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A Nutrition Shake for Expecting Moms

I don't usually review supplements on this blog as I try to promote whole foods as much as possible. However I considered the new Mommi 3-in-1 shake very carefully as a useful alternative to taking prenatal vitamins. If you're expecting, your OB/GYN will advise you to take a prenatal vitamin every day to supply additional nutrients for the growing fetus. 

When I was pregnant I was scared to death of becoming nauseous, so I chose to forego that single large prenatal vitamin and take the necessary nutrients (iron, calcium, vitamin D, folic acid) separately throughout the day (as approved by my doctor). Prenatals also have higher amounts of B vitamins and certain minerals that can promote nausea; add those to all of the other nutrients jammed into one pill. I personally feel that this megavitamin hitting your stomach can cause immediate stomach upset, especially when your hormones are constantly fluctuating and possibly creating a sensitive gut. Thankfully I didn't experience any nausea throughout my whole pregnancy, which may or may not have been helped by my self-prescribed vitamin regimen.

Mommi 3-in-1 shakes were created by CEO Erin Schurtz who, prior to her pregnancy, had always drank a protein shake daily and wanted to continue using them but could not find one deemed safe for pregnancy. She created these shake mixes to contain the recommended nutrients for a healthy pregnancy, as well as 15 grams of whey protein and 200 mg DHA (300 mg daily is recommended during pregnancy). DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that has been shown to support the development of the nervous system and vision of the fetus, as well as lower the risk of pre-term labor and delivery, pre-eclampsia and postpartum depression. The shake ingredients are GMO and gluten-free.

I blended up the shake mix with one cup of skim milk for a taste-test, and enjoyed the mild flavor. It was frothy and not too rich nor too sweet (and no fishy smell!), perfect for an expecting mom with a sensitive stomach. I did not experience any stomach upset or nausea after ingesting the high dosage of vitamins. Another plus is that one shake made with 10-12 ounces of 1% milk provides the 300 extra calories recommended during pregnancy; many women overeat calories believing the baby needs this—a common myth that causes excessive weight gain and increased risk of gestational diabetes. This shake is portion-controlled and provides just enough calories. Keep in mind that if you're having the opposite problem of not eating enough calories because of nausea, these quick-digesting shakes are useful to maintain your calorie/nutrient intake. The website has several shake recipes that provide more calories if needed.

Erin took the time to answer my additional questions about Mommi 3-in-1:

Q: What inspired you to create Mommi 3-in-1, and in shake form?

A: When I was pregnant I couldn't swallow or stomach large prenatal vitamins and fishy-tasting DHA. In addition, all the protein powders I bought had warning labels for pregnant or nursing women. I knew there had to be something on the market that combined all three in a tasty shake but there wasn't! So I created it with the help of a wonderful team of nutritional scientists and Dr. Yvonne Bohn, a well-known OB/GYN.

Q: Does one serving of this replace a daily prenatal vitamin?  

A: Yes, one serving of Mommi 3-in-1 has a full prenatal vitamin, 200 mg of DHA and 15 grams of protein; it replaces your prenatal pill and is taken every day with a healthy diet while pregnant.

Q: What is special about your product that someone should purchase it over drinking a shake made with regular whey protein and taking a prenatal vitamin?  

A: The benefit of taking Mommi 3-in-1 over a whey protein and separate prenatal vitamin is that it also includes DHA, which doctors recommend women take every day while pregnant. It is vital for fetal brain development. It is also beneficial over a prenatal vitamin because in Mommi 3-in-1 the vitamins are coated so instead of sitting in your stomach as a large prenatal and slowly disseminating into the blood stream, the vitamins are easily digestible, preventing nausea or gagging. Our protein has also undergone intensive testing over the last year to ensure it passes every regulation for safety during pregnancy. Not all protein powders are safe for a developing baby.

Q: Can a pregnant woman use this as a meal replacement or should she take it in addition to her usual meals?  

A: While pregnant, a woman should take Mommi 3-in-1 as a supplement to her regular healthy diet. Mommi 3-in-1 was designed to contain the approximate amount of extra calories pregnant women need to consume daily. When mixed with milk or milk substitute it adds the extra 200-300 calories (depending on the recipe used) pregnant women should be adding to their daily diet.

Q: Did you continue to drink the shake after giving birth as a snack or meal replacement to help with losing the baby weight? Or should it only be used during pregnancy?  

A: Right after I gave birth I tried replacing breakfast with Mommi 3-in-1 to lose the baby weight until I learned that you actually need even more calories than while you are pregnant, for a healthy milk supply when nursing. So I continued to use it as a supplement and it helped curb my appetite for less healthy snacks. Once I am done nursing I will drink it as a meal replacement.

Mommi 3-in-1 is available for purchase on their website. FitMamaEats readers may use the coupon code 3icecream1 at check-out to receive a 20% discount, valid through July 31, 2014. Check it out!

Disclosure: I received shake samples for my honest review of the product.


Getting Hot at the Barre!

DanceFIT Studio hosted a fun event one week ago for Boston-area healthy living bloggers. DanceFIT has two locations; the Brookline studio opened in 2006 and its Natick location opened this past December. The owner is Gina Fey, a dancer most of her life who trained at prestigious ballet schools in California and France but eventually shifted to teaching dance to both children and adults. BalletFIT is her signature class that was inspired by her need to shed baby weight (her two boys are now 3 and 4 years old). The class incorporates barre work with pliés, relevés, and even développés (think straight leg extended high) that are intended to tighten the gluts and thighs, firm the abdominal muscles, and increase flexibility. 

Gina sharing with us the evolution of DanceFIT studios. Photos courtesy of Rebecca Hildreth Photography and myself.

The blogger event in Natick was introducing a variation of this class called HOT BalletFIT, which employs similar exercises but in a 90-degree studio! I've taken hot yoga and survived, so I invited Fen my fitness contributor to try it out with me. I have to admit that ballet intimidates me, even though interestingly students new to my Zumba classes often ask afterwards if I have ballet training. I took ballet off and on for a few years as a child but always dropped out. I loved barre work but hated going "across the floor" as I could never quite get the jumps and intricate combinations. I also always felt like a clumsy giant in my leotard, next to everyone else who seemed to fall into the petite category.

But when we arrived at the event, I was immediately put at ease as Gina rushed over to greet us and was incredibly sweet and friendly. She looked like a ballerina in her off-the-shoulder sweatshirt, legwarmers, and impeccable bun. Some of the other attendees had taken classes here before and wore legwarmers and tights, so I knew this was not a Zumba crowd! 

I have to say that I greatly enjoyed the traditional barre moves, as I had in childhood ballet classes. The room was hot but not overwhelmingly so, and it felt good when doing the slower movements. However, there were some cardio segments of jumping where the heat did not feel so great, as your heart and breathing rates increased and gulping the hot air was not comfortable! I also hesitated to do the high-impact jumping without sneakers (the class is taken with bare feet or grip socks) since I'm always hounding Zumba students to wear proper shoes. I know that certain dance classes encourage bare feet so this may just be an accepted practice that I'm not used to. An option to modify the movement to a lower impact version would have been helpful. In addition to traditional barre exercises, the workout also included use of a weighted ball to add resistance to moves such as pliés. One segment incorporated rapid bicep curls with an extended arm; I used a 1-pound ball which I felt didn't offer enough resistance, whereas Fen chose the 3-pound ball but felt it was too heavy to do the movements quickly with good technique without risk of pulling a muscle. We agreed that a 2-pound ball (not available) would have been perfect. 

I loved the sweating and that this was a total body workout. I also loved the unusual playlist (who knew there was a classical music remake of Britney Spears' Toxic!). We ended with floor work of abdominal exercises and stretches. I would have liked more abdominal exercises, but Gina said that every class is different so that sometimes there may be an extended focus on abs. To note, much of the barre work automatically incorporates core muscles as you have to tighten them to maintain balance and good form. Overall I was glad to finally have the chance to experience DanceFIT, meet Gina, and mingle with some great Boston bloggers. I hope to try the other classes that DanceFIT offers. One cool option is their Skype virtual classes. If you're a busy mom who finds it difficult to leave home to take exercise classes and misses the social aspect, check that out. Also be on the lookout for a special BollyX class that Fen will be teaching at their Brookline studio in June!

Believe me, everyone was drenched in sweat after class even though you can't see it here!


Weight Watchers New Ice Cream Lineup

Summer is a few months away but I've already visited the ice cream aisle at the supermarket. I don't eat ice cream at all in the fall and winter, but funny how once the weather warms 20-30 degrees, I dig out the ice cream scoop! Weight Watchers sent samples of their new frozen treats that debuted last month. My completely honest opinion is that this is great ice cream! Keep in mind that I'm not an ice cream snob and don't demand full-fat or premium ice cream, but I do eat a fair share. 

I was impressed with how authentic the flavors taste. The Black Cherry Greek frozen yogurt has that deep rich cherry flavor, and the Strawberry Swirl tastes like real strawberries without being overly sweet. The yogurts contain five different live and active cultures (probiotics) though it's not clear how much. Mint chocolate chip is my son's favorite flavor and he gobbled up the Mint Chip ice cream without hesitation. I also adored the Salted Caramel bar (which FYI is low in sodium) that recalls a classic chocolate ice cream bar but with a hint of salty. They were all very creamy and didn't taste weak the way "light" ice creams usually do. 

What could be considered a plus or a minus is the serving size and price. Each ice cream/frozen yogurt box comes with only three 3/4-cup servings and retails for $3.99. The Salted Caramel bar and other specialty bars and cones offer six treats per box and retail for $5.99. As a nutritionist, I love the preportioned sizes that supply 100-120 calories and less than 3 grams fat per treat yet are surprisingly satisfying. Ice cream is meant to be a small treat, not eaten from big bowls every night. If you view ice cream like this, you'll savor and appreciate it much more. You will eat it slowly and feel great afterwards, rather than regretting that you bought it because you slurped down half a carton in one sitting!

This ice cream line could be an everyday indulgence if the cost doesn't bother you. At my supermarket today, they were on sale for $2.50 for the ice cream cups and $3.99 for the bars so I bought some, but still are pricey for what you get. If you're a fan of Weight Watchers products, give them a try!

Disclosure: I received Weight Watchers food samples for my honest review of the product.