01 January 2014

Highlights of 2013...and tips for healthy pregnancy eating!

2013...what a year it was! On October 21 here in Bangkok, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy named Rohan Aires (thus the reason for the silence around here). Becoming parents has certainly changed life as we know it. I haven't been doing much cooking since my mom is here and has been staying with us for some months now (lucky us!). I feel fortunate in that I have a nice long maternity leave, meaning that I still have a couple of months to go of exclusive time with our precious baby prince. So in theory, I should be able to get back to blogging. In theory, that is! In the meanwhile, I wanted to share some highlights of this amazing year and also some tips for healthy pregnancy eating for vegetarians in particular or for anyone concerned with nutrition and wellness during this special time in life.

Some highlights of the year....

1. Finding out the big news in February!

2. Less travel than usual (for obvious reasons during the second half of the year), but still getting to visit some cool places, including Hong Kong (for the first time), Kuala Lumpur, Paris (first time since moving away - it was wonderful!) and the fascinating Myanmar (also for the first time). Within Thailand, we went on several babymoon weekends, to places like Koh Samet, Pattaya, Krabi/Railay and Hua Hin.

3. Turning 35...commemorated with a fun little birthday party chez nous (check out the crazy Kit Kat cake) and a lovely weekend at a resort in Hua Hin!

4. All of the joyous pregnancy milestones...finding out that we're having a boy, the big ultrasounds, putting together his nursery and of course my amazing baby shower...

5. And of course the major highlight of the year, and well of my life thus far...the arrival of little Rohan! Much in keeping with my smooth and easy pregnancy, I had a relatively quick and easy labor and delivery, managing a natural childbirth with the aid of my wonderful doula (for anyone out there who's pregnant or thinking of getting pregnant and wanting to go natural, I highly recommend getting a doula - read all about doulas here). Our little boy arrived healthy, wide-eyed and curious and has been an endless joy ever since. We are loving seeing him grow and looking forward to this amazing journey as parents!

So because I had a healthy pregnancy, I thought that I would share some nutrition and eating tips that I learned which I hope will be helpful to anyone out there who's pregnant or planning on getting pregnant anytime in the future:


1. See and discuss your eating habits with a nutritionist.
This is particularly important if you're a vegetarian, but probably a good idea for anyone. It was very helpful to know how many calories I should be getting during each trimester, what portion sizes of different foods look like and all of the different options for getting protein (always a concern for us vegetarians - particularly pregnant ones!)

2. Take your prenatal vitamins and any recommended supplements.
This is probably a no-brainer, but it's crucial to take a prenatal or multivitamin (I took Centrum) with plenty of folic acid, as well as any additional supplements that your doctor recommends, both during pregnancy and after if you're breastfeeding. I took and am taking both calcium and iron supplements as well and imagine that the latter is particularly important for vegetarians.

3. Watch your weight gain
There's the old adage that pregnancy is about "eating for two". Nothing could be further from the truth! While you are certainly entitled to relax and eat more than usual while pregnant, you actually don't need ANY additional calories during the first trimester and only an additional 300 and 500 during the second and third trimesters respectively. Many women have morning sickness and nausea during the first trimester and thus don't gain any weight then or even lose weight. I didn't have any such woes and gained about 5 pounds at that time (and a total of 30 pounds or 14 kilos during my entire pregnancy). That's certainly within reason for a woman of average weight, but I wouldn't have minded gaining 5 pounds less (all the desserts I gorged on towards the end ensured that that wouldn't be happening). I'm a firm believer than pregnancy is a special time that must be enjoyed, but like anything in life this should be in moderation in order to ensure a healthy pregnancy (and to make it easier to lose the weight after!). Eating reasonable portions and maintaining exercise and an active lifestyle (I walked, swam, did the elliptical machine and did prenatal pilates from time to time) are key.

4. Make sure you get your omega-3s
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for everyone, but particularly for pregnant women in order to ensure healthy neurological and visual development in the fetus. Omega-3s are typically found in fish, thus making it hard for vegetarians to get enough. But two excellent sources are flax and chia seeds. The former, typically sold in seeds, can be ground into a fine powder and added into just about anything from smoothies, your morning cereal or oatmeal, soups, curries, pastas, you name it. You can also buy pre-ground flax meal at places like Whole Foods in the U.S. and at specialty health food stores here in Thailand.

Check out a couple of my yummy smoothie recipes with flax and whip them up for a healthy breakfast!

Raspberry Banana Super Smoothie (also contains chia seeds)
Bollywood Breakfast Smoothie

As for chia seeds (of 'Chia Pet' fame), they are packed with protein, omega-3s, calcium and fiber - making them a true nutritional powerhouse! Though they are available here in Thailand, I typically order a bag or two from anyone visiting from the States. Unlike flax seeds, Chia seeds don't need to be ground and are perfect in smoothies and baked goods. Try them in my delicious mango-orange blossom muffins with chia seeds!

Chia seeds are equally delicious in puddings, such as in this Chia seed pudding with coconut milk, Greek yogurt and raspberries from Jeanette's Healthy Living.

5. Make and freeze meals, condiments, etc. ahead of time!
Again, perhaps a no-brainer, but this is so important! If you're like me, there are days during your pregnancy that you'll be exhausted with no desire to go anywhere near the kitchen, while you may have a burst of energy on other days and feel like cooking up a storm. Take advantage of those latter moments when (and if) they happen and cook up big batches of things like soups, dal, lasagna, muffins, pasta sauce, pesto, etc. and freeze for later use, either during or after pregnancy. There are tons of blogs and websites out there about the how-to's of prepping and freezing food, but some of my recipes which lend themselves well to freezing include the following:

African-Style Spinach in Peanut Sauce
Azorean Sopa de Feijao (Bean Soup)
Chana Masala (Indian-Style Chickpeas) (omit the crème fraîche)
Chana Masala Bisque
Curried Black-Eyed Pea Soup
Geanine's Jamaican-Style Lentils
Mango-Orange Blossom Muffins with Chia Seeds
Mexican Pumpkin Chipotle Soup
Mom's Sambar
Moroccan Carrot Soup
Rava Idlis
Spicy Pumpkin & Edamame Samosas
Spicy Tortilla Bisque (omit the whipping cream and/or add it upon reheating for serving)
Tomato Rice, South Indian Style
Vegetable Tajine

When she was visiting earlier in the year, my mom also made me a big batch of this Indian masala in bulk (made of onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes and turmeric) from "Show Me The Curry" and froze it. For a quick meal throughout my pregnancy, all I had to do was cut off a piece of this masala and use it with whatever vegetables or pulses I wanted. So easy! Consider making a big batch of ths!

So in sum...an amazing year! Here's to seeing what 2014 has in store for all of us...may it be healthy, happy, delicious and of course very spicy!

1 comment:

  1. 2013, what a year it was? We heard the news about your pregnancy just days before our pre-planned trip to Thailand. It made us so happy! It was so nice that I could stay with you for about a month then. You were very fortunate and blesses that you had a very healthy and happy pregnancy. Your baby shower was amazing! Rohan made us wait for him and arrived late. But we didn't mind. He decided to come on Oct 21st. What a joyous occasion that was! Such a healthy beautiful baby boy!

    I absolutely love and enjoy taking care of him and now he is becoming more and more interesting with his smiles, baby noises and laughs! I am happy that I will be here with him for another 40 days. At the same time, I feel sad that I will miss out all those even more interesting things he will be doing in the coming months. What to do? That's life. I can only see him on Skype. We will be waiting eagerly for your next trip to Atlanta.

    Thank you Ramya and Luis for giving us our very first grandchild! We are very happy and proud to be Rohan's grandparents! Take good care of your little bundle of joy. May God bless him with all the best in life - Mom