5 Most Beneficial Nutrients for Mom-to-be & Baby

Posted by

Prenatal Nutrition - Must-Have Nutrients by Sprout Right

During pregnancy, the body’s requirement for certain vitamins and minerals increases well above the usual recommended dietary intake. And at times, supplementing and increasing food sources of certain nutrients is necessary to ensure baby’s best development. Key nutrients like folic acid and B12, vitamin D, the essential fat DHA, calcium and magnesium, zinc, and iron may have lifelong benefits in decreasing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, learning difficulties, hyperactivity, and developmental delays.

Here are these top five nutrients in more detail:

1.  Folic Acid

Why you need it: Folic acid is a synthetic vitamin that decreases the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida and other birth abnormalities, including congenital heart disease, urinary tract problems, oral facial clefts, limb defects, and some pediatric cancers.

Best way to eat it:  Food source folate – from dark-green leafy vegetables, beans, chickpeas, lentils, wheat germ, nuts, and seeds – is surprisingly not as absorbable as a folic acid supplement. A supplement of 400 to 1000 mcg per day should be taken before and during pregnancy, to beyond breastfeeding if planning more children.

2.  Docosahexaenoic acid or DHA

Why you need it:  DHA provides the fuel for baby’s developing brain and retina, it improves vision and increases intelligence. It also can reduce the risk of developmental and behavioral disorders, increase gestation time and birth weight (this is a good thing, even though you may want your baby out sooner by the end of the third trimester!), and may reduce the severity of allergy. DHA deficiency has been strongly linked with postnatal depression, poor concentration and memory, and learning difficulties in the pre- and postnatal period for mom.

Best way to eat it: Oily fish like herring, mackerel, sardines, salmon, tuna (in moderation due to higher mercury content), anchovy, and trout. Vegetarian sources include nuts and seeds; walnut, almond, brazil, hazelnut, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, flax and hemp seed, but DHA absorbability is poor from these sources. While pregnant, DHA intake should increase, but with requirements equivalent to about 3 lbs of oily fish per day, a supplement may be an easier way to go.

3.  Vitamin D

Why you need it: Vitamin D supplementation has been linked to a decreased risk of pre-eclampsia, type 1 diabetes, asthma, and schizophrenia, and to improved growth and bone strength. If you are deficient in Vitamin D, your baby may be also.

Best way to eat it: Early morning and late afternoon sun exposure is the most natural and safe way of absorbing Vitamin D. Naturally occurring food sources include salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, and cod-liver oil, liver and egg yolk.  Fortified dairy, cereals and alternative milks, such as almond, rice, and soy are also a source of vitamin D.

4.  Calcium

Why you need it: Your baby accumulates a total of about 30 g of your calcium during pregnancy, mostly during the third trimester, nabbing between 200 and 350 mg a day. Mainly for bones, calcium is also used for calcifying teeth as baby’s are born with teeth already developed under the gums.

Best way to eat it: Dairy products are only one source of calcium. Other foods, including nuts and seeds, deliver more calcium than milk (and in a more absorbable form when raw), with one and a half tablespoons of sesame seeds or tahini (sesame seed paste) offering the same amount of calcium as in a cup of milk. More sources include almonds, salmon and sardines (with bones), soy, navy beans, blackstrap molasses, amaranth, broccoli, and kale. In fact, almost any green leafy vegetable is high in calcium. Milk, however, loses about 50 percent of available calcium in the pasteurization process. Low-fat and skim milk offer even less because the milk fat is used for transportation and absorption of calcium.

5.  Iron

Why you need it: During pregnancy, a woman’s iron requirements more than double to build new red blood cells in mom and the developing fetus. This essential mineral supports the development of baby’s brain for cognitive and behavioural maturity and makes hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that delivers oxygen to the body’s organs, muscles, and tissues.

Best way to eat it: Amazingly, our bodies increase the uptake of iron from foods when our levels are low. For maximum absorption of iron, Vitamin C should be consumed with iron rich green leafy vegetables, kelp, beets, asparagus, carrots, cucumbers, watercress, parsley, grapes, bananas, figs, dried fruits, beans, soybeans, sunflower seeds, meats, fish, poultry, peas, eggs, whole grains, parsley, turmeric, seaweed, lentils, millet, pumpkin and sesame seeds, and blackstrap molasses.

With the extra cravings and food usually consumed during pregnancy, add as many foods as you can from the lists above for the healthiest pregnancy possible.

yanlev / 123RF Stock Photo Copyright

Stay Hydrated this Summer!

Posted by

Stay Hydrated this Summer with Water Hydration is so important in the summer months, when the extra heat causes more water loss. So we are re-visiting a post Lianne wrote for iVillage on the importance of staying hydrated. Grab a tall glass of water, and sit down to read.

I drink water.  A lot of water.  It’s all I drink, all day long.  I carry around a 40 oz bottle (can we link to a water bottle you love?) with me everywhere I go and drink at least one full bottle by the end of the day.

Water gives instant energy, helps flush toxins out of the body, allows the body to retain water soluble nutrients, regulates body temperature, gives moisture and fluidity to lungs and joints, and hydrates the brain and all tissues.  It’s essential for life.

With such tempting sweet and filling fluids like juice, coffee, tea, pop, milkshakes, slushies, milk, and others, most head straight to the cooler in the store for refreshment.   However, these drinks in fact are dehydrating you.  Sure they give an instant boost, but it’s short-lived.  After drinking any of the above, double up on your water intake so you aren’t left low and dry.

I try to drink water before I eat.  Or when I’m hungry.

The signal of hunger (other than at meal times) is sometimes confused with dehydration, so I have a glass of water before I tuck into a sweet something or sit down to dinner.  I eat less when I do, and feel better for the extra glass.

Lack of energy, headaches, tiredness, dry skin, muscle cramps, constipation, wonky blood pressure, a bad mood all may be a result of dehydration.  Oh and a 20% level of dehydration may lead to death.  Not a good situation to be in.

Coconut water is my drink of choice when I’m heading out for a run, long bike ride or hike in the summer, and my kids love it too.  It’s a natural sports drink alternative offering minerals and antioxidants and fantastic for keeping my energy level up so I don’t run out of steam on the trail.

Ever wondered how you can tell if you are drinking enough water?  Not to get too up close and personal, but you can tell by the colour of your pee.  Yes, I said check out your urine.  Is it dark, or smells?  If so, drink more.  Drink more until it changes to the ideal colour of light straw or yellow without odor.

Now off you go to the bathroom, and report back.  Then tell us how much extra you drank to change the colour to light yellow.

And by the way, if you are thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.  Bottoms up!

Camping with a Baby or Toddler: What’s for Dinner?

Posted by

How to Feed Baby While Camping by Sprout RightWhile hot dogs and mac and cheese in a box may have been a staple of our childhood camping experiences, it isn’t the food of champion babies. When you have a wee little eater, you may be turned off of camping because the whole food ordeal can seem overwhelming. How will I offer him his favourite blueberry puree? Here we are to tell you that camping with baby is not only possible, but easy and an adventure every member of the family will enjoy.

What to Eat While Camping with Baby
Early eaters will likely be concentrated mostly on purees, some with chunkier textures or small finger foods. Easily transport a favourite puree by making it at home ahead of time, and freezing individual portions in an ice cube tray. As you are packing for the big trip, pop out a few cubes into a widemouth mason jar and store this in your cooler. As your days in the outdoors wear on, your puree will slowly melt making it ready for baby. You can also warm the puree in a pan on a camping stove if need be, but be sure to let it cool well before serving.

Bring a variety of purees in mason jars, to give baby the same kind of variety he enjoys at home.

Another way to go, is to purchase a Wean Machine (now on sale!). This is a wonderful little gadget that makes serving baby on-the-go super easy. Just place a piece of soft fruit or vegetable (steam first if necessary) into the opening and squeeze. Need a little more info? Watch the video here. The Wean Machine will allow you to serve baby what you are eating. See our camping meal plan for ideas for the bigger members of the family.

If you are looking for a grain option to serve at breakfast or snack time, grind some old-fashioned oats into a textured flour and store in a mason jar. When camping, heat on the stove with a little water (boiled or bottled), formula or breastmilk.

As at home, offer baby the bottle or breast first before offering food. If your child is 1 year old or older, offer milk with a meal. If you are concerned about packing too much goat’s or cow’s milk, try canned coconut milk mixed with rice or almond (bought in a tetra pack) for the trip.

Camping with your baby doesn’t have to mean fake food, jarred food or unhealthy choices. Even without a kitchen in the great outdoors, you can still give her what she needs – wholesome foods that nourish.

monamakela / 123RF Stock Photo

What to Eat While Camping: 4-Day Meal Plan

Posted by

4-Day Meal Plan for Camping from Sprout RightYou love to go camping with your family, but you don’t love feeding your kids bright orange cheesy-pasta out of a box just because it is simple to pack and easy to make. Eating well while out in the woods can seem quite challenging. You probably don’t have much of a working kitchen, and storage and frozen/fridge space is as at a premium.

Because we are always up for a challenge (!), we put together a 4-day healthy eating plan for you and your family to enjoy while out in the woods. Reconnect with nature, and with the energy you’ll feel from these nourishing foods, and know that you are living life in balance. This plan is also great for inspiring picnic ideas, if overnight camping is not your thing!

Download this Camping Meal Plan

Are you a local-vore?

Posted by

Are you a local-vore by Sprout RightWhat does buying local mean to you? It might mean that you shop at your local store and not drive to pick-up groceries. It could mean that you buy locally-grown food at your supermarket or farmers market or patronize a neighbourhood fishmonger or butcher.

When it comes to shopping local, it’s a win-win situation for everyone, including the environment.

Some benefits of shopping locally:

  • Walking to your local store reduces carbon emissions, it gets you active, and also helps you to get to know your local grocer, which builds for you a sense of community belonging.

  • Heading to your local market supports local trade. If it’s a farmers market, you can meet the farmer and ask any questions you may have about pesticide use, how long it has been since the produce was picked, and what’s going to be harvested in the future.

  • Shopping at local butchers or farms helps you answer questions and concerns about how the animals are treated, what they are fed and how fresh your meat or poultry is. My local butcher, Butcher By Nature, has visited the farms where their meat come from, which gives me confidence in what I’m buying for my family.

  • When produce travels far and wide, it’s treated differently than locally picked fruits and veggies. It’s picked earlier, before it ripens or nears its peak, harvests are sprayed to keep bugs at bay during travel, and wrapped or packaged for transportation. All of that makes for a loss of nutrients, less flavourful produce, more chemicals on your food, as well as packaging that may not be recyclable.

Eating produce that’s in season is the perfect way to ensure you are eating local. And freezing and canning are great ways to make the most of seasonal fruits and vegetables.

I recently went to a “Farmers Feed Cities” event and was thoroughly impressed by the quality of local produce, fish, poultry and meat, honey and even artisan cheese from Ontario and Quebec. It was some of the tastiest food that I have  eaten in a while.

My family and I had the pleasure of attending a friend’s wedding a few weeks ago and they hired a caterer who only works with local and sustainable produce. It was beyond delicious, flavourful and colourful. I found it inspiring to see beet salad, green beans, bison burgers, bread made from local wheat, and pie made from rhubarb, wild blueberries and cherries.

Are you drooling yet?

Being a local-vore can start with making one or two choices as you shop. Maybe visit a local market on the weekend and see what’s on offer. Look out for “local” signs at supermarkets or buy from the roadside. Every little bit adds up. No matter what you do, you’ll feel and taste the benefit.

Image Copyright: stephaniefrey / 123RF Stock Photo

This post originally appeared on iVillage.

Amazing Almond Flour, With Gluten-Free Recipe

Posted by

Amazing Almond Flour with Gluten-Free RecipeAlmonds have broken out of their shell and spread across the supermarket! Have you noticed how many almond milk brands there are now? As an alternative to milk, this nut’s milky white seems to be enjoyed by most of my clients more than soy these days.

As you do your weekly grocery shop, start to notice just how much almonds have come to span the whole store. From almond butter to crackers, flour or meal, oil, milk and yogurt, the selection certainly shows the versatility of this nut.

Speaking of nuts, almonds aren’t actually classified as a nut when you really get down to it.  They are a drupe, as are peach, cherry and plum. From an allergic standpoint, they are not a tree nut so well tolerated by many allergic children, although they get lumped into the stay-away-from category.

Almonds rank high on any nutritionist’s list of foods to consume daily. High in monounsaturated fats, their benefits span from boosting brain health to protecting the heart and tackling high-cholesterol levels. Energy giving B-vitamins, free radical blasting vitamin E and bone building potassium and calcium makes this my favourite snack to suggest clients indulge in.

As I’m trying out a diet that’s void of all gluten, almond flour along with coconut flour are becoming go-to flours for baking muffins and cookies. This recipe is by far a firm favourite with the family. Although it’s name doesn’t scream your typical pancakes, I actually find it easier to make than standing at the stove flipping little flour packed rounds. I love that it has six eggs in it, as it helps to balance my kids blood sugar for a successful morning at school. As it’s so high in fibre, they also feel full for longer.

I’ve made up the batter in advance, the night or day before, and in the morning pop it in the oven before the rest of the house makes a move. I’m always up earlier than they are, so the 20 minutes it takes to cook gives me enough time to meditate and be ready to face the day with my feet firmly grounded on the floor.

Don’t worry about the butter either. It’ll transport those important nutrients I was talking about to where they need to go.

Apple Cinnamon Baked Pancakes

1 cup almond flour

1 cup apple sauce

6 eggs

1 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ cup organic butter, melted

¼ tsp sea salt

Put butter in 9″ x 13″ baking dish, set in 400 degree oven to melt.

Beat flour, apple sauce, cinnamon and eggs in a bowl. When butter is melted, pour batter into it and return pan to the oven and bake for 20 – 25 minutes. Serves 4


This recipe is perfect for storing in the fridge and warming the following day. We top it with fruit spread or honey rather than drown it in the usual syrup. We save that for the weekend.

Recipe is taken from Sprout Right’s 21 Days to Balance Meal Plan.

This post originally appeared on iVillage.

Eat more than your greens… Make it a rainbow!

Posted by

Rainbow Salad Rolls on Sprout Right.jpg


There are many benefits to eating a colourful diet. Just as seeing a rainbow in the sky stops me from whatever I’m doing to appreciate it’s beauty, I slow down and enjoy my meal far more when it’s colourful. I feel happier too.

Happy is healthy, but so are all those phytonutrients like anti-inflammatory bromelain found in orange and yellow foods, detoxifying chlorophyll in all green foods, powerful antioxidant curcumin in the orange spice turmeric and anti-aging resveratrol in red foods. That’s some serious motivation to eat more colour.

Here’s one of our favourite ways to enjoy a speedy lunch or dinner and include all the colours of the rainbow.

My daughters and I love sushi and rice wraps when we are on the go, so one day last summer we tried to make these Rainbow Rice Wraps. We found that the girls love to create their own, with guidance from me of course (or it would be carrot wraps). You’ll find rice wraps in health food stores, near the prepared sushi section of some supermarkets or in the ethnic food aisle.

Rainbow Rice Wraps

1/2 package vermicelli noodles

Boiling water

1/2 red pepper, cut into strips

2 carrots, peeled and cut into sticks

1/2 yellow pepper, cut into strips

1/2 zucchini or cucumber, cut into strips

Handful sunflower sprouts (optional)

1/4 purple cabbage, sliced into strips

200 g cooked shrimp, sliced chicken or tofu

Fill kettle or a medium saucepan and bring water to the boil. Place noodles into a large bowl, and cover with boiling water. Drain after 5 minutes and sprinkle with sesame or olive oil and tamari (soy sauce). Toss and set aside.

Assemble vegetables, shrimp/chicken/tofu onto a plate. Half fill a pie plate with water. Set up an assembly line starting with rice wraps and water, then noodles and last vegetables and protein.

Immerse the rice wrap into the water for 20 seconds (different brands seem to need different lengths of time). Don’t let the rice wrap become too floppy. Set flat onto a plate and add a bit of each veggie and protein in the centre, not too wide, but as long as you like. Fold in one end, wrap one side over the fillings and roll up the rest. One end can be  left undone. Cut in half and serve or eat as is.

Dip into soy sauce or chili sauce for extra zip. Better eaten shortly after assembly.

I hope you’re inspired to put a new colour on your plate that you wouldn’t have before. Pick up a new fruit or vegetable at the supermarket this week and give it a try. Kids will love the challenge of eating the whole rainbow (take a look at Today I Ate a Rainbow).

What’s first on your list?


A version of this post originally appeared on iVillage.ca.

The Power of Turmeric with Recipe

Posted by

Lentil Dahl on Sprout Right

A quick and delicious one-pot meal, perfect for a busy weeknight.

Some spices are truly wonder ”drugs,” and wonderful. Turmeric is one such spice that packs a huge nutritional punch. You may be most familiar with it from Indian cuisines – all those glorious curries; the people of India have been using turmeric in their cooking for thousands of years. It is also plays a starring role in some traditional medicines. This plant grows wild in South and South East asia, with India being the greatest explorer of this wonder spice.

One active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which has been shown to help the body fight cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, diabetes, allergies and some other chronic diseases. It is thought that the power of curcumin is found in its ability to modify the inflammatory response, where chronic inflammation is thought to be a factor in many Western diseases.

Turmeric also has anti-oxidant powers, protecting the cells from the effects of harmful chemicals that enter the body through our everyday exposure.

The whole family can enjoy turmeric in such dishes as this delicious lentil dahl. Some parents are shy about offering baby spices, but in fact these are wonderful flavours to expand baby’s palate with. Here we share a recipe the whole family will love (great for next-stage eaters – about 9 months + – and perfect for parents and older kids when served over brown rice with a dollop of greek yogurt).

Delicious Lentil Dahl

3 cups water or no-sodium vegetable stock

1 cup red lentils, rinsed well

1 medium sweet potato, chopped into small cubes

1 small onion, finely chopped

1tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp cumin

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Handful cilantro leaves

1 cup packed baby spinach, finely chopped

2 Swiss chard leaves, finely chopped

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1. Combine water, lentils, sweet potato, onion, olive oil, turmeric, cumin, garlic and cilantro in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat. Simmer for about 20 minutes.

2. Add spinach and chard; simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in chickpeas and simmer for 3 minutes. Leave chunky or puree to desired consistency.


Five Healthy Weeknight Suppers

Posted by

5 Healthy Meal Ideas on SproutRight.com

You work hard all year long and when school is out and work relaxes, you just want to take it easy in the kitchen too. We agree! Summer is for easy weeknight suppers and so we put together this list of five easy and healthy supper ideas for busy summer nights. Who needs take-out?!

1. Lasagna

Lasagna is a yummy, healthy make-ahead meal that packs in a lot of the major food groups in one easy-to-serve dish. Pack yours with lots of lightly cooked veggies, and try a healthy homemade sauce with brown rice noodles for a health boost. Here is one of our favourite lasagna recipes.

2. Tacos

Tacos can be healthy! And our recipe proves that with a few substitutions, and nutrient-dense toppings, you can make even fun food good food. Tacos are great because kids can assemble them themselves, making your job as cook a little easier. Simply put out the major components of these great tacos and ask your kids to put together their own meal. To round out the meal, lightly steam a vegetable of your choice like broccoli, carrots or green beans.

3. Breakfast for Dinner

Children always get excited by this change-it-up treat! Cook up a batch of gluten-free pancakes and scramble some eggs (add a bit of broccoli or spinach to sneak in your veg). Serve this with some lean turkey sausage and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice for a kick of Vitamin C and a treat. Eggs cook quickly in a pan and the pancake batter can be made the night before, making this meal a good one for when you are pressed for time.

4. One-Pot Wonders

There’s nothing easier than throwing a dish together in one easy-to-clean pot and placing it on the stove, in the oven or in the slow cooker. Try our bean and rice surprise stew or our fish pie, this shakshuka recipe from Sweet Potato Chronicles or slow-cooked chicken thighs in coconut milk and a little agave, with salt and curry spices.

5. Barbecue Picnics

Summer is a great time to fire up the barbecue and dust off the patio chairs. Put together a little backyard picnic. Grill your favourite protein – chicken or turkey breasts, pork chops, a steak or cubed tofu. Toss a mixture of vegetables like peppers, zucchini, green beans and eggplant in balsamic vinegar and cook these on the BBQ atop foil or in a BBQ pan. Add some grilled corn, a steamed vegetable and you have a tasty summer-time meal.

Dinners don’t have to be fancy, especially in the summer-time! Try one of our suggestions and get out of the kitchen. The memories you are making for your children aren’t about gourmet meals and new food combinations, but about the quality time you spend with them while dinner bakes in the oven, grills on the BBQ or simmers effortlessly on the stove.

For more family meal planning ideas, take a look at our ebook “Flawless Family Meals.”

What are your go-to summer meals?

Soy-Based Formulas: Are They Bad For Your Baby?

Posted by

Is Soy Formula Bad for Baby? SproutRight.com

Accessed on Wikimedia Commons.

Soybeans have received a lot of negative press lately. Our growing awareness of phytoestrogens, and their effect on the body, in particular the body’s development, as well as our concern over genetically modified foods (the conventionally grown soybean is high on the list) have cast it in an unfavourable light. But what about soy-based formulas for infants, where a dairy allergy is present or a parent chooses this type of formula for ethical or other reasons?

New research suggests soy-based formulas are not a wise alternative to milk-based formulas (breast milk is of course the best nutrition for your baby but we recognize that not all women are able to breastfeed). Let’s take a look at the science out there and help you to make an informed choice as to what is right for your baby.

The Healthy Home Economist has put together a comprehensive overview of why soy-based formulas are a poor choice for infants. According to this article, there are three reasons to be cautious of soy: trypsin inhibitors, phytic acid and phytoestrogens.

Trypsin inhibitors are found in soybeans and they are known to inhibit the absorption of nutrients. Most of these inhibitors are deactivated in the processing of infant formula; however, some do remain. Even small numbers of trypsin inhibitors have been found to prevent normal growth in rats. This is a concern for infants, of course, because so much development is happening in the first year of life.

Phytic acid is a substance that inhibits the absorption of such nutrients as iron and zinc. It is present, in high quantities, in grains, legumes and beans, including soybeans. You can take steps to reduce the amount of phytic acid in your diet by trying sprouted grains and soaked beans, but unfortunately the phytic acid in soybeans are particularly resistant to neutralization. It is present in concerning amounts in soy-based infant formulas. The concern is, of course, that phytic acid is inhibiting the absorption of vital nutrients like iron and zinc. Zinc, for example, is necessary in supporting brain development.

Perhaps the most concerning problem with soy-based infant formulas is the presence of phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens mimic the female hormone, estrogen, and when present in the body they can have implications on an individual’s hormonal balance, both in the short and long term. Infants exclusively consuming soy-based formula are exposed to high doses of a substance that mimics the female sex hormone. Sounds worrying, right? We don’t yet fully understand the impact of this exposure, in particular on boys raised on soy-based formula. Especially as Eastern nations consume soy daily without the negative effects that we see in North America. The Weston A Price Foundation links a host of concerns to soy-based infant formula.

We’ve seen that babies with sensitivity to dairy based formulas also react to soy formula, which makes it more difficult to find a formula that works for your baby. There is no easy solution. We have clients who have sourced a Nanny Goat Milk Formula through Amazon.com (click the image below) and that has worked well, otherwise baby may need a pre-digested formula like Nutramigen or Alumentium.