A couple of decades ago, vegetarianism was an alternative lifestyle with quite a hippy image. These days vegetarianism is mainstream and fewer pregnant veggies are being asked whether they should be taking up meat at this stage in their lives.
This book provides a guide for non-meat eaters about their diet in pregnancy. Dr Conway gives tips to both vegans (who do not eat eggs or dairy products), and vegetarians. There is plenty of advice in the public domain for pregnant women and what they should eat. It could be argued that there is even more advice about what they cannot eat!
What makes this book different is that it captures the excitement of pregnancy and fuels the reader’s enthusiasm for doing the right thing for their unborn child. It is true that Conway gives a list of foods to avoid, but there is also a comprehensive list of foods that women may have been apprehensive about but that are considered safe by the nutritionist community. For example, lovers of soft cheeses will be delighted that Boursin is deemed safe!
The lists are not as comprehensive as those in Conway’s other pregnancy diet book, What to Eat When You’re Pregnant. However, the focus here is on the particular dietary needs of vegetarians.
The book is organised into sections that are easy to follow. The part on how to prepare your body for pregnancy gives helpful, practical advice on how to get yourself to a healthy weight. Best of all, Conway is not judgemental. Her advice is simple: if you are obese, the best thing to do about it is to restrict your portion sizes, have a good look at what you put on your plate and move about more. She tells the reader the risks associated with being obese (or too thin), without criticism.
Conway is a nutritionist by profession, and has many years advising families and conducting research at top British universities.
However, do not worry about the style being too technical. Conway writes for numerous magazines, and has a well-honed style that speaks directly to her readers.
The easiest advice to follow in the book is the “eatwell” plate, where Conway portrays the breakdown of the sorts of foods you should be eating as real food on a plate. From this, it is easy to adjust the balance of foods you consume each day.
There are also meal plans and list of the various vitamins and minerals that should form part of your diet.
When you think of vegetarian foods, you may think of creative dishes involving lentils, mushrooms or beans. It is disappointing then that dishes listed in the suggested weekly meal plans are dependent on fortified cereals and oven chips. It would have been nice to see more adventurous dishes, with a couple of recipes for the curries and soups that Conway suggests.
However, at least the book is honest about the fact that a vegetarian and certainly a vegan diet will need some supplements in pregnancy. Dr Conway suggests that supplements are better absorbed when embedded in foods rather than as a pill.
The book would be a welcome addition to the bookshelf of any pregnant woman, whether she is a vegetarian or a carnivore.
The experts' guide to pregnancy and early parenthood - by Dr Anne Deans
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