Tag Archives: walnuts

Eat to Conceive: Food and Fertility

Chances are, you’re familiar with someone struggling with infertility, and you may not even know it. About 15% of couples have trouble getting pregnant, which makes infertility quite common.

I wrote about infertility in Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, and After Pregnancy, and while I’m aware of the stats, they don’t convey the fact that women who face fertility issues may experience shame.

Talking more openly about infertility can help to ease a couple’s burden, and hopefully, reduce bad feelings about a condition that is not their fault. Registered dietitians Elizabeth (Liz) Shaw and Sara Haas, also a chef, have taken the lead in this regard in the Fertility Foods Cookbook, 100+ Recipes to Nourish Your Body. I spoke with Liz about book, which is full of amazing recipes, one of which I prepared, and feature below.

Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN

Why did you write this book with Sara?

I always knew that I wanted to write a book, and when I realized that there was a need for a fertility foods book, I reached out to Sara Haas, a friend that I had made online through our mutually-exhaustive experiences with infertility. After asking Sara for her opinion about my book idea, she told me that she wanted to work on a fertility book, too! Two heads are better than one, and so began our book adventure. We took the opportunity to tell our uniques stories and struggles with fertility, and to let our audience know that they are not alone.   

Chef Sara Haas, RDN, LDN

A healthy body weight improves fertility in women and men

What makes a food a fertility food? Do fertility foods differ from other foods?

While fertility-fueling foods are certainly no different than other wholesome, delicious foods, there are some principles of an eating plan conducive to conception that are important to consider. We recommend plant-based eating. You don’t have to eat a vegan diet, or severely restrict animal foods, but the bulk of your plate should be plant-based. We discuss ways in which combining healthy fats with whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and plant-based proteins, such as soy and legumes, creates a plate that promotes fertility, giving couples a sense of control over a condition that sometimes feels so out of their control.

Here’s one of the recipes from the book that I tried and loved:

Chickpea Salad with Tahini Vinaigrette from the Fertility Foods Cookbook by Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN and Chef Sara Haas, RDN, LDN is easy, delicious, and can be served as an entree or as a side dish. It’s a plant-based recipe that everyone in the family will enjoy! 

Are fertility foods for women only? If not, would you explain why?

Absolutely not! It takes two to Tango, right? Although we specify in the introduction that the book is directed toward females, we include advice about food choices for men, and how some may be different than for women. While females who struggle with anovulatory infertility are encouraged to choose whole milk dairy products to enhance fertility, men are encouraged to stick with low-fat dairy. Slow-releasing carbohydrates, such as those found in whole grains, vegetables, legumes and soy, are good for both genders. One other interesting note is the research that suggests regular walnut consumption may help support male fertility in animal studies.

Walnuts may help support male fertility. They are also good for your gut health, and your partner’s.

Are there foods to avoid when trying to conceive and why?

While Sara and I certainly don’t want to discourage any food, we do recommend limiting added sugar, as well as reliance on highly-processed foods. Most highly-processed foods supply fewer nutrients than their less-processed counterparts. While nearly all the foods you eat, including plain milk, eggs, and lettuce, are technically “processed,” it’s possible to make better choices. For example, whole wheat bread is better for you than highly refined white bread, even though both foods are processed.

Don’t worry about engaging in a slice of birthday cake or other special occasion treats. Rather, focus on a fertility-fueling mindset most of the time. In addition, since those actively trying to conceive may become pregnant, we also recommended focusing on safer seafood choices, such as salmon, canned light tuna, and shrimp, and steering clear of fish that tend to be higher in mercury, such as King mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, tilefish (Gulf of Mexico), and big eye tuna (not canned) that is typically used in sushi.

This recipe from the Fertility Foods Cookbook is next on my list to try! 

Heavenly Chocolate Cake with Rich and Creamy Chocolate Frosting is gluten-free, vegetarian, and packed with far more protein, fiber, and other nutrients than regular chocolate cake.

In your discussions with those who are trying to conceive, what are they most confused about? 

One of the common misconceptions is that couples think they need to completely avoid carbohydrates, maybe because of the gluten-free trend.  (Men and women with diagnosed celiac disease should avoid gluten.) My job is to help educate people about the importance of including whole grains, many of which are gluten-free, in a diet that can help fuel fertility. I find once people recognize that they can become satiated, satisfied and at ease with a nourishing bowl of quinoa, mixed vegetables, and a delicious walnut sauce, their mindset about eating for fertility shifts. They start thinking of food preparation not as another chore but as a controllable way to fuel their fertility.

If you know someone who is struggling with fertility issues, check out BumpsToBaby.com, the support community that Liz started and runs. BumpsToBaby offers a free, closed group for those seeking health and support from others who are trying to conceive.

 

No Added Sugar Fruit and Nut Quick Bread

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The last thing anyone needs is more sugar. This no-added sugar quick bread is perfect for gifting, bringing to a celebration, and for having on hand to make healthy meals and snacks. Dried fruit and bananas provide natural sweetness so there’s no need for other sweeteners.  Almonds and walnuts supply heart-healthy fat, and the recipe calls for oat flour instead of wheat flour to keep this dense, satisfying bread gluten-free and packed with whole grain goodness.

Looking for other ways to reduce sugar intake?

You can mix and match the types of nuts and dried fruits you use, and make 12 muffins out of the batter instead of a single loaf. Enjoy this better-for-you bread with peanut butter or cottage cheese, or pair with eggs or Greek yogurt.

Fruit & Nut Bread
Makes 12 servings.

2 medium ripe bananas, broken into large chunks
2 large eggs
1⁄4 cup canola oil
2 cups oat flour*
1 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
3⁄4 cup chopped almonds
3⁄4 cup chopped walnuts
3⁄4 cup dried unsweetened apricots, chopped into small pieces
3⁄4 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Coat a 1 1/2 quart loaf pan with cooking spray, and line with a sheet of parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, mash the bananas until no longer chunky. Using a whisk, add the eggs and canola oil and combine well. Add the oat flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine.

Add the almonds, walnuts, apricots, and raisins, and blend well.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan and spread it evenly. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool for 15-20 minutes out of the pan before cutting.

* To make oat flour, place 2 cups of gluten-free one-minute or old fashioned oats in a food processor and process on high speed until oats achieve a powder-like consistency, about 1 minute.

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No Added Sugar Fruit and Nut Quick Bread

Per serving (1 slice or 1/12 of the loaf):

Calories: 253
Total fat: 14 grams
Saturated fat: 1 gram
Cholesterol: 35 milligrams
Sodium: 135 milligrams
Carbohydrate: 29 grams
Dietary fiber: 4 grams
Protein: 6 grams
Calcium: 64 milligrams
Iron: 2 milligrams

29 Ways to Use Up Holiday Leftovers

When you host holiday dinners, you have more than leftover turkey to deal with, and if you’re like me, you hate to waste cranberry sauce, vegetables, pie, and other festive food. Here are 29 ways to use up nearly everything you have in your fridge after entertaining.

Cranberry Sauce/Cranberries

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• Stir into warm oatmeal that’s been microwaved with milk (milk for extra protein, calcium, and other minerals, and vitamins). Top with chopped walnuts or pecans.

• Add a tablespoon or two to fruit smoothies and eliminate sugar or other sweeteners.

• Combine with plain Greek yogurt and make a parfait with whole grain ready-to-eat cereal.

• Warm 2 tablespoons in the microwave for 10 seconds and put it on top of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.

• Use in place of jelly in a peanut butter sandwich, and add to turkey sandwiches as a spread.

• Use instead of syrup on French toast, waffles, and pancakes.

Stuffing/Dressing

• Prepare stuffing “pancakes” and top with a fried egg.

• Stir stuffing or dressing into turkey soup.

• Use as a topping on turkey pot pie.

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Vegetables

• Make a vegetable strata from leftover bread, chopped vegetables, eggs, and cheese, or make quiche.

• Puree cooked broccoli, cauliflower, or carrots and add milk or cream to make soup. Mix butternut squash and sweet potato together for soup, and add coconut milk for a change.

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• Add cooked sweet potato or beets to smoothies.

• Stir plain pumpkin or mashed or sweet potatoes into turkey soup for a thicker, more flavorful soup.

• Stuff a cooked baked sweet or white potato with 1/4 cup cooked diced turkey or 1/4 cup black beans, and top with cranberry sauce or salsa.

• Top turkey pot pie with mashed sweet or white potatoes instead of pastry crust.

• Smash (gently!) whole cooked small potatoes, roast in 400˚F oven for 10 minutes, and top with a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt and fresh chives.

• Chop cooked veggies and add to omelettes along with leftover cheese or make into a calzone.

• Puree cooked cauliflower and mix with milk or cream and grated Parmesan cheese to the desired consistency for a side dish.

• Prepare potato pancakes with white or sweet potatoes.

Bread and Rolls:

• Make French toast, pancakes or scones with leftover cream or eggnog.

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• Make croutons from cornbread, rolls, or other leftover bread. Cut into large pieces and roast in oven.

Turkey

• Prepare turkey pot pie with sweet potato, white potato, or stuffing for the topping.

 

• Add chopped turkey to your favorite macaroni and cheese recipe.

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• Make a white bean and turkey chili and include leftover vegetables.

• Prepare quick quesadillas using whole wheat tortillas, leftover cheese, and sliced turkey. Serve with cranberry sauce for dipping.

Sweets

• Eggnog: Use eggnog in place of milk when you prepare French toast, vanilla cake mixes, pancakes, waffles, and bread pudding.

• Combine eggnog and fruit for a delicious smoothie.

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• Scoop pumpkin pie out of the crust and combine with plain fat-free Greek yogurt for a creamy pudding, or add some milk and make a smoothie.

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Wine:

• Freeze red wine in ice cube trays to use later in stews.

What’s your favorite way to use leftovers?

 

 

9 Easy to Make Better Than Store-bought Foods

There are a few everyday foods I don’t buy anymore because I’ve found easy recipes for tastier versions.  On the flip side, there are several so-called convenience foods I can’t do without. I asked a few of my foodie friends about the foods they absolutely must make from scratch (and for the recipes!), as well as their “processed food” picks that get healthy meals on the table fast. Here are my choices, and theirs.

Cranberry sauce is a must-have homemade food for me because it tastes so much better than canned. You can alter this simple recipe to your liking: Combine a 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries, 1/2 cup granulated sugar (less if you desire), 1 cup water, 1 cup orange juice, and 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring every so often.  The mixture will thicken up as it cools.  Cool completely before serving.

Homemade cranberry sauce pairs well with poultry, but it also tastes great stirred into plain Greek yogurt or warm oatmeal, and in smoothies.

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Easy Cranberry-Orange Sauce

My favorite convenience food right now is Amy’s Lentil Soup (not a client, by the way). I eat it for a quick meatless lunch along with a piece of whole grain toast topped with cottage cheese. I know, I know. It’s easy to make a big batch of lentil soup from scratch, but I just never get around to doing it, and Amy’s does it so well!

Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, Nutritioulicious

Must-have homemade food: Peanut sauce

Why: “Most packaged peanut sauces are really high in sodium and sugar, so I’d rather make my own using natural, unsweetened peanut butter and adding my own amount of sweetener. I also add other flavor boosters like freshly grated ginger and sriracha, which packaged peanut sauces don’t have. Give it a whirl in the blender or food processor and it’s easy as can be!”

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Favorite convenience food: Canned beans

Why: “I love adding beans to salads, pasta dishes, sauces, and grain side dishes, but I would not use them as frequently as I do if I had to soak and cook them on my own. Time is of the essence when I’m trying to get dinner on the table in my house! A lot of people are hesitant to buy canned beans because of the sodium content, so I recommend buying the no-salt-added canned beans if you can find them and always drain and rinse the beans before adding to a dish.”

Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RDN, JaniceCooks

Must-have homemade food: Sweet and Hearty Beef Stew

Why: “It tastes better than the canned kind, and it’s better for you. My beef stew has half the sodium, twice the protein, and four times the fiber and vitamin A as the canned variety. It takes just minutes to toss the ingredients into the slow cooker and a hearty, tasty dinner is ready to serve a few hours later.”

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Favorite convenience food: Canned pumpkin.

Why: “I tried cooking and mashing fresh pumpkin once and decided that it would be the last time. Canned pure pumpkin is so convenient and nutritious that I stock up every fall to be sure I can use it year round. I use it in muffins, pancakes, smoothies, even chili  and enchiladas! ”

Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, Nutrition Starring You

Must-have homemade food: Vegan ice cream

Why: “I don’t like the taste of store-bought vegan ice cream. It’s always high in added sugar and not nearly as high in protein as my version.”

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Favorite convenience food: Bagged salad.

Why: “I couldn’t live without pre-washed greens, especially the cabbage blends because they are super filling and don’t get soggy so you can enjoy them for several meals. (Close second: rotisserie chicken for fast, easy lunches and dinners.)”

Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, Real Mom Nutrition

Must-have homemade food: Salad dressing

Why: “Once I started making my own salad dressing, it was impossible to go back to the gloppy bottled kind–especially the ones with preservatives and artificial dyes.”

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(Need more salad dressing ideas? Here’s 50 of them.)

Favorite convenience food: Jarred pasta sauce

Why: “You can’t beat the convenience of it, and jarred sauce plus frozen ravioli is a last resort meal that saves us from ordering pizza or getting other take-out food. Pair that combination with prewashed greens and dinner is ready in 15 minutes!”

Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, Amy Gorin Nutrition

Must-have homemade food: Almond Pistachio Cocoa Bites

Why: “Unlike a lot of store-bought versions of energy bites, balls, and bars, my recipe contains no added sugar. Plus, they’re delicious!”

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Favorite convenience food: Frozen fruit

Why: “Unsweetened frozen fruit is great for when I don’t have fresh in the house. It’s also sometimes preferable. When I use it in smoothies, I don’t need to add ice. And when I heat it up and use it as a topping for a bowl of oatmeal or French toast, it creates a nice liquid that can replace other toppings like syrup or brown sugar.”

Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RD, Shaw’s Simple Swaps

Must-have homemade food: Jam

Why: “I love to make homemade jam not only because I can control the added sugar content, but also because I load it with wholesome, nutrient-rich ingredients, like omega-3 chia seeds, fiber-filled figs and other seasonal fresh fruit. The possibilities are endless!”

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Favorite convenience food: Whole grain bread

Why: “I can’t live without whole grain bread! Sure, I can make my own, but there’s nothing like a nice, fresh loaf of 100% whole grain bread with seeds from the store that you can simply take out of the bag and place in the toaster for a quick avocado toast lunch!”

Katie Sullivan Morford, MS, RD, Mom’s Kitchen Handbook

Must-have homemade food: Chocolate syrup

Why: “This beautifully glossy chocolate syrup is a tasty alternative to what you’ll find in the supermarket, products that often have artificial flavors, high fructose corn syrup, and mystery ingredients.”

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Favorite convenience food: Frozen fruits and vegetables (among so many others!).

Why: “A bag of frozen spinach within reach is a quick way to up the health benefits of everything from stews to smoothies, and frozen spinach is great in smoothies along with frozen fruit. The nutrient values of frozen fruits and vegetables stay largely intact when produce is put under the deep freeze.”

Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RDN 

Must-have homemade food: Granola

Why: “Most store-bought granola is loaded with added sugar and fat. My version has sugar and fat, too, but the fat is the heart-healthy unsaturated kind from nuts, and I add just enough pure maple syrup for a touch of sweetness. Allspice or Chinese five spice powder provides added sweetness without sugar. For variety, I add 1/4 cup dried wild blueberries or unsweetened coconut during the last few minutes of baking. Add whatever you like to make it your own recipe.”

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3 ½ cups old fashioned oats
2 cups finely chopped nuts of your choice (I love to mix pistachios, almonds, walnuts and pecans)
¼ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup pure maple syrup
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice Powder

Preheat oven to 325˚F. In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients, stirring well to combine.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Transfer the granola to the pan and spread evenly. Bake for 30-40 minutes, turning once, or until golden brown. Higher heat burns the nuts.

Favorite convenience food: Canned petite diced tomatoes.

Why: “These little gems are the perfect addition to so many recipes. They add color, flavor, texture, fiber, and other nutrients. I put them in egg dishes, soups, sauces, stews, guacamole, chili, salsa, spaghetti sauce and anything with a red sauce. You can purchase them fire-roasted, with herbs and spices, and with no added salt.”

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