This post has bee a LONG time in coming. I have been sitting on the majority of it's content for...um, well, months really. I won't even bore you with the reasons/ excuses of "summer" and "new baby" and "life happening"....you get it right?
The long germination has not dimmed my enthusiasm for it or its' contents however. I have be EXCITED to share this post with you since I first saved it in Word!
Just prior to my daughter's birth in Feb (2018), I began reading the book Real Food For Pregnancy by Dietitian Lily Nichols. Yes, I know. A month or two before you pop out a baby may not seem like the most ideal time to read a book about pre-natal nutrition. It could very well seem like a "what you should have done" type of activity. However, it wasn't!
This book is nothing short of encouraging, informative, insightful, challenging and appropriate for both the Dietitian like myself OR the woman/mother who is interested in nutrition ..
Who is it for: All women of child bearing age. You don't even have to be pregnant to read it. Women who are interested in nutrition and especially a whole food way of eating.
This book has cracked the sky of prenatal nutrition world like a peal of thunder. Doctors, OBGYNs, dietitians, and other health care professionals have quickly recognized this resource as invaluable. It is a new voice supporting scientifically based nutrition recomendations for whole, real food for mamas. It i about time!
Though busy, Lily was gracious enough to let me ask (via email) a few questions about her book! I hope her responses encourage you to look at herwebsiteand perhaps, buy her book for yourself or perhaps as a baby shower gift for the Health Conscious mother-to-be in your life!
Interview with Lily Nichols, Author ofReal Food For Pregnancy
ME: Your book is cutting edge; a blend of new evidence from both studies and traditional, “old” ways of eating. For some people you introduce new ideas: animal fat isn’t bad, carb intake should be a little lower than we thought, eat liver and perhaps sushi when pregnant etc. You even mention toxins and chemical exposures and better blood sugar monitoring in your book! What do you think is the most surprising piece of information or recommendation in your book?
Lily: Oh boy, I’m not sure I can choose one. From feedback so far, I’ve heard positive feedback on the “challenges of a vegetarian diet during pregnancy” section. This seems to be information that people are not given, even in nutrition school (I know I wasn’t) or are given misinformation about. The research on glycine and choline is certainly eye-opening and yet our conventional guidelines for prenatal nutrition don’t even mention glycine.
I also hear that people were surprised on some of the research points on postpartum recovery, including how nutrients in the diet affect nutrients in breastmilk, how long it actually takes for the pelvic floor to return to normal function post birth, and the research on optimal pregnancy spacing. These are topics that tend to be glossed over or not covered in much detail in other resources.
Me: ON pg 26 of your book you mention mindfulness in pregnancy. You say that “mindful eating means listening to the signals your body sends you about food and honoring what it has to say.” I find this personally challenging when I am NOT pregnant, let alone when there is hormonal mahem of a pregnancy! Can you speak more on how to balance the food cravings and the mindfulness? How should a woman deal with the tension between listening to her body and also begin able to say no (especially when the cravings are a bit unhealthy). How does a woman move past the fear that listening to their body will lead to unhealthy choices or unhealthy weight gain?
Lily: This is a good question. Cravings are challenging and I think each woman’s experience is unique. I’ve personally been a follower of mindful eating for over 10 years, so I’ve learned to be very open to my body’s cues and not get too stressed about following a set nutritional dogma. From a physiological perspective, if you can eat in a way that helps balance your blood sugar, you help minimize the blood sugar-driven cravings (something I used to struggle with a lot before I adopted a lower carb, lower glycemic diet). Beyond that, get curious about why a craving might be popping up. There are probably a dozen possible reasons a craving could arise, which is why I included such a lengthy discussion on this topic in Chapter 7. It’s a topic that doesn’t have cut and dry answers (meaning there’s no one “proven” reason). If the craving is for an unhealthy food that could be harmful (like frosting that contains trans fats and food additives, for example), see if there’s a real food alternative that could work in its place, such as homemade whipped cream. Be gentle with yourself and do the best you can.
Me: You started writing this book when your son was 10 months old. After doing all the research (with over 900 citations!), what were some of the things you wish you had done differently in your own pregnancy?
Lily: Much of the research that I came across when writing this book reinforced what I already knew about prenatal nutrition (granted, I’m a “read a dozen studies a week” kind of person and prenatal nutrition is something I’m constantly reading about!). One of the minor tweaks I would have made would be considering a choline supplement during the timeframe when eggs weren’t my favorite. The data on choline intake and how it can affect neurological development and reaction time in infants is very compelling.
I also would have loved to have the information on postpartum healing beforehand. If I would have been aware of how much it is normal and expected for women to slow down during the 4th trimester in other cultures, I would have been able to mentally prepare for a longer period of rest, recovery, and replenishment.
Me: What is the biggest take-away you would like for people to glean from your book? What is the major impression and action point?
Lily: That not every nutrient need can be met from a supplement; we need real food to provide optimal types and quantities of nutrients to have a healthiest pregnancy possible.
Also, understand that prenatal nutrition is ever-evolving. The first ever study to directly measure protein requirements in pregnant women was performed in 2015 in which we learned protein needs are substantially higher than our current recommendations. Within the last year, a RCT came out showing that choline intakes of more than DOUBLE the current recommendation results in optimal brain development in infants. There are so many more examples, which is why I cite all the research in my book. I want to help professionals get up-to-date on the science.
Me: Anything else you want to share about prenatal nutrition or the book itself?
Lily: Ultimately, we have a lot more control over pregnancy outcomes and fetal development than we are told. Certainly, not everything is within our control, but it makes sense to “stack the deck” in your favor during pregnancy to help reduce your chances of pregnancy complications and recover strong after birth.
Me: We all love food (except perhaps in those first few months of pregnancy)! Do you have a favorite recipe to share?
Lily: Curried Cauliflower. See recipe below and find it on her WEBSTIE.
Roasted Curried Cauliflower
By Lily Nicohl
1 large head cauliflower, about 2 lbs, cut into small florets, roughly the same size
1 onion, sliced, any kind
1-2 inch knob fresh ginger, finely grated OR 1 teaspoon ground dried ginger
2-3 heaping Tbsp curry powder (yes, 2-3 tablespoons. If you don’t like spicy, buy a mild curry powder. A mere sprinkle may add some color, but we’re looking for flavor. Big time.)
2 cloves garlic, minced OR 1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons salt, or more (use approximately 1 teaspoon per pound of vegetables)
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
16 oz can coconut milk (Absolutely no reduced-fat nonsense. Remember you absorb many nutrients better with fat. Oh, and your vegetables will taste so good that you’ll actually eat them without crying about it.)
1-2 Tbsp coconut oil or ghee or butter (ghee is Indian clarified butter)
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar or pomegranate molasses (sounds weird, but the flavor is drab without it. Pomegranate molasses is found in Middle Eastern markets.)
Cut up all vegetables (into similarly-sized pieces) and place in a large baking pan, such as a lasagne dish. You want a single layer, so if it’s piled up, split it into 2 pans. The smaller the pieces, the faster it will cook.
Add all remaining ingredients and toss to combine.
Bake in preheated 425 degree oven for 30 min or until cauliflower is lightly browned and tender when pierced with a fork. Serve hot.
OPTIONAL ADDITIONS: - bell peppers, sliced, any colors - parsley or cilantro - 1 can garbanzo beans, drained, rinsed - a handful of dried cranberries - adds a nice sweet contrast - chicken breast strips - they can go in raw with everything else and will fully cook in the oven. This definitely turns it into a meal! - cashews, added after cooking for a little protein and a nice crunch (my crispy cashews would be ideal!)