The Tao of Snacking: Medicinal Foods in Winter


Choices in Childbirth welcomes Zoe Kogan, our first guest blogger for our monthly Provider Blog. We also want to give a big thank you to Milon Nagi, our blog editor and long-time supporter and volunteer.

By Zoe Kogan, L.Ac.

In Chinese medicine food may be used therapeutically.  Pregnancy is an especially beneficial time to make use of some of these basic principles. According to the Taoist and Buddhist foundations of Chinese medicine there is no separation between the individual and their environment.  We are all impacted by our surroundings, including animals, plants, geography and the seasons.  When we are pregnant it is a particularly interesting time to pay closer attention to both our internal and external environments.

Eating According To The Seasons
Each season is associated with the energetic balance of an organ in the body.  Winter is associated with the kidneys.  In Chinese medicine the Kidney energy is our deepest, most yin source of energy. During pregnancy we are using a great deal of this Kidney qi to create and sustain the new being inside of us.  As it is also winter time, a season where it is especially important to boost the kidney, it becomes twice as necessary to support the kidney energy during pregnancy.  This is not hard to do.

Tea for Two
First of all, rest.  Don’t disperse your energy on unimportant matters or stay up extra late to watch mediocre entertainment on TV.  The kidneys are replenished by proper amounts of sleep. When we drink caffeine to feel more awake and to accomplish a longer list of tasks we are chipping away at our ming meng huo or pre-natal qi.  This is the kidney qi we are born with, comparable to the western version of our innate constitution.  When we drink stimulants we are depleting our constitutional energy by using false qi to keep moving.  This short energy burst supplied by coffee steals from the essential qi and masks the true fatigue that requires rest for true replenishment.  Instead of coffee try opting for green tea or rooibus tea for gentle stimulation with other benefits that won’t harm the essential qi.


Make Life Easy on Your Digestive System
In Chinese medicine the spleen controls the stomach.  The spleen controls digestion, builds blood and regulates the fluids in the body.  When we are pregnant the spleen is already working overtime building life in the body so it is important to eat in a way that strengthens the spleen.  The spleen is taxed by greasy and fatty foods.  I’m not saying the occasional French fry, burger or deep fried delight is completely off limits but they should be very limited.  During the winter the spleen flourishes from cooked vegetables and warm liquids.

Eat more fruit and vegetables than meat.  Whenever possible use whole grains in place of refined grains.  Eat brown rice instead of white and whole grain breads.  Eating whole grains helps to lessen the craving for meat and sugar.  Make vegetables your main course and use smaller amounts of meat, or substitute animal protein with fish or tofu.  In Chinese medicine meat is considered a tonic.  To overindulge in meat wastes the medicinal properties of the animal. During winter it is better to eat vegetables cooked instead of raw. As it is cold outside we want to eat neutral or warming foods such as soup or cooked greens. Vegetables such as cucumber and lettuce, although beneficial in general, are more cooling in nature. During pregnancy it is helpful to tonify the kidneys with foods such as walnuts, chicken broth and eggs in moderation.


Snack for the Season
Try these seasonally appropriate suggestions for winter snacks and nutrition:

  • Pumpkin seeds or walnuts are slightly warming and aid digestion.
  • Berries are one of the few fruits considered slightly warming.  Fresh or dried works.
  • Throw sesame seeds on your veggies.  Sesame seeds are good for boosting qi that benefits the immune system.
  • If you use sugar, switch to brown sugar which is energetically warmer than white.
  • Drink room temperature or hot beverages only.  Winter is a great time for ginger tea.

Zoe Kogan, L.Ac. is a nationally board certified and licensed acupuncturist and the co-founder of Brooklyn Acupuncture.   She attended the Midwest College of Oriental Medicine in Wisconsin for acupuncture and Tri-State College of Acupuncture for certification in Chinese Herbology.  She has completed additional training in Beijing, China, as well as certification as an Acupuncture Detoxification Specialist Trainer from the Lincoln Recover Center in the Bronx.  In 2002, Zoe initiated the Acupuncture Detoxification Training Program at Beth Israel Medical Center, where she trained and certified hospital staff in acupuncture detoxification.