[Wellness] Eat well, start a family

Barni Alejandro-Rennebeck
Just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean that you can eat everything in sight.

GOOD NUTRITION, GOOD CHANCES of pregnancy. 35-year-old Chef Barni is living testament that pregnancy need not be a problem for women her age, so long as they eat healthy. Photo courtesy of Rachel Alejandro

MANILA, Philippines – As a newlywed at age 35, I decided not to waste any time to start a family. 

Let’s face it, I’m no “spring chicken”; and studies have shown that fertility rates decline as you get older. I’ve also noticed that there is a growing number of women my age who have been trying for years but still can’t get pregnant. This got me worried and made my biological clock tick even louder and seemingly faster. What if I had waited too long and can’t get pregnant anymore? 

This question kept ringing in my head. As much as I wanted to follow other people’s advice to enjoy being newly-married and wait for a year, I knew deep in my heart that I just might regret it. Family members and even my own husband have told me that I had nothing to worry about since — thanks to a nutritious diet — I look young and feel healthy.

As co-owner and VP for Product Development of The Sexy Chef, a health food catering company, it’s my job to know the latest on fitness nutrition. Like my sister and business partner, Rachel Alejandro, I try to practice what I preach — walk the talk, as they say.

Still, I decided to follow my instinct. Right after the wedding, I ditched my contraceptive pills and got started with my baby-making plans. 

After just 3 months of wedded bliss, I found out I was pregnant. I was completely and utterly shocked! I don’t know of anyone my age who conceived this fast. Normally, they are young women who failed to use contraception and hadn’t planned on getting pregnant at all. It made me think of some close girlfriends my age who have to take fertility medication but haven’t had any luck. My prayers still go out to them. 

So what did I do different? Did I inherit my fertility from my Mother who was pregnant every other year while I was growing up?

I decided to turn to the “What to Expect” book series for answers. It’s like the “Bible” of new moms. Being a foodie, I made sure to buy “Eating Well When You’re Expecting” by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel, a book that gives tips on how to eat your way through a healthy pregnancy. After reading the book, I realized that I was already eating to get pregnant without even knowing it. Scientists have recently discovered that a healthy and balanced diet can make it easier to conceive. 

My eating regimen consists of lean meats, nutrient-dense vegetables, low-fat dairy and whole grains. I basically had my daily dose of protein, calcium, Vitamin D, omega 3s and fiber. In addition, I had already removed processed foods, MSG and preservatives from my diet.

It may have also helped that I incorporated chopped malunggay leaves in the dishes I would eat. I would add it to my smoothies, soup, fried rice and even meatballs. This miracle vegetable contains 7 times the vitamin C in oranges, 4 times the calcium in milk, 3 times the potassium in bananas and 4 times the vitamin A in carrots. 

What most people don’t know is that pregnant women are only recommended to eat 300 calories more in a day. I really want to believe that I am now “eating for two” and can just throw portion control out the window! 

The first advice my doctor ever told me was, “Just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean that you can eat everything in sight.” I’m actually only allowed to gain 25-35 lbs throughout my whole pregnancy. That’s not a lot at all! 

My heart literally sank after confirming this. Apparently, excessive weight gain during pregnancy may result in diabetes, delivery complications, obesity and even breastfeeding difficulties. I was surprised with this information, seeing that most pregnant women tend to gorge and make up for all their food deprivations.  

My game plan is to continue eating like I have always done and keep my blood sugar stable to prevent cravings and overindulging throughout the day. I decided to start my mornings with a hearty breakfast smoothie, which I named “Knocked-Up Smoothie.” 

This potent drink contains protein, omega-3, fiber, calcium, vitamin D,  vitamin C and anti-oxidants. It’s super filling and 100% delicious. Here’s the recipe! 

A DELICIOUS WAY OF enjoying pregnancy: Chef Barni's Knocked Up Smoothie. Photo courtesy of Rachel Alejandro

Knocked Up Smoothie

1 cup frozen mixed berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries)

1 cup almond milk

1 scoop all natural whey protein powder

2 tsp coconut sugar

½ tsp chia seeds

1 tbsp hemp seeds

2 tsp malunggay powder

½ tsp Bee Pollen

(Ingredients can be bought at Healthy Options and Leaf Kitchen)


Process all the ingredients in a blender until smooth. Cheers to good health! – Rappler.com


[Chef Barni Alejandro-Rennebeck has co-owned The Sexy Chef (www.thesexychef.ph), a health food delivery service since 2004. She studied Fundamentals of Culinary Arts at International School for Culinary Arts and Hotel Management.]

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