Real Food for Pregnancy should be on every must-read list for all newly pregnant people, or those trying to conceive. The author, Lily Nichols, covers all of the bases on what to eat during pregnancy and what to avoid, taking time to explain the nutritional evidence for and against specific foods. More than that, Real Food for Pregnancy goes beyond food and tackles exercise, common pregnancy complaints and conditions, how to avoid toxins in our modern world, and even after baby is born and into the “Fourth Trimester.” The book makes a compelling case for optimizing prenatal health through nutrient-dense foods, through a Paleo-ish diet, providing a refreshing, research-backed approach that is both referenced and an easy read for the expecting person.
The book starts out by telling us what is “Real Food” saying “in a nutshell, real food is made with simple ingredients that are as close to nature as possible and not processed in a way that removes nutrients.”
We all know the old adage of “eating for two” but the author encourages us to “think quality over quantity,” by focusing on macronutrients like protein, healthy fats, and vegetables.
I had an Ah-ha moment when I learned that folate, derives from the word “foliage,” meaning that dark leafy greens are a major source of an essential nutrient packed into every prenatal vitamin. However, in prenatal vitamins it’s the synthetic version, folic acid, which can be harder for the body to process, especially the 30% of the population with the MTHFR gene mutation. Deficiencies in folic acid can lead to birth defects and can impair brain development, making it so important for the whole population of pregnant people to get enough folate if their bodies aren’t great at processing the folic acid in their prenatal vitamin.
In this book you’ll also get sample meal plans and several recipes! One of my favorites was Lily’s Electrolyte Replenishment Drink, a recipe that is great for the first trimester, when many people experience dreaded “morning sickness” that often lasts all day. This drink is also good for labor, when the body may be taking a break on digestion, but the energy needed for birthing a baby increases.
As a birth doula and postpartum doula in the DC metro area, my clients often come to me for advice and resources to guide them to a healthy pregnancy. They tell me their doctors don’t give them much in nutritional guidance other than to avoid alcohol, too much fish with mercury, and to take prenatal vitamins. But pregnant people are some of the most motivated individuals and are willing to learn new tools to lead a healthier lifestyle for themselves and their babies. They want to know how to avoid unnecessary and sometimes scary interventions during labor, and one of the best ways to do that is to stay low risk throughout the pregnancy. If the end goal of pregnancy is a healthy baby and a healthy (and happy) mom, then this book will help get you to that rewarding end!