Contrary to most books serving up nutritional advice for expectant mothers, Nina Planck’s newest book, Real Food For Mother And Baby, offers incredibly practical counsel. She writes as a real mom would, as someone sharing her own personal story about fertility, pregnancy, and her baby’s first foods. She writes about her struggles, about second-guessing herself, about what brought her to tears of frustration. In short, she was accessible both as a person and as a self-described “nutrition geek.”
Both engaging and edifying, her story abandoned the world of idealistic notions and landed squarely in the playing field of real life. We get glimpses of the nitty gritty details that come from the natural anxiety every mother faces as she makes decisions about what to eat and when. We share in her decision-making process as she researches various foods & diets to determine not only what’s safe, but what’s best. And then we experience her trials as she moves through each stage of new motherhood — from pre-conception to baby’s first foods. We get to learn from her mistakes, and we get to bask in the soundness of her hard-won wisdom.
The opening chapter of the book is titled “What is Real Food?” And — not surprisingly — she and I agree. As she shared with us when I recently interviewed her, “Real Food is old and traditional.” (For a lengthier introduction to my view on food, go read The Basics and its accompanying articles.) And in this one chapter, she neatly summarizes most of the content from her earlier book, Real Food: What to Eat and Why.
In her second chapter, she delves into the world of fertility, sharing her research into traditional fertility diets and how their wisdom could be carried over into modern terms. If you’re hoping to get pregnant, the book is worth buying for this chapter alone. It’s a veritable fountain of common sense information that has sadly been lost in our age of turning to drugs to solve every problem.
The next chapter covers what to eat when you’re pregnant. Here again, her words are both wise and comforting. She doesn’t hide the normal ebb and flow of energy, emotions, and nausea that often overwhelms first time mothers as they struggle through each day wondering what’s normal and what’s not. And she gives manageable nutritional advice rather than prescribing an optimal diet that’s so far out of the average mother’s reach as to be absurd and discouraging. To top it all off, she tells you how you can avoid the swelling, bloating, and varicose veins most expectant mothers think of as “normal,” just by eating a better diet (hint: eat more protein, significantly more protein).
The fourth chapter is about nursing your baby, and begins with the words “Very Soggy Indeed.” If you’ve ever nursed a child, you will smile at how refreshingly honest Nina is throughout this section of the book.
And finally, she writes about transitioning your baby to solid foods. Here, as she is throughout the book, she’s both practical and encouraging while bucking the standard nutritional advice in favor of more traditional and nutritionally-sound practices.
Through it all, Nina is honest, witty, and downright charming as she lays out her research and backs up her sometimes controversial claims with clear, sound reasoning.
Real Food For Mother And Baby will leave you empowered, encouraged, and optimistic.
I can’t say the same thing for too many of the other books that try to tackle this subject. They’re altogether dire and gruesome in comparison, leaving expectant moms anxious about every conceivable thing that could go wrong.
So, if you want to read something hopeful, something wise, something realistic, and something well-researched, this is the book for you!
If you have any questions for me about Nina’s new book, please ask in the comments below! I’m happy to answer any and all questions.
Also, let me know if you want this sort of book review to continue. I’ve got a shelf stacked full of books waiting for me to review them. I even thought we could start a discussion group reading through some of the more engaging and informative ones together. So, what do you think?