Carrot Crisis: Can you eat carrots when you’re pregnant?

The last time I ate a vegetable and enjoyed it was December 24, 2010.  Thirty-nine days ago.

It was Christmas dinner at my in-laws’ cabin.  It was my mother-in-laws’ super, super delicious yams and some accidentally over-cooked broccoli.  Yams technically aren’t a vegetable, they’re a tuber.  And the broccoli was over-cooked.  So technically,  I’m not sure I can actually claim the last time I ate a vegetable and enjoyed it was Christmas eve.  It would have been a few days before that, I guess.  I think we had salad at dinner.

I am a vegetarian.  Seventy-five plus percent of my subsistence strategy involves vegetables.  Nutritious, delicious, colourful, splendid, earth-grown vegetables.  I love them.  Almost as much as I love coffee.  (I had a white mocha from Second Cup today which was glorious, by the way.)

But since the end of December when the nausea started to take over my life and body, I haven’t been able to stomach vegetables.  I’ve tried though.  Tried to out stubborn the sickness.  Tried to eat a vegetable and enjoy it.  All of which failed.  The only triumph I can claim here, is that I tried not to throw up a few weeks ago after trying to eat a salad and I managed to only throw up a little bit.  Does that count as a triumph?  Only puking a bit?  I had no idea I could ever be so offended by a salad.  A salad.

So today started out great.  I didn’t sleep well at all last night but I didn’t care about being tired when I woke up and my stomach felt 95% normal.  And it has stayed that way all day.  It was so good I stopped by Second Cup and got myself a coffee.  A delicious, glorious, long over due, holy shit have I ever missed you coffee.  I was euphoric.

The euphoria lasted and I worked out today.  I bought a treadmill on the weekend, but until today didn’t feel well enough to use it.  I tried to run, but, being as I haven’t run since December 24 (I know) when I ran a hilly 7 km and I haven’t been exercising with any regularity, I had to switch back to a brisk walk with a satisfactory incline.  I walked for an hour and was able to confirm I’m not currently at the top of my fitness game, but was mostly pleased that I had exercised and I felt like a million bucks.

I drank coffee.  I worked out.  Life is good.

Then I made protein bars.  My midwife told me I need to eat between 75 and 100 grams of protein a day … which is a big stretch for me.  Many of the vegetarian foods I eat have protein in them, but they don’t contain nearly as much protein as meat and animal products do.

So I made these protein bars … which are purely delicious.  Though, when my girlfriend makes them they are far tastier than my version.  She claims not to do anything extraordinary when she makes them, but I’m pretty sure she’s got a trick or two up her sleeve.  She did tell me once, though, “A sandwich always tastes better when someone else makes it.”

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Here’s the recipe for the protein bars ….

1 Cup natural peanut butter
1 Cup large flake oatmeal (I start with 1/2 cup and add until I reach desired texture)
1 Cup slivered almonds
1/2 Cup agavae (I substitute with honey)
2 scoops protein powder

Mix in the quanity of what you like of any of the below, in any combination:

unsweetned coconut, ground flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, chocolate chips, raisins, cranberries, or anything else you think would add more yum!

Mix together, put in a 8X8 and refrigerate.  When cooled, cut into bars.  Can be frozen.

A little tip….. microwave the peanut butter for 20-30 seconds to make it easier to mix everything together.  Also, while adding seeds and dried fruit, mix as you go so you don’t end up adding too many extras which can cause the bars to be crumbly.

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Since I was on such a roll I decided to make one of my favourite vegetable dishes for dinner.  Which, I haven’t made in months.  Carrot Casserole.

Wait.  What was that?  Something I read in a pregnancy book?  Too much vitamin A can result in a mutant baby?  It was something like that.  More accurately, while vitamin A is important to both baby and mom during pregnancy, too much during pregnancy can result in birth defects and liver toxicity.  Carrots = yummtastic.  Birth Defects = Not desirable.

That  I’m not nauseous, I’ve had coffee, I’ve exercised, I’m going to eat me some carrots euphoric feeling I’ve had all day: SUDDENLY IN JEOPARDY!

So how much is too much?  How much do you need?  The books I have on hand at the house don’t really provide a clear idea of how much is too much vitamin A.  Being as one carrot provides 270% of your vitamin A requirements, it’s easy to be concerned about eating the sweet, orange root vegetables when the threat of birth defects is lingering.

Problem with the Internet these days … it’s an overload of information that may or may not be reliable.  So while my carrots were peeled, sliced, and sitting in a pot on the stove waiting to cook, I spent a huge chunk of my afternoon trying to understand this whole vitamin A thing.

Super long story short …

Vitamin A comes as two types of nutrients: preformed vitamin A (aka retinol or retinoids) and provitamin A carotenoids. Preformed vitamin A is found in animal products like eggs, milk, and liver and is used directly in the body. Provitamin A carotenoids are found in fruits and vegetables which the body has to convert into vitamin A).

Too much PREFORMED vitamin A = birth defects and liver toxicity.

Too much carotenoids = no such thing!  Eat as many carrots as you like!

For direct information on vitamin A doses …

Pregnant women: 19 years and older: about 770 micrograms RAE of vitamin A (approximately 2,565 IU) per day
Pregnant women: 18 years and younger: 750 mg (2,500 IU)

Breastfeeding women, 19 and older: 1,300 mcg RAE (4,330 IU)
Breastfeeding, 18 and younger: 1,200 mcg RAE (4,000 IU)

3,000 mcg RAE (10,000 IU)  of vitamin A is considered to be the maximum amount of preformed vitamin A that you should consume in the combined form of supplements, animal sources and fortified foods per day.

CRISIS AVERTED!

I’m not sure if it’s common knowledge that vitamin A comes in two forms, but I for one, have never felt the need to scrutinize my food as much as I do now that I’m pregnant.  I have a pretty in-depth understanding of good food vs. bad food and consider my self to be an informed, conscientious, and healthy eater.  And I have never been afraid of carrots.

But now I’m pregnant and even healthy foods can be scary.  But it’s not all bad, I learned a bunch of stuff about vitamin A today.  And then I ate a plate of delicious carrot casserole.

And here’s the recipe …

4 cups cooked carrot rounds

2 Tbsp. butter

1 tsp. sugar

2 Tbsp. flour

¼ tsp. pepper

1 tsp. salt

1 onion, chopped

1 cup sour cream

Topping:

2 Tbsp. melted butter

¾ cup bread crumbs

Grated cheese (optional)

Directions:

Cook yourself 4 cups of carrots.

In a frying pan, melt butter and stir in salt, sugar, flour, and pepper on medium heat until it forms a paste.  (Which really, doesn’t look very appealing)


Add chopped onion and stir.

Add sour cream and mix well. (Wow, this doesn’t look all that yummy.  Just wait.)

Add sour cream mixture to carrots and mix well.  Then put mixture into greased casserole dish.

Mix melted butter with bread crumbs to make topping.

Spread topping over carrots.  Add grated cheese if desired.  (I don’t like it with cheese).

Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes.
EAT AND ENJOY!

I ate way more than pictured.  It was so yummy.  I have missed vegetables so much.  Here’s to hoping I don’t pay for it tomorrow.  And assuming I wake up and feel fine … I’ll probably end up eating carrot casserole for breakfast!

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nicole Green
    Mar 23, 2012 @ 15:27:41

    I know its like almost 2 years later but thank you for this post. I’ve been juicing quite a bit carrots being my favorite so I was seriously scared when I heard about too much vitamin A being bad. Thanks for clarifying.

    Reply

  2. TO
    Mar 06, 2013 @ 00:41:53

    Thank you for this information. I’ve been eating a lot of carrots lately and suddenly became paranoid about overdosing on Vitamin A while pregnant. Your post has been very reassuring and I’ll definitely be making the carrot casserole. It looks delicious!

    Reply

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