'Have ghee with rice, roti or dal, and remember to enjoy and cherish its impact on your life and the life of your child.'
In her book Grow Your Baby, Not Your Weight, IAS officer and mom of two Durga Shakti Nagpal, who made headlines for her work in exposing the sand mafia in Noida, explains how to-be mothers can make their pregnancy journey a memorable one by eating right, exercising, doing yoga or meditation and staying positive.
It's her story of living a happy pregnancy. She lets the readers experience pregnancy as she did, by delving into minute aspects of the journey through nine months and beyond.
She talks about how one can beat the dreaded nausea, shares hacks, habits and routines that helped her stay fit throughout the trimesters, along with some of her favourite recipes.
'It is important to put thought and care into the meals we consume, as much as it is recommended that we find joy in eating,' she advises.
'The act of eating can become meditative, spiritual even, if done with the right mindset: This is what we shall strive to cultivate during pregnancy.'
A must-read excerpt from Grow Your Baby, Not Your Weight where Durga Shakti Nagpal tells us about how you can have a healthy, wholesome diet and enjoy every morsel you eat during your pregnancy.
Pregnancy is a magical time, and though the nine months can sometimes feel infinitely stretched out, they actually pass you by in the blink of an eye.
I reminded myself to constantly savour every moment of my journey, even the more uncomfortable ones.
And I carried forward this same attitude of mindfulness when it came to what I ate.
I learned to listen to my body and honour its needs. The body has a very efficient alarm clock that informs you about hunger, thirst, and exhaustion.
I consciously paid attention to this feeling in my stomach while eating and stopped while there was still some space left in it.
It was often annoying and frustrating to have to stop before I felt full, but this temporary irritation was more than adequately compensated for by the feeling of lightness and energy I retained through the rest of the day. Even with the best of intentions and the most efficiently planned systems, we are still human.
Despite trying not to, we will end up snacking. There will be celebrations and social gatherings, work difficulties and fights with family members. And we will turn to food for comfort.
So, it is best to account for such inevitabilities and concentrate on snacking right.
As Indians, we are notorious for our love of hot beverages. Be it tea or coffee, it is not unusual for us to have several cups a day.
Even though healthier options like green tea and decaffeinated coffee are widely available, we seldom opt for them, sticking to our creamy, milky pleasures instead.
Unfortunately, many women have a difficult time digesting milk during pregnancy, and I was no different.
When it comes to snacking options, I cut out unnecessary items like fried food, processed food, maida, refined sugars, and even reduced my intake of salt and spices.
I kept my fridge well-stocked with fresh, seasonal fruits, to snack on in between meals. Along with providing much-needed vitamins, fruits also help satisfy your palate.
As with vegetables, it is best to stick to local varieties with fruits as well, as they give you the freshest options. Nuts are another healthy go-to option.
I would soak ten almonds overnight and have them in the morning.
I also made my own trail mix with dried fruits and nuts to carry on the go.
Walnuts, dates, figs, and chilgoza (pine nuts) are popular options, but you can include pretty much any seed or nut you prefer.
I have a taste for savoury food, so I came up with some innovative snack ideas to munch on. Raw or sauteed paneer with a dash of roasted cumin powder and black salt masala is a personal favourite.
I frequently had red quinoa salad with broccoli and bell peppers too. Meat eaters can make this even more filling by adding steamed chicken.
All of these snacks are rich in protein, which helps in building and repairing the tissues in your body.
Homemade bhelpuri and murmurey with puffed rice, and a side of mint and tamarind chutney, is, of course, a classic in Indian households.
It is low on calories while satisfying our craving for tanginess. Potatoes are a desi staple and can be enjoyed in many different forms.
I particularly enjoy boiled or roasted potatoes. They are filling without being heavy.
I enjoyed this dish for dinner because it saved me from the uninvited yet regular problem of heartburn and acid regurgitation. My tummy felt light, and my heart was happy
For those with a sweet tooth, a sugar craving can be so intense that it can drive you to tears.
It feels like nothing can fully satisfy the pining besides jalebis and laddoos dripping with Dalda. But these are precisely the forms of sugar that you should be avoiding.
I gave sweet fruits a go and when this did not completely appease my sugar pang, I discovered a healthier and more satisfying option.
I simply added them to a bowl of curd with jaggery granules or crushed jaggery.
Curd is easy on the stomach, since it aids digestion and cools the body down. The combination is also rich in iron and calcium, both of which are vital during pregnancy.
A word to the wise: Do not cut out ghee from your diet.
Previously considered highly fattening, it has now been proven by research to have many valuable effects on the body that cannot be substituted by anything else.
Ghee is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that maintain heart and brain health. It boosts the immune system and helps with digestion.
So, have your ghee with rice, roti or dal, and remember to enjoy and cherish its impact on your life and the life of your child.
Unlike in my first pregnancy, I made a conscious effort to have ghee regularly during my second one and enjoyed its benefits in terms of improved stamina and higher energy levels.
I must point out that I managed to sustain a healthy diet because I also made provisions for 'cheat days'.
These were days when I allowed myself to indulge in the non-healthy, delicious food that I had been consciously cutting out of my life.
One day a week, I gave myself a free pass to have fries, pasta and samosas.
But here again, I made sure to restrain myself from going overboard; I told myself that this was not the last time I would be savouring these delicacies.
The cheat day would come again the next week. And it would be truly enjoyable only if I had eaten healthy the rest of the week.
After all, I had made a conscious commitment to myself and my child. As always, I was a staunch believer in myself, and that was how I could sail through.
Excerpted from Grow Your Baby, Not Your Weight by Durga Shakti Nagpal with kind permission from the publishers Rupa Publications India.