Can you pick me up some string cheese?
January 20, 2006 5:18 AM   Subscribe

What is the *best* book you can recommend that covers diet and nutrition for a healthy pregnancy?

My wife is 8 1/2 weeks pregnant (woo!) and is, as expbeen quite manageable so far...but with all the dietary restrictions (like those mentioned previously here), we'd like to get a good book on a healthy pregnancy diet...preferably one with recipes and whatnot. She's all up on the folic acid, vitamins, don't eat roadkill kind of advice, so we're looking for a day-to-day dietary handbook...or something.

This area seems to be flooded with resources and, well, try as I might, i'm out of my element here.
posted by tpl1212 to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Mrs. Putzface posting here. Try What Every Women Should Know about Diet and Pregnancy by Dr. Tom Brewer. It may be out of print, but a library could have it. Also I know he keeps a website.

It doesn't have recipes really, but gives you guidelines about what types of foods you should be having per serving in a week. It is easy to follow and is more about what to eat than what not to eat. Every midwife I know recommends the Brewer Diet to their clients. Sorry I can't provide you with links and stuff, I don't know how. Just saw your question and thought I'd post. HTH
posted by putzface_dickman at 5:40 AM on January 20, 2006

As a former bookseller, I can vouch that we used to sell scads of "What To Expect When You're Expecting".
It seemed to be pretty dang thorough, gives a day by day explanation of what's happening and what you should be doing.
Copies flew out the door.

Well, not literally.
posted by willmize at 5:41 AM on January 20, 2006

Response by poster: Wasn't aware of him (thanks!), but this seems to be (the late) Dr. Tom Brewer's site:
posted by tpl1212 at 6:02 AM on January 20, 2006

I'd like to offer a warning against the What to Expect series. First of all, the book lists every single darn thing that has ever gone wrong in the history of all maternity, without really stressing how rare these conditions are. So each month the reader is greeted with a catalog of horrors about which she can obsess for the remainder of her pregnancy.

Second, the "Best Odds Diet" in the book has been derided by people far more qualified than me. At least in my version, some of the directions read bullshit from the start: Indian food, always healthy and good (nevermind the sheen of ghee that covers me whenever I cook it), Japanese food, always bad (we all know that the Japanese only eat raw fish), and if you want an extra indulgence, try a bran muffin now and then.

Honestly, I'm a firm believer in getting all the information you need from your OB or midwife. There's a healthy market for pregnancy books, but I found with my first pregnancy that it was easy to get overloaded with information (and this is coming from two librarians). For my second, I concentrated on not eating too much junk, staying away from most fish, taking my vitamins, cutting back on the coffee, drinking milk, dropping the booze, and eating my veggies.

Which is not to say that these other folks here can't give you a good diet to follow. I just feel it's part of my mission in life to offer a screed against some of the pregnancy books that elevated my heart-rate needlessly.
posted by bibliowench at 6:06 AM on January 20, 2006

I agree -- the "treat yourself to a bagel, but just once a month!" idiocy of the What to Eat When You're Expecting was not only unrealistic but totally anxiety-triggering when I was pregnant the first time and freaked out that I didn't know what I was doing, especially when it came to nutrition. Reading that book totally played into my crazy first-timer anxiety that any wrong decision I made, from having (gasp) a daily bagel to not drinking wheatgrass juice, was putting my unborn child in peril and potentially affecting her chances at having any kind of normal life.

I agree with the recommendation to talk to the midwife or OB for basic guidelines. And I also agree that it's incredibly easy to suffer from information overload, especially with a first-time pregnancy. You might be better served on reading up on early motherhood and what it's like being a new mother. I mean, it's great to know about what's happening in your body when you're pregnant, but at the same time -- if you were going on a trip, would you study up on the place you're going, talking to people who have been there to find out where the best restaurants are and what to expect when you get there, maybe researching the kinds of things you could do once you've arrived? Or would you try to learn how to fly the plane? Focusing so much on how to be pregnant is like learning to fly the plane.

The good news is that you already know how to fly the plane -- your body knows how to be pregnant, and if you're taking your vitamins and avoiding the obvious no-nos (drug use, alcohol, etc.), there's not too much you have to do to help it along. Sleep, and eat, and be kind to yourself, and don't overthink/get freaked out by the small stuff.
posted by mothershock at 7:48 AM on January 20, 2006

I have also heard from a number of mothers that What to Expect When You're Expecting and its siblings, though filled with good information, may needlessly scare the crap out of you. They'll give you the idea you should never eat dessert, or whatever, and if you take them too literally then you could make worse problems for yourself than you'd ever get from ice cream. If you're suffering from morning sickness there may be very few things you can eat. For this and other reasons many women find it hard to gain enough weight during pregnancy and the best advice, sometimes, might be to eat whatever you can keep down. My wife also points out that while the ...When You're Expecting cookbook has plenty of good ideas for food it is targeted at people who have the time to prepare all of their food from scratch (i.e. bake your own wholesome muffins, etc.). This may or may not be you. These books have certainly helped many, many mothers and are considered classics for a reason, but that doesn't make them perfect.

My wife really liked Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn, by Penny Simkin. It doesn't offer recipes per se but it does offer sane and balanced advice about these subjects, including appropriate nutrition.

Moving off topic she also liked The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy for a break from all the overly serious (and sometimes heavy-handed) maternity advice out there. And get yourself a copy of The Expectant Father. It's quite a good book.
posted by Songdog at 7:51 AM on January 20, 2006

I'm going to third (fifth?) the advice that she should speak with her midwife/ob (and, side note, do look into midwives if you haven't considered it -- she's not sick, you know, she's just pregnant) about what they suggest. If your wife has special dietary needs, your midwife/ob may recommend that she see a nutritionist, but most women can "eat right" by eating a normal, balanced diet and following a few simple guidelines.

As with any other kind of "diet" book, there is a *lot* of crazy information out there on how best to eat during this time. The comments on "what to expect" above are right on target.

I don't really think there are "so many restrictions" on what she can't eat ... the list on my fridge (from my midwife, see more info below on her practice) is just this:
-- avoid fish and shellfish known to be high in mercury
(and then there is a list of those fish)
-- don't eat any raw or lightly-cooked meats, fish, or eggs
-- no unpasteurized dairy or juices
-- no raw veggie 'sprouts' (including alfalfa, clover and radish)
-- no smoking or drinking alcohol, and avoid caffeine

She also has me avoiding high-fructoce corn syrup, but I'm sure that's not the advice she gives everyone.

One interesting note that my midwife has passed on to me is that she doesn't recommend pre-natal vitamins, since its always better to get your vitamins from actual foods than from supplements. Something about slower digestion leads to better absorption. This is, I gather from friends, becoming increasingly common advice from midwives.

Instead she has me eating one large bowl (1 1/4 cup instead of the "recommended serving" of 3/4 cup) of Total Cereal (with skim milk) each day. It is her belief (and she's been doing this for 25 years and her practice is in partnership with a gestational nutritionist) that morning sickness is caused or worsened for many women by the vitamin pills.

I'm not saying your wife should follow my midwife's advice, but my point is that just about every book out there says "take these pills and avoid all this stuff" while a real midwife/ob/nutritionist is much more likely to a) give you better advice about food and b) not be so scary.

I have no idea why there are so many "scare tactics" in the Pregnancy Industry in the US. Every where you turn you'll see giant flashing Warning! Warning! messages which lead you to believe that if you eat the wrong thing once you'll end up with a baby with six thumbs. Its just not true.

Eat food. Eat real food, not premade convience food, and she'll be fine.

Oh, and congratulations to you both!!

(Do buy her the string cheese, ok?)
posted by anastasiav at 8:23 AM on January 20, 2006

Hurray, and congratulations!

Skip What to Expect, the whole damn series.

Don't listen to anyone with regard to what a pregnant woman should or shouldn't eat, with the exception of the pregnant woman's own gut instinct and the medical professional caring for the pregnant woman.

Even doctors and midwives don't have a consensus about the dangers of various foods. They tell their patients something, and then all the patients compare notes at the park or in online forums, and then other pregnant women wig out because Nobody Ever Told Them, and it's all just really silly.

Each woman really has to assess the risk of eating a certain food for herself, with the input of her doctor or midwife (whom she hopefully trusts for guidance). Then when your friend says "GACK! You're not supposed to be drinking coffee!", you can say with confidence "My midwife said I could, so back off".

For general nutritional reference, I'd recommend glancing at the works of Ellyn Satter, whose "Child Of Mine: Feeding With Love and Common Sense" includes a section on prenatal nutrition, and also has been instrumental in helping me come to terms with my hydroponic preschooler.
posted by padraigin at 8:51 AM on January 20, 2006

I wonder what the corn syrup warning is about. I know babies are supposed to avoid honey and corn syrup for a while because of the possibility of botulism, but I doubt that's an issue in utero.

To anastasiav's midwife's list I wanted to offer two possible additions: deli meats and pâté (these can contain listeria, which can cross the placental barrier) and a number of herbs, including herbal teas (there's a long list here to give you an idea, but I can't vouch for the information). These things are fine parts of a healthy adult diet, but not so good when pregnant.

Nurse-midwives, incidentally, are great (my sister-in-law is about to become one!). As anastasiav points out a midwife is trained to focus on the normal healthy process of pregnancy and childbirth while an Ob/Gyn is trained to focus on the diseases and complications which may occur during pregnancy and childbirth. There are wonderful Ob/Gyns and I'm sure there are not-so-wonderful midwives, but I believe that in general you'll get longer, slower-paced appointments and more personal attention.

On preview: padraigin is right. For pretty much every thing that someone says you're supposed to do or not do there's some entire nation of people doing the opposite and having healthy babies. You and your caregivers need to decide which things you're going to worry about and which things you're going to relax about (this advice also applies after the baby is born, when you'll start getting advice on what you have to do to raise a happy and healthy child).
posted by Songdog at 8:59 AM on January 20, 2006

Response by poster: Wow, thanks for all the great advice...!

I think what I can distill from all this is:

a.) listen to the advice of professionals (our first visit with the midwife is in one week)

b.) view pregnancy "diet" books with the same skepticism as normal "diet" books (which, in our case, is much skepticism)...and makes me think we'll look at a few from the library instead of investing in anything

c.) eat normal, good-for-you foods that you feel like eating

d.) continue to buy string-cheese, even if it is 3:00 in the morning
posted by tpl1212 at 9:07 AM on January 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

I wonder what the corn syrup warning is about.

She's designed a diet for me that is trying to prevent gestational diabetes, which I am at risk for due to my age, weight, and family history.

Plus, you know, high fructose corn syrup is the scourge of the modern world. :-)
posted by anastasiav at 9:22 AM on January 20, 2006

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