about Baby C and how big (s)he is. Last week was a mango; now, (s)he has graduated to the size of a banana. I always laugh at the size comparisons–are we having a baby here or making a tropical fruit salad?!

This week’s email was a celebratory one: I’m 20 weeks, aka halfway through. The other incredible thing I learned was that the baby’s taste buds actually work now, and that after birth, (s)he will respond best to flavors that have already been encountered in the amniotic fluid.

As soon as I read this, I had an “Aha” moment. My mom and I had always theorized on this subject. When she was pregnant with me, she had no morning sickness and ate a variety of foods, but her favorites were sweets. Apples and Twizzlers topped her list of cravings. With my brother, she had morning sickness during the first trimester, and couldn’t eat as much variety. Her food of choice, especially in the beginning, was Fritos, since they were easy to keep down. We’ve talked many times about how funny it is that her eating habits during each pregnancy translated into my brother’s and my food preferences; I’ve always been an adventurous eater, willing to try anything once, and I have a definite sweet-tooth. My brother was a totally picky eater growing up, and always gravitated toward bland, salty foods like mac and cheese. To this day, he prefers salty snacks to sweet ones. Weird, huh?!

Naturally, I had to find some articles on the topic. This article was my favorite, and really details how your baby’s palate is shaped in utero. It turns out that the flavors and scents of the foods mommies eat during pregnancy are detectable in the amniotic fluid that the baby ingests. The article even suggests that this makes evolutionary sense, since youngsters become accustomed to the flavors of their cultures even before birth!

Babies become accustomed to flavors consumed by their moms in utero! So, make sure to eat healthy, moms! ;)

Babies become accustomed to flavors consumed by their moms in utero! So, make sure to eat healthy, moms! 😉 Photo courtesy of Flickr

A few years ago, Julie Mennella, a scientist who studies taste in infants, performed a study in which one group of expectant mothers was given carrot juice daily, another group drank it only during breastfeeding, and the last group was told to avoid carrots completely. And–surprise, surprise–when the babies were later fed cereal made with carrot juice, the ones whose mommies were in the first and second groups ate more of the carrot-flavored cereal.

I don’t know about you, but I was super excited to read this. It’s incredible that our babies are already starting to love Mom’s home-cooking, and they’re not even born yet! Antonio and I are foodies, who love to try a variety of yumminess both at home and at restaurants, so Baby C is being exposed to a myriad of innovative and fun flavors from the start. For example, Baby C got in touch with his / her Lebanese roots when Antonio and I loaded up on manouche, tabouli, beef shawarma, and more at the Lebanese Festival in San Diego last weekend.

And it turns out that our babies aren’t only shaped by the foods we eat in utero–a recent study showed that our diets right before conception actually alter baby’s DNA, changing which genes are switched on and off during baby’s early development! This article is definitely an intriguing must-read.

So, moms-to-be out there, what kinds of foods are you feeding your little ones? Were you as blown away as I was by these recent findings? As always, I’d love to hear what you think!

 

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5 Reasons We’re Waiting Until Birth to Find Out Our Baby’s Sex

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Unbelievable but true… I’m now at 19 weeks, almost halfway through my pregnancy. I’ve begun to feel stirrings of life from our active Baby C (“C” is short for our last name), who is currently the size of a mango. And next week, we have our 20-week ultrasound and anatomy scan!

Antonio and I know a lot of pregnant couples. In fact, we’ve been calling 2014 “The Year of the Baby.” However, out of all our preg friends and family, we are the only couple who is opting to wait until birth to find out the sex of our baby. Most people say they just can’t wait 9 months to find out, and many say they need to know so they can plan accordingly.

We, however, are taking the old-school approach. We refer to Baby C as a “mysterious creature,” and we’re super excited to find out his or her sex right there in the delivery room.

Here are 5 reasons we’re all about keeping Baby C’s gender identity a secret ’til the end–even from ourselves!

  1. We love surprises. That’s just the kind of people we are. I think you’re either a “surprise” person or you’re not. If you want to know everything in advance so you can plan your life, this approach would drive you crazy, but we like it when life startles us sometimes. It keeps things exciting!
  2. It’s a throwback. When we were born in the 80s, no couples knew the sex of their babies until they were born. It’s cool and nostalgic to try the same thing now.
  3. It’s suspenseful. We have a great time guessing based on clues, even if they’re just random, totally un-scientific ones. For example, when I ate a piece of chocolate cake with my mom, and Baby C started moving around afterward, we surmised that it must be a girl. 😉
  4. Newborn gear is pretty unisex anyway. I’ve seen so many cute gender-neutral newborn outfits lately, in fun colors like bright yellow, orange, and seafoam green. We’re going to stock up on those kinds of clothes for the first 3 months and fill in the pinks or blues later. As for the nursery, unisex colors are always best–especially if you think you might have more than one kid!
  5. It makes the pregnancy more fun. Pregnancy is such an exhilarating time, and keeping the baby’s sex a secret is just one more awesome thing to share with your hubby or partner.

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Are you planning to find out your baby’s gender in advance, or are you living dangerously, and why?

Yummy Craving #1: Crabmeat Avocado

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I adore refreshing, satisfying superfoods, and San Diego’s cuisine is full of them! I’ve fallen in love with the delicious flavors of Cali–so much so that I’ve begun developing my own recipes based on California staples like avocado and fresh seafood. For today’s first-ever “Yummy Cravings” post, I share a recipe that’s the perfect appetizer on a warm, sunny day. I usually make it for Antonio and me, but it went over famously at a recent cook-out with our friends, and can easily be scaled up for a crowd. In fact, it looks super cute if you make at least 6 servings, because you can arrange it like a flower on the plate!

My crabmeat avocado recipe combines the superfood avocado, which is loaded with healthy oils and the antioxidants lycopene and beta-carotene, with crabmeat, a low-mercury seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A, B, and C. You and your growing baby will love this recipe, since it’s tasty as well as nutritious. Bon appetit!

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Ingredients (serves 2): 

  • 1 avocado
  • 4 oz fresh lump crabmeat
  • 2 large mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp red onions or green onions, diced
  • Juice of 1 lime, divided
  • Dash of sea salt, pepper, and paprika

How to Make:

  1. Slice avocado in half. Remove pit but leave skin on, and place the halves face-up on a plate.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, combine crabmeat, mint, cilantro, onions, and the juice of half of the lime. Blend together with your hands.
  3. Add a dash of sea salt, pepper, and paprika to the crabmeat mixture.
  4. Use a spoon to scoop the crab mixture into the center of each avocado half.
  5. Finish by lightly drizzling the crab-filled avocados with the rest of the lime juice. Serve immediately or refrigerate and enjoy within 2 hours.

Antonio and I eat this delicacy with spoons, scooping the avocado and filling right out of the outer avocado skins. I usually serve it before a dinner of either baked salmon or tacos, since the lime, avocado, and cilantro infuse a bit of Mexican flavor.

Ladies, let me know if you make this recipe–especially if you like it! I’d love to hear your feedback. 🙂

 

5 Pregnancy Myths Demystified

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I don’t know about you, but before I was pregnant, I kind of dreaded it, and not because I didn’t feel ready for kids… I just hated to hear that looong list of things that one shouldn’t do while pregnant. It sounded like an anal, draconian checklist of ways to ruin my life. No sushi, no alcohol whatsoever, no coffee, no hot tub, and while you’re at it, you’d better take it easy and keep your exercise to a minimum. It sounded like cruel torture for someone like myself, who loves to work out and relax her muscles in the hot tub afterwards and–yes–likes her sushi, her cup of morning coffee, and some alcohol. I found myself wondering whether I’d be spending a long and miserable 9 months sitting on my couch becoming a beached whale, craving just one drop of wine or Starbucks coffee, with my un-worked body crying out for exercise.

Luckily, the things I mentioned above are just some of the many pregnancy myths devised in the name of preventing any and all mishaps. All of these things can cause harm to the unborn baby if they’re done excessively or carelessly. As a result, in our lawsuit-hungry society, it’s become necessary for pregnancy recommendations to be written in absolutes.

However, we’re more educated than that. As a pharmacist who spent years researching medical and pharmaceutical literature and drawing my own conclusions, I knew it was time to dig deeper. Why can’t I go in the hot tub? Or drink the occasional small glass of wine? Or do any of the other things I mentioned in the first paragraph–in moderation, of course?

It turns out I can–if I do these things responsibly and intelligently. Here are the 5 most bothersome (to me, anyway) pregnancy myths–demystified!

  1. Absolutely no alcohol – See a woman with a baby bump holding a beer, and most people in our society are full of instant judgment. And it’s not their fault, it’s what our medical community tells us. American guidelines tell us to drink no alcohol during pregnancy. However, UK guidelines tell a different story: “Women who are pregnant or trying to conceive should avoid alcohol altogether. However, if they do choose to drink, to minimise the risk to the baby, we recommend they should not drink more than one or two units once or twice a week and should not get drunk.” I go by the UK guidelines in my own pregnancy, because it was approved by my OB/gyne and I have educated myself on the guidelines, as well as what constitutes “a unit” of alcohol. Click the link above for examples of a unit and further details, and be sure to clear this with your own doctor before you drink during pregnancy.
  2. No sushi whatsoever – Cautious healthcare providers have two main concerns when dealing with sushi in pregnancy: mercury content in the fish and the possibility of getting food poisoning from certain bacteria that may be found in improperly prepared raw fish. Because of this, the blanket statement, “No sushi in pregnancy,” is made fairly regularly. However, fish contains omega-3 and other vitamins and minerals that are essential in a baby’s brain and body development. Therefore, it’s important to understand which fish contain acceptable levels of mercury. This article gives an awesome breakdown of fish containing “safe” and “unsafe” levels of mercury. As far as the raw fish debate, I’ve found numerous sources, including this one, that state that raw sushi is okay during pregnancy as long as it has been flash-frozen, a procedure that all reputable sushi restaurants perform in order to kill any bacteria and parasites in the fish. I cleared this with my doctor, who agreed and added that it’s fine to enjoy occasional sushi at my go-to sushi place. The bottom line: be informed and ask your doctor.
  3. Don’t drink coffee – One of my mom’s favorite things to say when I was a kid and doing something dangerous was, “I didn’t drink one cup of coffee when I was pregnant with you!” Apparently, this was a thing in the 80s, and there are still people who think pregos shouldn’t drink any caffeine whatsoever. However, the new recommendations are to limit caffeine intake in pregnancy to no more than 200 mg per day, so you can still have that small cup of morning coffee in a normal pregnancy. Thank goodness! Of course, things might be different if you have medical conditions, so always ask your doctor first.
  4. No hot tub – I looove the hot tub, and when I heard that hot tubs in pregnancy were not recommended, I was bummed. It turns out there’s a good reason for this: Improper use of the hot tub can bring your body temperature above 102 degrees Fahrenheit, which can cause neural tube defects in the baby, especially in early pregnancy. However, a little research confirmed that hot tubs can be used in moderation during pregnancy, if you’re educated about how to use them. Namely, use them for 10 minutes or less, and monitor the water temperature. (It should be 100 degrees or less.) For further tips, check out this article.
  5. Don’t exercise – I’ve heard a lot of people say that pregnant women should “take it easy” and “avoid exercising,” which is totally ridiculous, especially for those of us who had a definitive exercise routine pre-pregnancy. Exercise in pregnancy is healthy and beneficial. Not only does it allow you to stay fit and toned throughout your 9 months, it allows you to get back to your pre-pregnancy body faster after you give birth. That said, pregnant women should be informed about the best exercises to stay in shape as the baby grows. I am doing the All-Belly Pregnancy workout in addition to my regular yoga and cardio, and it’s fabulous, since it provides step-by-step exercise routines and demonstrates safe and effective exercises in every trimester! Highly recommended!
I love exercising in pregnancy! Here I am last Saturday practicing yoga after doing the 5K ROC race.

I love exercising in pregnancy! Here I am last Saturday practicing yoga after doing the 5K ROC race.

17 weeks in, I can honestly say I’m having a happy, healthy, and relaxed pregnancy. Life does go on while you’re pregnant, so before you go saying no to things you love just because you might have “heard” you should, make sure to educate and inform yourself first. And above all, enjoy and embrace your preg days!!