Comfoit zone: five lightened-up versions of your favorite foods, and prenatal eating tips that won’t weigh you down

Comfoit zone: five lightened-up versions of your favorite foods, and prenatal eating tips that won’t weigh you down

Suz Redfearn

THOUGHTS OF A TRADITIONAL HOLIDAY MEAL, along with the seasonal cold weather, can leave you lusting for warm, hearty fare–macaroni and cheese, anyone? However, during pregnancy, you need to get the proper nutrients for you and your baby, and that can pose a problem if your diet mainly consists of the fat- and sugar-laden comfort foods typical of winter. But you don’t have to give them up completely.

The good news is you can still indulge in a delectable meal, as long as you keep portion sizes under control. Your goal is to stay within the recommended guidelines for pregnancy weight gain: 25 to 35 pounds for women of average weight; 28 to 40 pounds for underweight women; and 15 to 25 pounds for those who are overweight.

To do this, try cooking up our healthier versions of the old standbys: macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, meatloaf, fried chicken and a warm apple dessert. Our recipes will school you in kicking the fat to the curb while preserving the flavor and giving you important baby-building nutrients such as protein, calcium and folate (go to and click on “Nutrients You Need” for a complete list).

Of course, there’s more to good pregnancy nutrition than just finding guilt-free ways to indulge in comfort foods, so we’ve included important guidelines for easy, healthful prenatal nutrition; information on low-carb eating; and the truth about gaining (and losing) the baby weight.

The lowdown on low-carb eating during pregnancy

If you’ve been cutting your intake of carbohydrates, you might be wondering if it’s OK to do so throughout your pregnancy.

“Absolutely not,” says Wahida Karmally, Dr.Ph., R.D., C.D.E., director of nutrition at the Irving Center for Clinical Research at Columbia University in New York. The only healthful diet recommended for pregnancy is a balanced one, she says.

To be more specific, when you cut carbs and increase protein intake, you put an extra burden on your kidneys, which already are working overtime during pregnancy. Limiting carb-containing foods also means cutting glucose, which your brain needs in order to function. You also may miss out on vital vitamins and nutrients (including fiber and antioxidants) that are essential for good health, Karmally explains. What’s more, “you absolutely don’t want to be in ketosis when you’re pregnant,” says Jodie Shield, M.Ed., R.D., a faculty member in the clinical nutrition department at Rush University in Chicago. Ketosis occurs in the absence of carbs, when the body burns its fat stores for fuel. As a result, the acid level in the blood spikes, much like it does when a person is starving or has untreated diabetes.

Going low carb also can reduce the amount of folic acid (a B vitamin shown to reduce the risk of neural-tube defects) you get, since the main sources of folic acid in the typical American diet are fortified grain products such as cereals, breads and pastas–all big no-no’s if you’ve sworn off carbs. This problem is compounded by the fact that foods naturally high in folic acid (including spinach and other fruits and vegetables) are allowed only in small amounts on some low-carb diets.

Rather than cutting the entire carb category, pregnant women should restrict their intake of processed foods made with refined sugars and flour and instead consume more nutritious carbs such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables. In short, Shield says, “when it comes to carbs, discriminate–don’t eliminate.”

The truth about baby weight

Not all pregnant women gain weight the same way: Some women pack on the stubborn pounds all over, while others gain nearly all of it in their bellies and lose it practically the instant they give birth. The key is to think realistically, which, admittedly, can be difficult when we see a celebrity like Kate Hudson put on 60 pounds during her pregnancy (well over the recommended amount), then drop it all in a flash (OK, four months), thanks to twice-daily sessions with a personal trainer. But is such weight gain even healthy? And is such rapid weight loss a good idea?

Turns out, no and no. Gaining 60 pounds is too much, even if you’re pregnant with twins, doctors say. Extreme weight gain can increase the chances of developing gestational diabetes and pregnancy-induced hypertension (especially if you’re over 35), says Karen Nordahl, M.D., a Vancouver-based family physician and co-author of Fit to Deliver (Fit to Deliver International, 2000), which covers exercise and pregnancy. Also to consider: A large weight gain could affect the size of the baby and complicate delivery.

Dropping pregnancy weight immediately after giving birth isn’t a good idea if you’re trying to nurse, as you need extra calories and nutrients in order to keep producing breast milk. Even if you aren’t nursing, it’s not advisable to drop more than a pound and a half per week, says registered dietitian Karmally, who adds that if you lose weight any more rapidly, you’ll also lose muscle.

Unless you have a personal trainer taking up residence at your house yelling at you to lift, lift, lift, that is. Needless to say, most of us don’t. When you see the stunning “success” stories of celebrities, remember that it’s their job to keep their bodies in top form–they have the time and the resources to hone their bodies to perfection.

Instead, take a more realistic approach. Watch what you eat, exercise on a regular basis and the weight will come off steadily, as it should.


Fried Chicken Tenders



1 pound chicken breast tenders

2 cups low-fat buttermilk

1 1/2 cups unsweetened cornflakes cereal, finely crushed; or panko

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon minced Italian parsley

2 tablespoons canola oil, divided

Place the chicken and buttermilk in a baking dish. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (Marinating for up to 24 hours will make the chicken even more tender and flavorful.)

Combine the cornflakes (or panko), cheese and parsley in a shallow dish. Remove the chicken, discard the buttermilk and roll the tenders in the cornflakes (or panko) mixture until coated. Set on a rack.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the canola oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Fry half the tenders in the oil until cooked through, about 8-10 minutes, turning halfway through with tongs. Repeat with remaining oil and tenders. Tenders may be kept warm in a 200[degrees] F oven until ready to serve.

Nutritional information per serving (4 ounces, or 3-4 tenders): 340 calories, 30% fat (11 g), 26% carbohydrate (22 g), 44% protein (37 g), 1 g fiber, 1.5 mg iron, 232 mg calcium, 13 mcg folate.

Macaroni and Cheese




1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/4 cup minced yellow onion

1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups low-fat (2%) milk

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 ounces reduced-fat Jarlsberg cheese

2 ounces reduced-fat cheddar cheese

8 ounces dried elbow macaroni, cooked until al dente and drained

2 ounces sharp yellow cheddar cheese, shredded

In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and saute onion until just soft, about 2-3 minutes. Add flour and combine thoroughly. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, another 5 minutes, being careful not to let the mixture brown.

Slowly add the milk to the flour mixture, whisking continuously (mixture will be extremely thick at the beginning and will thin out as milk is added). Continue whisking until smooth and flour is incorporated. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper and continue to cook, whisking occasionally, until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes.

Add Jarlsberg and cheddar to the sauce mixture and whisk until melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Add cooked pasta to the cheese sauce and stir until combined.

Preheat oven to 350[degrees] F. Lightly oil an 8-by-8-inch baking dish and add the pasta mixture. Top with shredded sharp yellow cheddar and bake until warmed through and cheese is melted, about 15 minutes.

Nutritional information per serving (1 cup): 438 calories, 33% fat (16 g), 48% carbohydrate (53 g), 19% protein (21 g), 1.5 g fiber, 2.5 mg iron, 420 mg calcium, 146 mcg folate.

Turkey Meatloaf




1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 cup minced yellow onion

1/4 cup minced carrot

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried

1 egg

3 tablespoons ketchup

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 pound lean ground turkey

1/4 cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375[degrees] F. Add oil to a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and saute 2-3 minutes or until soft. Add carrots and continue to saute until just soft, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, combine thyme, egg, ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. Add ground turkey and mix thoroughly. Toss in the bread crumbs and combine with turkey mixture until incorporated.

Form 4 equal-size loaves and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake until internal temperature reads 165[degrees] F (use a meat thermometer to check) and loaves are firm.

Nutritional information per serving (1 6-ounce slice): 228 calories, 32% fat (8 g), 21% carbohydrate (12 g), 47% protein (27 g), 1 g fiber, 2.5 mg iron, 37 mg calcium, 17 mcg folate.





2 teaspoons unsalted butter

3 teaspoons all-purpose flour

1/4 cup beef broth

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme or

1/4 teaspoon dried

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, whisk together and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring regularly. Slowly add beef broth, whisking constantly until smooth. Continue to cook until gravy thickens slightly. Season with thyme and serve.

Nutritional information per serving (3 tablespoons): 28 calories, 64% fat (2 g), 23% carbohydrate (1.5 g), 13% protein (1 g), 4 mg calcium, 5 mcg folate.

Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes




4 Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds), peeled and cut into large


2 cups chicken broth

3/4 cup whole milk

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Place potatoes in a large pot and cover halfway with cold water. Add chicken broth to just cover potatoes and place on high heat (add 2-3 cloves of garlic, if desired).

Bring potatoes to a boil, reduce heat slightly and cook until very tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and return potatoes to the pot.

While potatoes are cooking, combine milk and butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat until butter is melted and milk is just coming to a simmer. Remove from heat.

Add the hot milk mixture to the potatoes and blend with a hand mixer until smooth. (If desired, serve with gravy recipe.) Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Nutritional information per serving (1 cup): 213 calories, 34% fat (8 g). 52% carbohydrate (28 g), 14% protein (7 g), 2 g fiber, 1.5 mg iron, 80 mg calcium, 25 mg folate.

Brown Butter Apple Crumble




4 large Granny Smith apples (or other tart cooking apples), peeled,

cored and sliced

1/4 lemon, juiced

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

2/3 cup, plus 1 tablespoon, all-purpose flour, divided

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350[degrees] F. Combine apples, lemon juice, sugar and 1 tablespoon of flour in a bowl, and mix to coat apples. Pour into a 9-inch pie pan.

In a separate bowl, combine 2/3 cup flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Over medium heat melt the butter slowly, stirring occasionally, and continue to cook until butter just begins to turn golden, about 10 minutes. Immediately remove the butter from heat and slowly drizzle over flour/spice mixture, stirring the flour with a fork, until all the butter is added and the mixture is crumbly.

Evenly spread flour/butter mixture over apples and bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until apples are bubbling and the topping has browned. If the topping browns too quickly, cover the pan loosely with foil and continue baking. Serve warm.

Nutritional information per serving (1/2 cup): 235 calories, 36% fat (9.5 g), 62% carbohydrate (36 g), 2% protein (1 g), 3 g fiber, 1 mg iron, 63 mg calcium, 26 mcg folate.

RELATED ARTICLE: What’s in a makeover?

Here’s how we lightened up our recipes, starting on pg. 108:

Fried Chicken Tenders

Marinating the chicken tenders in low-fat buttermilk (the longer the better!) makes them juicy, tender and flavorful. Using panko (small, flaky bread crumbs common in Japanese cuisine and available in the Asian-foods section of most supermarkets) or finely crushed unsweetened cornflakes provides a great crunchy texture. Using only 2 tablespoons of oil instead of the 4 cups usually used when making fried chicken cuts the fat considerably.

Macaroni and Cheese

Traditional mac-and-cheese recipes can contain up to 1,000 calories and almost 60 grams of fat per serving. Slash the fat by using reduced-fat cheeses; Jarlsberg is particularly good because it has a more piquant flavor than cheddar and thus can be used more sparingly. While it might sound like an odd combination, nutmeg and cheese actually go well together, and the nutmeg helps punch up the flavor of the dish.

Turkey Meatloaf

Use ground turkey instead of beef as a lean source of protein. Herbs and vegetables add fresh flavor, so you won’t miss the fat of traditional gravy, which contains more butter and heavy cream.

Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes

Yukon Gold potatoes are a particularly creamy variety, so you can skip the extra butter and cream. Cooking them in chicken stock also enhances their flavor. And, you can use the gravy recipe, if desired, to complete the dish.

Brown Butter Apple Crumble

This dessert recipe normally calls for 1/2 cup of butter and an additional cup of sugar, and is served with heavy cream. We’ve cut back the butter and sugar and suggest serving this dish with fat-free whipped cream.

RELATED ARTICLE: Easy prenatal eating

Choose from all the food groups every day so you get a variety of nutrients. Eat nine servings from the whole-grains group (bread, cereal, rice and pasta); two to three servings of protein-rich foods (meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts); seven servings from the fruit and vegetable group; and three servings from the dairy group.

Stay hydrated. Drink at least eight glasses of water daily (more during exercise) and avoid alcohol. Water helps to prevent constipation and support your increased blood volume.

Eat nutrient-dense foods. To get the nutrients you need, including calcium, iron, folate and fiber, go for minimally processed foods such as yogurt, eggs, chicken and whole-grain cereals or breads.

Take a prenatal vitamin. To fill in any gaps in your diet, take a prenatal supplement that provides 100 to 200 percent of the recommended dietary intakes.

Avoid unpasteurized and uncooked foods. Certain foods may contain the listeria bacterium that can cause infection and lead to premature delivery, infection in the newborn, miscarriage or stillbirth. Avoid unpasteurized soft cheeses such as brie, Camembert, feta, blue-veined and Mexican-style cheeses; deli-counter meats (unless heated to steaming hot) and raw or undercooked meat, sushi, seafood or eggs.

Be choosy about fish. Certain fish, including shark, king mackerel, tilefish and swordfish, contain excessive mercury and are best avoided during pregnancy. Limit consumption of low-mercury fish (such as canned light tuna, catfish and salmon) to 12 ounces a week.

Story by Suz Redfearn

Recipes by Sara Jaye

Photography by Lisa Hubbard

Suz Redfearn is a health writer in Falls Church, Va. Sara Jaye is a food writer in New York City.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Weider Publications

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group