Thursday, November 15, 2012

on my shelf: real food for mother and baby

[This post submitted to Your Green Resource at Sortacrunchy on 11/15/12.]

As long as I can remember, I've always had a girl crush.  These non-sexual infatuations are more like intense periods of admiration.   I want to copy her style - from handwriting to clothing.  I find myself thinking, "What would [girl crush x] do in this situation?"  They usually fade in time, only to be replaced by a new crush.  I guess you could really call them role models - but that's no fun!

I have one of these girl crushes on Nina Planck.  She is a real food advocate who grew up on a produce farm, became passionate about extending access to food that is actually recognizable as food, and then founded a string of farmer's markets.  She was a strict vegan, and then made the transition back to animal foods and found her health returned simultaneously.  She wrote a fantastic book called Real Food:  What to Eat and Why.  And then, when she found herself pregnant at 35, she delved into another book project, called Real Food for Mother and Baby.

Planck's second book covers the scope of "eating for two" from eating for fertility, to conception and pregnancy, to birth, to breastfeeding, to baby's first foods.  It is comprehensive, and it is no-nonsense.  She is not into strict regulations or "protocols," as some real-food people love to banter about.  She is also into science, which makes this book a fascinating read. 

We have not had trouble with fertility, so I read that section kind of lightly.  But when I arrived at the "Pregnancy Diet" chapter, I immediately encountered an attitude I had felt myself.  Planck describes how she dutifully attempted to follow all the different pregnancy diets that are out there:  the Weston A. Price Foundation's recommendations, the Brewer Diet, and others.  Her continued conclusion:  too much food!  I'm stuffing myself to try to get all this food in.  And then she breaks it down into the most remarkably simple terms:

First trimester (or so):  your baby is building his internal systems and structures.  He needs vitamins to do this, but not a lot of extra calories, so continue eating a healthful and balanced diet, as you should have been before conceiving.

Second trimester (or so):  your baby is putting on muscle and bone, so he needs protein and calcium (meat and milk).

Third trimester (or so):  your baby is packing on fat and building his brain, so he needs lots of healthy fats and lots of fish oil (brains need DHA, which comes primarily from fish). 

Now this, I can remember - without a reference chart or a checklist on my refrigerator! 

Of course, there is more to it than just those three simple guidelines, but they encapsulate what I love most about Planck's book.  It is straightforward, and it doesn't make you feel as if you have failed before beginning if you don't have a perfect diet.  She doesn't make you think your baby will be delayed or weak if you don't eat liver every day.  She simply makes the point that liver is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, and recommends that you try it.  She says that raw milk is best, and shows the science behind it, but then says that she and her family drink plenty of the best pasteurized milk she can find as well.  This is reality, and I love it. 

Her birth story (planned homebirth turned hospital labor turned cesarean) is humbling and emotional.  She reminds us that surgical birth is a miracle that does save lives, when it is reserved for its proper use. 

When I found I was pregnant again, this was the one book I wanted most to get my hands on, in our boxes and boxes of books.  I re-read it in a matter of days, marking pages and copying charts for reference. 

The sections about breastfeeding and introducing foods to your baby are just icing on the cake.  If you are struggling to get pregnant, want some well-thought-out, not-too-rigid guidelines on how to eat while pregnant, or are pondering how to introduce your child to the world of real food, you must check this book out.  It's a gem.

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