|The Vegetarian||Spring 2001|
|eating for two|
|our own and other cultures|
|by Sheila Kitzinger|
Every woman needs
quality food in pregnancy: for her developing baby, and to give
her energy and make her eyes shine, hair gleam and skin clear.
Worldwide, in different cultures, special foods are recommended
for pregnancy, and there is a strong emphasis on vegetables and
fruit. A well-balanced Mediterranean vegetarian diet is about the
best there is.
There are some risky foods. Avoid raw or lightly cooked eggs, which may cause salmonella poisoning, and soft cheeses, which can cause listeriosis. The Department of Health advise that pregnant women who are themselves atopic, or those for whom the father or any sibling of the unborn child has an atopic disease (atopic eczema, asthma, hayfever or other manifestations of allergic disease (known as atopy)) may wish to avoid eating peanuts and peanut products during pregnancy. Some experts recommend avoiding nuts entirely where there is a history of allergies in the family.
At the start of pregnancy many women worry that they are not getting a good diet because they feel nauseated and have bouts of vomiting in the morning or early evening. Morning sickness is a misnomer. Some women never experience pregnancy sickness; others only with some pregnancies, not others. It usually clears up by the end of the third month, but around 20% of women who have it go on feeling sick occasionally, sometimes right through the pregnancy. It is made worse by being over-tired, so it helps if you can have a rest as soon as you come in from work and before each meal. But this is impossible for women who have children already.
The standard treatment for early morning sickness is to have dry crackers or crisp toast brought to you in bed before you lift your head from the pillow. A remedy that works well for some women is to suck peeled root ginger. Ginger in any form may help, crystallized ginger or ginger ale, for instance. You will want very simple foods which are low fat or fat-free, and may not be able to tolerate anything with a strong smell. Make sure that you have plenty of fluids if you are vomiting: water, herb tea, or whatever else you fancy.
The latest theory is that as a womans body makes the terrific adjustment to pregnancy, which affects every cell in her body, she may be unable to tolerate foods which have potential for causing harm. These include fats and eggs, and vegetables and fruit to which she has a sensitivity. So eat what you can digest easily and leave the carefully planned diet for pregnancy till you are past the sickness stage. In other cultures sickness is often not expected. Women get skin rashes or other physical signs instead.
In the first three months as you adjust to pregnancy, and again in the last six weeks or so, you may get very tired. Keep meals light and have snacks of nuts, raisins and fruit when all you want to do is get to your bed and crash out.
Pregnancy cravings, and intense dislike of other foods, are characteristic of some pregnancies. In my first pregnancy I wanted porridge and oranges. Cravings are acknowledged in many different cultures and it is thought that if a woman is not given the food she yearns for the baby may be affected. Jewish Yemenite women get whatever they want to eat because it is believed that otherwise the baby may be blind in one eye or have a birthmark. Egyptian peasant women often have cravings for watermelons, grapes or a particular vegetable and are provided with these to avoid a birthmark in the shape of the fruit or vegetable they longed for. It is thought that it is the baby who wants the food, not the mother. The father has a responsibility to get the food, however difficult it is to obtain.
It has been claimed that some peculiar cravings for things like toothpaste, chalk, coal or earth, that women in poor share-cropping families in the southern USA often suffered, are symptoms of mineral deficiency, and that a longing to suck ice chips is a symptom of iron deficiency. Barring the toothpaste and other non-foods, if you long for a particular food and can get it, there is no harm in having it regularly, and enjoying it.
|Worldwide, in different cultures, special foods are recommended for pregnancy, and there is a strong emphasis on vegetables and fruit|
It is easy to put on extra weight in pregnancy because you are hungry and nobody will notice the fat, especially in the final months. Make sure that extra calories are not sugar-laden and that fats are mainly olive oil and other vegetable and nut oils.
Though most women put on about 12kgs in pregnancy, the normal range is very wide. If you started off pregnancy rather skinny you may gain more weight than a woman who began her pregnancy already well rounded.
If sugar is secreted in your urine and is present in your blood a diagnosis of gestational diabetes is recorded. This is not diabetes, but it may indicate that you are liable to develop diabetes later. It also a sign that you are likely to give birth to a big baby.
Cut out sugary foods of all kinds. Eat fruit instead. Enjoy lentil and chick pea salads and stews, brown rice pilafs and risotto, whole grain bread, Mediterranean roast or grilled vegetables and masses of salads.
|eating should be a
pleasure. If you enjoy a varied
vegetarian cuisine, you will know what suits you.
rules and taboos
In many cultures it is thought that a pregnant womans diet should consist of foods to keep the baby small enough to be born easily. The assumption is that labour is easier if a baby is small. In fact, this is not so. Labour can be difficult with a low birth weight baby, easy with a large one. It depends on whether your uterus is functioning well and on the position of the baby.
In countries where fruit and vegetables are readily available, every culture stresses their importance in pregnancy. In Japan women believe that they give the baby beautiful skin. In Mediterranean and Central and South American cultures, as in north Africa, India and Vietnam, women eat plenty of fruit and vegetables to balance the hot and cold in their bodies. This derives from the ancient theory of humours and from Ayurvedic teaching in India. Each food is categorised as hot or cold although not literally! Pregnancy is a hot condition, a pregnant woman easily becomes too hot. High salt, high fat and sugary foods should be avoided. But so should foods which are very cold. The Hmong, Vietnamese women in the United States, do not drink milk in pregnancy for this reason. Though this makes healthcare providers anxious, lactose intolerance is common in people from far Eastern countries. Milk may be very bad for them, and they obtain protein from other sources.
The dietary rules that have been imposed on pregnant women in our own society, specifying that two pints of milk a day are essential, (advice I found in one book), that you must eat liver to avoid anaemia, or that it is important to have an egg every day, all collapse as we learn more about nutrition. Women who eat a lot of liver, for example, run the risk of Vitamin A poisoning. Those who are sensitive to egg proteins may transmit this sensitivity to the baby. In the USA in the 19th century women were advised by obstetricians not to eat wheat because it was believed that it made bone and they claimed that if a baby were soft and floppy, labour would be easier. Their patients were ordered to stick to a diet of only rice, potatoes, oranges and apples at the end of pregnancy, so as to keep the bones soft! High protein diets used to be the vogue in the USA 10 years ago, and it was claimed that they prevented pre-eclampsia. But research in West Africa, providing supplementary protein for pregnant women who usually had low protein diets, revealed that those who had the extra protein were more likely to develop pre-eclampsia.
Experts can get it wrong. Follow your own inclinations, with a varied diet based on whole grains and fresh fruit and vegetables. A vital element missing in dietary rules is that eating should be a pleasure. If you enjoy a varied vegetarian cuisine, you will know what suits you.
|EACH DAY HAVE FOOD