Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Creamy Polenta, Shrimp, and Vegetable Bowls

Creamy polenta, shrimp and vegetable bowls

Creamy Polenta, Shrimp, and Vegetable Bowls are an easy way to include seafood in your eating plan.

I love quick, delicious dinners, don’t you? These creamy polenta, shrimp, and vegetable bowls are easy enough to make on busy weeknights, and elegant enough for guests. That’s my kind of meal!

I first wrote this post in 2016. I recently changed the recipe and I wanted to make you aware of the improvements. I’ve also added tips for customizing these bowls depending on what ingredients you have on hand. I love polenta and shrimp, but if you want to use chicken or another type of seafood, that works, too!

Eat Seafood Twice a Week

Experts recommend eating at least two seafood meals weekly, and as many as three meals ( a total of 8-12 ounces) in a week’s time if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Seafood is rich in protein, healthy omega-3 fats that support heart and brain health, and other nutrients, including choline, which is often in short supply in the American diet.

Shrimp is one of Americans’ favorite types of seafood: we eat an average of nearly 4.5 pounds a year per person. (I’m pretty sure I am a top consumer!) Most of the shrimp we eat is imported, but shrimp is also harvested and sold in the U.S. As fish go, shrimp is considered one of the safest.

Frozen shrimp and other frozen seafood are useful to have on hand to make meal prep easier, but you can also use the fresh variety, too.  You can even make these creamy polenta, shrimp, and vegetable bowls with frozen shrimp and you don’t have to thaw it before cooking!

How to Make Whole Grain Creamy Polenta

Creamy polenta is a mixture of cornmeal, water, butter, and cheese. (I add some milk to mine to make it creamier.)  I prefer whole grain cornmeal for its taste and health benefits.

For this dish, you may want to use a medium or coarse-ground cornmeal; packages of cornmeal labeled as polenta are usually coarser grinds. You can substitute grits for cornmeal but you won’t get the same results or the same nutrition profile.

Customize your Creamy Polenta, Shrimp and Vegetable Bowl

I am not into fussy, precise recipes. In fact, I love recipes that people can change around to suit their needs and what’s in their pantry at the moment. Here are some tips for making do in the kitchen:

  • No spinach? Kale works well in this recipe, too. I haven’t tried it, but I’m sure the bowls would be delicious with other greens, such as collard and beet, and with broccoli.
  • Canned, drained diced tomatoes can be swapped for the red bell pepper.
  • If you don’t have cornmeal in the house, or you don’t want to use it, swap pasta, farro, or rice. Farro is a whole grain, and whole wheat pasta and brown rice are, too. Any of the three will help you meet the suggested daily intake of at least three servings of whole grains a day.
  • Cooked chicken can take the place of shrimp. Polenta pairs well with chicken, meat, and seafood.

I‘m a big believer in using what you have on hand. Read this for how to make ingredient swaps that work. 


Creamy Polenta, Shrimp, and Vegetable Bowls

A simple, delicious meal in a bowl!
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: highprotein, polentabowl, shrimpbowl
Servings: 4
Calories: 378kcal

Ingredients

  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 large red bell peppers, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 5 cups baby spinach, stems removed
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 cup whole grain cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup 1% low fat milk
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 16 ounces raw shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed
  • fresh chopped chives for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  • Place water in medium saucepan over high heat. Cover.
  • Add oil to large skillet. Heat oil over medium heat. When oil is hot, add the onion, red bell pepper, and garlic. Saute for about 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
  • Add the spinach and saute for another 3 minutes or until the spinach has just wilted. Add the crushed red pepper flakes and stir well. Remove from the heat.
  • When the water has boiled, slowly add the cornmeal, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Add the salt. Turn the heat to low and simmer the cornmeal, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Add the milk, cheese, and butter and stir until the butter is melted and the polenta is creamy. Cover and set aside.
  • Return the skillet to the medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook until the shrimp is pink on both sides, about 5 minutes.
  • To serve, divide the polenta evenly between four bowls and top with the shrimp-vegetable mixture. Garnish with fresh chives, if desired.

Notes

Per serving: 378 calories, 16 grams fat (6 grams saturated fat), 210 milligrams cholesterol, 618 milligrams sodium, 30 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, 31 grams protein, 653 milligrams potassium, 208 milligrams calcium 

pin for Creamy Polenta, Shrimp, and Vegetable Bowls

 

Foods That Improve Memory and Concentration

Diet affects brain function. Find out how foods rich in choline, iodine, and vitamin B12 improve memory and concentration throughout life.

How choline builds and maintains the brain

Choline is part of every cell.

Choline is an essential nutrient. That means you need choline from food or supplements to meet your needs.

Studies show that choline is key to brain development during pregnancy and early life.

Choline is linked to a lower risk for neural tube defects. The neural tube develops into a baby’s brain, spine, and spinal cord.

Choline also plays a role in the development of the hippocampus, the brain’s “memory center.” As a result, choline may help preserve and improve memory.  The hippocampus is one of the only areas in the brain that produces cells into late adulthood.

Some studies show a link between better memory in people with higher choline intakes.  And, people with Alzheimer’s disease have lower levels of a compound that allows the brain to use choline.

How to include enough choline

More than 90% of U.S. adults don’t consume enough choline, including pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Here’s how much choline you need every day:

Adults, ages 19-50 (not pregnant):

Female: 425 milligrams; Males: 550 milligrams

Pregnant: 450 milligrams

Breastfeeding: 550 milligrams

Choline is found in a variety of foods. However, animal foods, such as eggs, meat, and seafood, have the most choline. For example, one large egg or 3/4 cup roasted soybeans supply about 30% of your daily choline intake.

You may not get enough choline if you limit or avoid animal foods. As a result, you may need a choline supplement.

The amount of choline in foods can be found in the Nutrient Facts panel. The panel is on food and supplement labels. The Daily Value for choline is 550 milligrams.

Most multivitamins and prenatal pills do not contain much choline.  You may need an additional choline pill, especially if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. However, limit choline intake to 3,500 milligrams daily.

 Coffee, walnuts, and berries for brain health

Iodine and brain health

The thyroid gland contains nearly all the iodine in the body. It stores iodine to make hormones for brain development and growth, and to produce energy.

How iodine builds and maintains the brain

During pregnancy, the body needs thyroid hormones to make myelin.  Myelin helps nerve and brains cells to communicate.

Iodine helps baby’s brain develop properly. Severe iodine deficiency in mom’s diet can lead to mental retardation and Attention Deficit Disorder.

How to include enough iodine in your diet

Iodine needs increase during pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, women in their childbearing years may not get enough iodine.

The Nutrient Facts panel doesn’t list iodine, and that makes it hard to know how much iodine is in packaged foods.

Here’s how much iodine you need every day:

Adults, ages 19-50 (not pregnant):

Males and females: 150 micrograms/day

Pregnancy: 220 micrograms

Breastfeeding: 290 micrograms

All salt is not created equal

People who avoid iodized table salt, seafood, and dairy may be at risk for an iodine deficiency.

Dairy milk has iodine. However, many people avoid dairy foods. As a result, they may be missing out on iodine.

Seafood and sea vegetables supply iodine. Experts suggest eating at least eight ounces of seafood weekly. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should eat eight to 12 ounces of seafood weekly.

Salt with added iodine, called iodized salt, is a reliable iodine source. However, the same isn’t true of salty packaged foods.

Most of our salt intake comes from processed foods, but food companies almost always use plain salt.

Experts suggests pregnant and breastfeeding women take 150 micrograms of potassium iodine as a supplement daily. That advice also applies to women who may become pregnant. 

The body absorbs potassium iodide well. Taking more iodine is not better for you.

How vitamin B12 helps the brain

During pregnancy, the brain needs vitamin B12 for proper development and growth.  The brain also needs vitamin B12 throughout life. 

Vitamin B12 is part of the myelin sheath surrounding nerve cells. The myelin sheath allows cells to “talk” with each other.

Vitamin B12 helps produce neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters help nerve cells communicate.

Foods with vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is found naturally in animal products, including seafood, meat, poultry, eggs, and milk. It is not present naturally in plant foods. However, fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals and other grains and nutritional yeast, have vitamin B12.

It’s possible to be low in vitamin B12 if you avoid animal products. You can get enough vitamin B12 with fortified foods and dietary supplements.

Exclusively breastfed infants of women who eat no animal products may develop vitamin B12 deficiency within months of birth. Untreated vitamin B12 deficiency can result in severe nerve damage.

How much vitamin B12 you need

Vitamin B12 deficiency is more common than you think.

Up to 15% of the general population doesn’t get enough vitamin B12. Poor memory, confusion, depression, and dementia are symptoms of too little vitamin B12 in the diet.

You need 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B12 daily after age 14.

During pregnancy, the daily suggested intake is 2.6 micrograms, and it’s 2.8 micrograms daily during breastfeeding.

Why you may need more vitamin B12

People with celiac disease and Crohn’s disease and those who have had weight loss surgery may absorb less vitamin B12.

Common medications affect how your body processes vitamin B12, too.

Ask you doctor about the medication you take. You may need extra vitamin B12.

Age also affects vitamin B12. The body absorbs less natural vitamin B12 after age 50. As a result, experts say people over age 50 should get most of their vitamin B12 in the synthetic form.

Synthetic vitamin B12 is added to foods such as breakfast cereal and other grains and dietary supplements. Added vitamin B12 does not require stomach acid for digestion. As a result, the body can use it easily.

In conclusion: How to have a better brain

Eating right helps the body and brain develop properly and supports it throughout life. Include foods rich in choline, iodine, and vitamin B12 in a balanced diet. If you don’t, consider taking a daily multivitamin and a choline supplement to meet your needs.

No-Bake Vegan Bean and Peanut Butter Treats

As a dietitian, and lover of all things sweet, this no-bake vegan bean and peanut butter treats recipe checks all the boxes for me!

Vegan peanut butter and peanut heart-shaped dessert on Love napkin.

Nothing says “love” like a healthy, delicious dessert.

Healthy, no-bake dessert recipe 

The best thing about vegan recipes is that you don’t have to be vegan to enjoy them. (Also, you can eat the raw dough!)

No-Bake Vegan Bean and Peanut Butter Treats are perfect for everyone because they’re delicious, energizing, and heart-healthy.  And, if made with certified gluten-free oats, this vegan treat is gluten-free, too.

Children can help form the dough into hearts. Or, if it’s easier for them, they can form the dough into balls and dunk them into the chocolate.


Click here for a flourless Easy Black Bean Brownie recipe!

Small bowls of white beans, uncooked oats, peanuts

White beans, oats, and peanuts are the basis of these treats.

 

No-Bake Vegan Bean and Peanut Butter Treats

Peanut butter, white beans, and oatmeal combine to make a delicious sweet vegan treat that can be gluten-free, too. 
Prep Time30 minutes
Total Time30 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: beans, glutenfree, peanutbutter, ValentinesDay, vegan
Servings: 18
Calories: 124kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 cup oatmeal, uncooked
  • 1 15-oz. can white beans or chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips (vegan and gluten-free, if desired)
  • 3 Tbsp. finely chopped peanuts

Instructions

  • Place all the ingredients except the chocolate chips and peanuts in a food processor.  Blend until the mixture is well-combined, about 3 minutes, pausing to scrape down the sides of the processor.  Leave the dough in the food processor and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
    Place the dough on a large cutting board and press into a 9-inch square that’s about 1/2-inch thick. Use a medium heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut the dough into hearts.*  
    Combine the remaining dough and press into a 1/2-inch thick piece. Cut dough into hearts until you have 18, and place hearts on a wire cooling rack on top of a cutting board.
    To decorate, melt the chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler and  drizzle on the hearts. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and allow the chocolate to harden before eating. Refrigerate leftovers.

Nutrition Information: Per serving: 124 calories; 5 grams fat (1 gram saturated fat); 0 cholesterol; 82 milligrams sodium; 16 grams carbohydrate; 3 grams fiber; 4 grams protein.

    Notes

    *Note: You can also shape the dough into 18 balls. Dip half of each ball into the melted chocolate and coat with peanuts. Place on wax paper to harden.
    Plate of vegan bean and peanut butter no-bake treats

    They’re vegan, so you can pick at the batter without worries!

     

    Tuna Burgers With Smashed Avocado and Tomato

     

    tuna burger topped with smashed avocado and tomato on a whole grain bun on plate with baby carrots

    Tuna burgers are ready in less than 30 minutes!

    We make tuna burgers with smashed avocado and tomato a lot at our house.  I love the recipe so much that I included it in my book, Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, and After Pregnancy. 

    If you’re looking for an affordable, meatless meal, or you want a break from regular hamburgers, give these burgers a try.

    Canned tuna helps you include seafood at least twice a week

    Experts suggest that adults eat at least two fish meals weekly, and that pregnant and breastfeeding women consume two to three meals a week. However, you don’t need to be pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to conceive to enjoy the benefits of these burgers!

    My burgers are made with canned tuna, an inexpensive, convenient source of several nutrients, including protein, iodine, and omega-3 fats necessary for an adult’s heart health, and for a baby’s brain development and vision.

     

    empty tuna can to form tuna burgers

    Use an empty tuna can to form the burgers so that they are uniform in size and fit on the buns or English muffins.

     

     

    golden brown tuna burgers in skillet

    The tuna burgers should be cooked until golden brown and slightly crispy on the outside.  


    Pro Tip

    Make a double batch of this recipe and freeze half. They are easy to reheat for a quick lunch or dinner.


    cooked tuna burgers wrapped to freeze for later use

    Wrap cooked, cooled tuna burgers well and date the package. They will last for several months in the freezer. Reheat in the microwave and make the avocado/tomato topping just before serving.

    tuna burger on bun topped with avocado-tomato mixture

    Delicious and nutritious Tuna Burgers With Smashed Avocado and Tomato pack omega-3 fats, fiber, protein, and much more!

     

    Tuna Burgers with Smashed Avocado and Tomato

    A budget-friendly, meatless option for lunch or dinner.
    Prep Time10 minutes
    Cook Time10 minutes
    Course: Main Course
    Cuisine: American
    Keyword: easydinnerrecipe, fishmeal, tunaburger
    Servings: 4

    Ingredients

    • 4 5 1/2-ounce cans or pouches of tuna, drained
    • 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
    • 2 large eggs
    • 3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots or red onion
    • 2 teaspoons dried dill
    • 1 tablespoon canola oil
    • 1 pitted ripe avocado, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    • 2 small tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    • 4 2-ounce whole wheat: sandwich buns, sandwich thins, or English muffins, toasted if desired

    Instructions

    • Place the tuna in a medium mixing bowl and break into small pieces with a fork.  
    • Add the bread crumbs, eggs, shallots, and dill, and stir until combine well.  
    • Form the mixture into four burgers of equal size.
    • In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Cook burgers for about four minutes on each side.
    • In a small bowl, combine the avocado and tomato until just mixed, mashing lightly while stirring.  
    • To serve, place burgers on sandwich buns and top with the avocado-tomato mixture. 

    Notes

    Per serving: 
    430 calories; 14 grams fat (3 grams saturated fat); 139 milligrams cholesterol; 810 milligrams sodium; 40 grams carbohydrate; 8 grams fiber; 39 grams protein

    tuna burgers with avocado and tomato pinterest

    %d bloggers like this: