Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Eating for Two

Long before the latest salmonella issue with eggs, I've been freaked out about food.  My qualms about eating meat began in college with an episode of The X-Files that took place in a chicken factory in Arkansas (here's a synopsis:  ground-up beaks and feet being fed to chickens trapped in tiny, airless cages.  gag gag gag).  It put me off meat for good.  I still eat fish, but I cringe at the mercury content and all of the other (potentially hazardous?) crap that the fish must contain (after all, every lake and ocean is polluted with trash, oil, gasoline, and sunscreen).  Growing our own veggies this summer was definitely a step in the right direction for us, and I supplement our garden with trips to the farmer's market or the organic section at Trader Joe's or Schnucks.

Once we decided that a Baby Duck was in our imminent future, I started paying even more attention to what I was eating.  If I buy food that comes in boxes, I read the sides and try to make sure that I can at least pronounce the vast majority of the ingredients.  I generally try to avoid Red No. 40 and Yellow No. 5.  I bypass high-fructose corn syrup and loads of artificial ingredients.  I buy Joe-Joes instead of Oreos.  I've started buying more ingredients instead of pre-made stuff.  I spend more money on organic and local produce and save money by not going out to dinner very often.  And, thanks to my cousin Amanda, we grate our own cheese.

Of course, there are always exceptions.  Like the bag of peanut M&Ms David brought me a couple of days ago (Yellow No. 5 and Red No. 40 were both delicious, thank you very much).  Lately I've been craving Mesquite BBQ kettle cooked potato chips (hello artificial flavors!).  And I definitely short-cutted with a cake mix when I was whipping up a German Chocolate Upside Down Cake for David's birthday.

So generally, I try to follow the 80/20 rule--eat well 80% of the time and don't worry too much about cutting corners the other 20%.

One of the first things I asked my doctor was whether being vegetarian would be an issue while I was pregnant.  I started out being a vegetarian because I was grossed out by the meat industry.  Now I would say I am a vegetarian for gross-out reasons, ethical reasons, health reasons, and food allergy reasons (beef and pork make me break out in hives).  I'll save you the lecture, but feel free to check out The Omnivore's Dilemma and/or Fast Food Nation and/or the movie Food, Inc. for a vast array of good reasons to think more carefully about what you're eating and how you get it.  I'm amazed at how little most people I know seem to care about these issues, or how easily they put them out of their minds when they hit a drive-through.  But since I try not to alienate my friends (and family), I keep my opinions to myself.

David still eats meat--and plenty of it--but he decided to buy a quarter of a free-range cow from a farmer near his dad's house and stock the deep freeze with grass-fed beef.  He also does a good job of not eating meat at every meal--we'll both have a veggie pasta dish for dinner, or tomato/mozzarella sandwiches for lunch.

David's family has a hard time wrapping their heads around the idea of anyone being vegetarian on purpose.  It's a good thing I have a food allergy, or they would think I'm a nut case.  Every meal they eat revolves around meat as a main course.  Vegetables are the afterthought and a great majority of the foods they eat are yellow (potatoes, corn, bread).  I know that they feel very sorry for me because I can't eat steak or hamburger.  And I let them feel this way because it is much easier than trying to explain that I have absolutely no desire to eat a steak or a hamburger.  I miss the idea of a greasy cheeseburger once in while, but regardless of my food allergy, I don't want to chow down on dead animal flesh.  It just does not appeal to me.

So I was relieved when my doctor said that being vegetarian wasn't a problem as long as I ate a balanced diet and took a prenatal vitamin.  I do eat eggs (preferably from the farmer's market) and I will occasionally eat fish.  Since I've been pregnant, I've made an effort to eat fish more often than I normally would.  Good for baby brain development!

When I signed up for our childbirth classes, though, my instructor sent me a list of recommendations and one of them was that pregnant women should get 70-80 grams of protein in their diet per day.  She included a list of common foods and their protein content (1 Egg:  6 grams.  Cheese:  6 grams.  Potato chips: 1 gram).

Needless to say, Baby Duck was not getting that much protein.  I was hitting somewhere around 40-50 grams a day, with most of my protein coming from dairy products, beans, and leafy greens.

So David suggested that I start drinking daily protein shakes.  I was skeptical about gagging down a protein shake everyday, but we bought some protein powder and now he makes me a fruit smoothie every single morning with 23 grams of protein in it (isn't he the sweetest?).  I eat Mojo granola bars for a snack (10 grams of protein) and with this regiment, and an extra effort to eat more yogurt and more spinach, I'm hitting or getting close to the recommended level of protein almost every day.

Further good news is that swallowing the prenatal vitamin no longer makes me vomit in my mouth the way it did during my first trimester!  So overall I think Baby Duck is getting the nutrients that he or she needs.

One of my friends asked me recently whether Baby Duck will be a vegetarian.  I don't think so.  I'm not going to enforce vegetarianism as a lifestyle that Baby Duck has to follow.  After all, I don't insist that David become a vegetarian.  But I do think that I will be very particular about the kind of meat that Baby Duck eats.  I won't be buying meat in baby food jars, but I am sure that when he/she is old enough, we will offer Baby Duck some of whatever David is having.  I just hope that I can be relaxed enough to follow the 80/20 rule about that kind of thing, too.

After all, one greasy hamburger never killed anybody.

Except a cow.


  1. Before I found out I was pregnant this time around I went about a month on a vegetarian diet (so did the rest of the family except for when we ate at restaurants because I do all the food shopping and cooking). I felt great and we were saving tons of money. I think I'll give it another try when I get settled again after the baby is born.

  2. I am really lenient with candy and stuff because I am not looking for it to have any kind of nutritional content, and we don't at it very often-- so I don't really are about the dye, etc. (Also Joe Joes are WAY BETTR than Oreos, especially the chocolate frosting ones-- yum!

    Everything else we eat is local and or organic, and we try to avoid factory farmed meat, but it is not always possible, even in a super hippy town. I buy all of our meat at local butchers or at Whole Foods (which is not necessarily a good thing), and I struggle with making sure my kids get enough protein b/c they don't LIKE it, except for deli meat, which is crap nutritionally, even the nitrite free stuff from WF. And an all-beef, preservative-free hot dog is still a HOT DOG, you know??

    So, yeah.