Book Review: Real Food for Pregnancy by Lily Nichols RDN, CDE

Pregnancy is just one chapter of a family’s story. How ever we enter this realm of life, its important to remember that there are a whole host of opinions on how to “be healthy.” Standards today don’t stem terribly far from the standards 50 years ago, and Lily Nichols RDN, CDE best selling author of, “Real Food for Gestational Diabetes” and now “Real Food for Pregnancy” has done her due diligence of sweeping study after study and finding some connections. She offers some insight on our current nutritional model for pregnancy, while shedding light on some findings that can benefit our children’s development.

Nichols changed the game with her research of gestational diabetes, and this book is no different. Admittedly I was swept up with the idea of eating up (pun intended!) every bit of information in this book, but I had to take my time to connect the dots, and I still am. She has taken into account both medical studies as well as cultural practices in prenatal diets. In addition to her highly detailed breakdown of nutrition, she utilizes the biological process of fetal development to support the statistics as well as cultural traditions.

She starts with a comprehensive look at nutrition as a whole, such as main sources of protein and how to plate your meals. It was very beneficial information as a non pregnant person, so this can have a huge affect not only on your developing baby, but also on your family as a whole. I will stress that if you are already pregnant and receiving this information it can be pretty overwhelming. That said, this book is great to have on your shelf, as it offers the ability to skim through and find clarification on the fly.

From an individual' perspective, a lot of the studies answered questions I had about my own balance of calories. This information has helped me be more mindful about the food I eat, and even how I eat it. She touches on fats and how essential they are in absorbing nutrients, as well as in the development of the fetal brain. Nichols is a saint for taking all of these incredibly extensive studies and translating them in such a cohesive text. This book is rich with information, but she offers a fluidity that nurtures your learning experience. She shows this through her insight on vegetarian and vegan diets, and how to fill any gaps in the growth and development of baby. It should be noted that a lot of the studies have shown that animal fats within the context of pregnancy and brain development are superior to plant fats. She takes the time to explain the science behind these findings, and offers practices outside of these texts for vegan or vegetarian individuals.

As a doula, I have a fair amount of discussions with my clients around nutrition. The common ones tend to be food aversions, forbidden foods, and nutrition for breastfeeding. Nichols makes a point to get down to the heart of pregnancy. It’s no surprise that the first trimester can be really tough on a pregnant person’s constitution. Some of the most common aspects are nausea, sensitivities to smells , and lack in appetite. In the words of one of my recent clients, “you get nauseous cause you haven’t eaten, but you can’t eat cause you are so nauseous.” In this circumstance, her recommendation is to just eat! You may spend some time on a starch heavy diet in the beginning, but this should let up over time offering a more nutritionally abundant diet. All aspects on growing a family requires grace, and this is no exception. I appreciate that aspect in her writing.

I would recommend this book as “THE” book in understanding the american dietary recommendations in comparison with other cultures. Topics like raw fish, soft cheese, alcohol, etc. are all covered and you’ll be happy to know that we have some more wiggle room than we thought. As a culture Americans have to vet out a lot of junk food, this certainly sets us apart from our neighboring countries. I really appreciated the clarification on these dietary choices and the strength in facts that supports them.

This book has me excited about getting pregnant, and ensures that I will continue to view my nutrition in a much brighter context and understanding. It has also opened a new avenue in which I can navigate with my clients during their pregnancies. I highly recommend this to anyone planning to be pregnant, or even just needing a change of perspective with their own body and nutrition.

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