As a doula I am often asked nutrition questions by my clients, so I am always on the lookout for good resources. I recently read a book that I think is an excellent guide for pregnancy (and beyond) and I would love to tell you a bit about it.

Lily Nichols RDN, CDE is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, Certified Diabetes Educator, researcher, and author with a passion for evidence-based prenatal nutrition. Her best-selling first book, Real Food for Gestational Diabetes, focuses on managing diabetes during pregnancy.

In her second book, Real Food for Pregnancy, she compares conventional guidelines for prenatal nutrition with what is optimal for the birthing person and baby. Using evidence-based information, her book is packed with detailed descriptions of foods and nutrients that will give you the power to affect your birth outcome. This comprehensive book also discusses supplements, toxins, and lab tests, as well as exercise and mental health. She includes meal plans and a section on postpartum. It really is a complete resource for pregnant people or those trying to conceive!

“There’s no wrong time to embrace real food and optimize your health; it simply becomes exponentially more important when you’re creating and growing a new life.” – Lily Nichols

It’s clear that Lily has a passion for research, and with the evidence-practice gap being 15-20 years, this book is very important as the information you may be getting about nutrition is likely to be outdated. She also points out that most nutrient requirements are what is needed to prevent severe deficiency but are not usually what is needed for optimal nutrition. Because of her dedication to thoroughness and evidence, this book is like a text book, but Lily does an incredible job of taking complex ideas and simplifying them into understandable and practical action steps. She often starts with definitions so we’re all talking about the same thing and goes on to translate the research into real-world application. Lily has found a way to write a technical book that is also an easy read, and laid it out a way that allows you to skip around, reading the sections you have questions about, or re-reading those about issues that may come up during your pregnancy.

When you are “eating for two” think of it as doubling your nutritional needs, not your caloric needs. Lily will help you figure out how best to do that, without making you feel guilty. She also includes lots of suggestions for what to do when you are nauseous and can’t keep anything down, or if you are a vegetarian or vegan who may have some added challenges getting the nutrients you need. She provides you with exercise ideas, sample meal plans and dozens of recipes, all designed to help you with mindful eating.

Early in the book, Lily uses a metaphor I think perfectly captures the connection between pregnancy and nutrition. She talks about a gardener who plants a tomato seed. Within the seed is the blueprint for a tomato plant, and with the essentials of water, soil and light, you’re going to grow a tomato plant. Master gardeners on the other hand pay very close attention to the nutrients within the soil and realize the ideal balance of water and light. Their tomato plant will not only grow but thrive. In the same way, your body will grow a baby even without optimal conditions, but your baby can thrive when attention is paid to the things you can control like exercise, stress and nutrition. This book empowers you to “stack the deck” in your favor, while also encourages you to make healthy nutrition a way of life. As Lily says, “the most effective diet is the one you don’t even know you’re on.”

If you are pregnant or planning on having a baby, add this book to your list of things to read, and if you’re a birth worker add it to your resource list. Also, be sure to check out Lily’s website as it includes blog posts, recipes, and interviews – you can even read the first chapter for free!

real food for pregnancy

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