Date Recipes for an Easy(er) Labor

September 12, 2017
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If you’ll remember quite a few posts back, I quit my full-time job to pursue my dream of becoming a health & wellness entrepreneur. Today, my work no longer fits into a neat little box. One that I clock in, and clock out of, and that has one title. Instead, it’s messy, volatile, and all over the place. And I love it.

At the moment, I work for five different “jobs,” or rather, clients. One such client is called the Institute for Functional Medicine. It is my responsibility to read dozens of clinical studies on a particular topic, and summarize them into one succinct article.

I’ll admit, it’s one of the toughest jobs I’ve ever had. It requires quite a lot of brain power, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Why? Because it makes me smarter. It forces me to read scientific studies, understand the language, and make decisions based on concrete information rather than internet regurgitation.

Recently, I came across a study that was of particular interest to me because of my current condition (pregnant).

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It was called “The effect of late pregnancy consumption of date fruit on labour and delivery.”

Researchers at Jordan University of Science and Technology followed 114 pregnant women over the course of a year. During that time, they gave 69 women six dates per day for four weeks prior to their estimated delivery date. The 45 women in the control group consumed none. The results were nothing short of awesome, in my opinion. Here’s the gist:

  • The “date women” had significantly higher cervical dilation upon their labor day compared with the “non-date women.” 3.52 cm vs. 2.02 cm.
  • 96% of the “date women” experienced spontaneous labor, compared to 79% of “non-date women.”
  • 28% of “date women” needed hormones to progress labor (prostin/oxytocin), compared to 47% in “non-date women.”
  • The “date women” were in the first stage of labor for a mean of 510 minutes, vs. 906 minutes for the “non-date women.”

In conclusion, eating dates in the last 4 weeks before labor significantly reduced the need for induction or intervention in labor and produced a more favorable delivery outcome. 

Hell yes.

As someone who is planning on having a natural labor, I need all the help I can get for a “favorable” outcome. So I followed suit. At 36 weeks, I started diligently eating my 6 dates a day. And I must admit, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Six dates a day is a lot! Especially for a girl who normally watches her sugar intake. But guess what? I’m a chef. Why just eat dates when you can eat dates baked in, topped on, and rolled into other delicious ingredients? I called for reinforcements.

I just happen to have a friend who is a fellow personal chef and also in her third trimester of her first pregnancy – SMALL WORLD, right? So wonderful Whitney of a Shared Plate and I made a Date “Date.” (See what we did there?).

It involved a lot of taste testing, a little swearing when I accidentally dumped a tablespoon of nutmeg into the pumpkin batter (that stuff is STRONG), and four swollen ankles by the end of the day. But we were both very happy with the results. And hopefully our babies will agree come labor day.

Before I hand over the goods, I just want to say that I’m not naïve enough to think that dates alone are going to make labor easy or painless. The study I cited here tested a smaller sample size, and was also conducted in Jordan — a large exporter of the date fruit. I have found plenty of anecdotal evidence from other women who've found labor improvement through date eating, but there really is no guarantee, right? Sometimes, though, I think we all need something to feel like we have a bit of control over a very out-of-control condition. Heaven knows, this is the last time for a long time that we can feel we have control over anything.

Though pregnancy has been a wonderful experience for me, these last few weeks have been a true test of patience and letting go — knowing that I must have faith that it will all work out. I plan to write back again once Charley girl is born with knowledge and wisdom. But right now, I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. So with that, I raise a date to you. Here's to being totally clueless, scared out of our minds, but also more excited than we ever have been to experience love like we never knew we could. Cheers!

Much Love,

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Labor Day Date Recipes

Per the study cited above, you should start your date obsession at 36 weeks of pregnancy, or rather 4 weeks before expected delivery date. Six dates a day? With these recipes? No problem.

Zucchini Date Bread

Why use raisins when you can use dates? Why use sugar when you can use dates? Any possible ingredient that could be subsituted with dates, we did. The result was a soft, hearty zucchini bread with a subtle sweetness. If you're feeling really indulgent, slather it with almond butter. Or heck. Just butter. Remember, fat is good for you and the baby.

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Recipe courtesy of Katie at the Healthy Seasonal Recipes blog, with tweaks from Whitney and Stacey.

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup boiling water
  • 1 cup pitted and quartered Medjool dates
  • 2 cups gluten-free flour
  • 1 cup sprouted spelt flour
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 large pasture-raised eggs
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 pound zucchini, shredded (about 3 ½ cups)
  • ¾ cup rolled oats
  • Additional cup dates, chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat 2 1.5-quart loaf pans with coconut oil.
  2. Pour boiling water over the dates and let sit until softened, about 15 minutes.
  3. While you’re waiting, stir together gluten-free flour, spelt flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
  4. Transfer dates and their soaking liquid to a food processor and process until smooth.
  5. Add eggs, oil, honey and vanilla and process until smooth.
  6. Pour date mixture into a large bowl. Stir in zucchini. Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Add the oats and extra chopped dates and stir until just combined. Divide the batter between the two prepared pans.
  7. Bake until golden brown, puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 55 minutes to 1 hour.
  8. Allow loaves to cool in their pans at least 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

 

Pumpkin Crisp Date Bars | Gluten-Free, Vegan

I couldn't possibly make baked goods in September without satisfying my pumpkin obsession. And oh boy, did this do it. The filling is made by blending dates and pumpkin puree together, along with all the necessary fall spices. If you wanted to make this paleo, then I would recommend using a combination of ground nuts and shredded coconut to replace the oats. OR, you could just make the filling and eat it by the spoonful. No shame in that, my preggo friends.

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Recipe courtesy of Sarah McMinn from My Darling Vegan

Ingredients

(Pumpkin Date Filling)

  • 1 cup packed medjool dates, pitted
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
  • zest of 1 large orange, about 2 teaspoons

(Oat Crumble)

  • 2½ cups gluten-free rolled oats
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup coconut oil

Directions

  1. Soak the pitted dates for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat an 8×8 baking sheet with coconut oil and set aside.
  3. For the oat crumble combine oats, almond meal, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Stir together. In a smaller bowl whisk combine coconut oil and maple syrup. Add the coconut oil/syrup mixture to the oats and stir to combine.
  4. Once your dates are done soaking, drain and place in a food processor along with the remaining pumpkin filling ingredients. Blend until smooth. Set aside.
  5. Pour half of the oat crumble on the bottom of the prepared baking sheet and press down. top with the pumpkin filling, smoothing even with a spatula. Finish by sprinkling the remaining oat crumble evenly over the top. Press down lightly.
  6. Bake for 30-35 minutes until crumb is golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool completely before slicing into 16 even pieces.

 

Raw Chocolate Date Brownies | Paleo, Gluten-Free, Vegan, Raw

Of all the date recipes made, this one might take the cake. I've never experienced something so decadently brownie-like, without actually being a brownie. It blows my mind that these are essentially made up of just 3 ingredients: dates, walnuts, and cacao. Bonus points for giving me the small kick of caffiene (from the cacao) I need every day without resorting to coffee. Whitney had the fantastic idea that on the next go-round of these (and there WILL BE another go-round), we should add hazelnuts to the mix. Done and done.

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Recipe courtesy of Katie from Chocolate Covered Katie, with tweaks from Whitney and Stacey

Ingredients

  • 2½ cups loosely packed pitted dates
  • 1 1/2 cups walnuts
  • 6 tbsp cacao or cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp water
  • 1/4 + 1/8 tsp salt

Directions

  1. Combine the dates, walnuts, 6 tbsp cocoa, 1 1/2 tsp vanilla, water, and salt in a food processor. Process until completely smooth, scraping down as needed – It may seem dry at first, but don’t add any extra water. 
  2. Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking pan, or line the pan with parchment or wax paper.
  3. Transfer dough to pan and press very firmly until dough is evenly distributed in the pan.
  4. Refrigerate brownies for at least 2 hours, to set. Leftovers can stay covered at room temperature for a day, or up to 2 weeks in the fridge, or 1-2 months in the freezer.

 

Kitchen Sink Date Energy Balls & Bars | Paleo, Gluten-Free, Vegan, Raw

I personally love recipes that have very lax guidelines. So I created this gem for you so you can easily make your own date ball or bar. Think of it as a "choose your own adventure" recipe. No matter what nuts or seeds you choose, you'll get the added benefit of combining a protein (nuts/seeds) and a fat (coconut oil) with your dates. This will keep your blood sugar from spiking as you gobble them down.

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Original recipe from Healthy Stacey, intended to be customized to your tastes (and/or lack of having the exact ingredients on hand becasue…life)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of nuts (i.e. almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pistachios)
  • 1 cup of seeds (i.e. pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc)
  • 1 cup of shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 2 cups of Medjool dates, pitted
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon of your favorite spices mixed together (e.g. cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne, etc)
  • Optional: superfood toppings to roll the balls in such as cacao nibs, goji berries, or more shredded coconut

Directions

  1. Process the nuts, seeds and coconut in the food processor
  2. Add in the dates, coconut oil, salt and seasonings, then pulverize again
  3. Roll mixture into balls or flatten into a pan
  4. Freeze for an hour
  5. Cut into squares if flattened into a pan
  6. Eat one, and put the rest in the fridge for daily snacks until your labor day!

 

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