Beautiful Babies: Nutrition for Fertility, Pregnancy, Breastfeeding, & Baby’s First Foods
by Kristen Michaelis
Foreword by Joel Salatin
Victory Belt Publishing, Inc.
A not-so-quiet revolution is taking place, an inspired movement toward what is called Restorative Food and Farming (www.bioneers.org/ programs/restorative-food-systems/). Authors, activists, parents, and educators are informing each other as they combine forces to halt the support of industrialized food production, which brings disease and destruction to people, planet, and future generations.
With this awareness comes a need for change in everyday choices of how to obtain and prepare food for optimal health. The task can appear overwhelming to the newcomer, especially for those planning to start a family. There are deep concerns about the safety and nutrient value of conventional supermarket foods, often laden with genetically engineered organisms and chemicals.
A young woman today may fear for her own health and that of her future child as the statistical probability rises in this country for any number of chronic ailments—from autism, mental and cognitive disability, to multiple allergies, endocrine, reproductive and immune disorders, to the increasing incidence of dental deformities, and even childhood cancer.
Kristen Michaelis’ book offers a wonderfully accessible resource for this population. The information is interesting and engaging, as she both informs and empowers the reader through her personal story, and well-documented, well-organized chapters on the subject.
Although the purpose of the book is to offer guidance toward healthy choices for obtaining and preparing food for fertility, pregnancy, birth and nutrition of the infant, Beautiful Babies could very well be the book of choice for many young women (and the men they love) as they emerge into adulthood. Most college students struggle with claiming their own birthright of radiant health, and a strong, resilient immune system. As a college professor in holistic health, I recognize Michaelis’ voice as hip and effective, and more than once I found myself wishing for a more inclusive title to appeal to this wider audience. In her introduction, Michaelis informs the reader that she “stands on the shoulders” of many authors before her. Foundational research for Michaelis’ book is based on the work of many contemporary and past authors in the areas of traditional food, food preparation and nutrition as they relate to health, most notably that of Dr. Weston A. Price and the Weston A. Price Foundation. Beautiful Babies contributes to the goals of WAPF as it is particularly accessible to the reader who may be new to this information as well as engaging and fun to read for those familiar with the principles.
A testament to the book is that it begins with the enthusiastic voice of Joel Salatin, a fourth-generation organic farmer of Polyface Farms in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, who has been featured in several films, including Food Inc., (on the many problems with factory farming). Salatin makes no bones (pun intended) about the plight of our declining health due to the Modern American Diet. Salatin primes the reader toward a palpable answer to the question of “Why be concerned—why change”? Salatin asks the reader to consider, for example, that it is not natural for human aging to equate with illness. “Morbidity data do not support the notion that diabetes and heart disease eventually get the old-timers in more primitive societies,” he states. With a very concrete look at the environmental degradation inherent in food production, Salatin’s voice is passionate as he dismisses our current modern food production as “the largest experiment in human history.” He applauds Michaelis’ “faith in the way ecology and nature work,” and admonishes us to “trust in historical normalcy.” This section is a great primer for the reader who is new to these principles, discussing how traditional diets are based on principles that build a very strong and resilient body, creating an immune system strong enough to withstand many of the insults to one’s health from a diseased environment. Salatin offers the rich phrase “heritage wisdom,” as he reminds us that our problem of fertility is a modern problem. He prepares the reader for Michaelis’ excellent book with a plea to return to “grandma’s soul-satisfying meals.”
The tone of the book is upbeat and logical in its sequence of chapters. Michaelis divides her very practical work into two main sections, the first half focusing on the nutrition for fertility, pregnancy, breastfeeding and baby’s first foods, the second part a collection of recipes for “sacred foods” for the health of mother and baby, with many photos of delicious dishes that entice the reader to begin at once! Two final sections follow as appendixes A and B: Understanding Food Ingredient Labels, and Eating Real Food on a Budget.
Part One has ten informative and engaging chapters, beginning with a more in-depth look at the major shift in the paradigm of nutritional assumptions, challenging the reader new to this information to take a fresh look at “conventional” guidelines for fats, cholesterol, and carbohydrates. She addresses the question of why nutrition matters, both for fertility, and the formation of a healthy fetus. It will shock some to think that their nutrition during this phase could affect the very structure of their newborn’s face! Drawing on the research of Dr. Weston A. Price, Michaelis includes drawings of healthy and compromised facial structures of children, with tables describing the health implications.
Michaelis describes all the processed foods that affect fertility and health, followed by a focus on what to eat instead. She encourages homemade broths instead of commercial broth with MSG, and explains how to choose traditional fats and oils, describing the health benefits of including liberal amounts of them daily. Michaelis does an excellent job of pointing out our need for conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) only found in the fat of “grazing ruminants like cattle and sheep, and in the eggs of pastured chickens, in order to protect the body from a myriad of health conditions and diseases.”
Other chapters deal with digestive health, fermented foods, fat-soluble vitamins, alternative medical treatments for fertility and pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and baby’s first foods— which does not include rice cereal! The second half of the book includes recipes for organ meats, seafoods, eggs, and healthy beverages. The recipes are beautifully illustrated and easy to follow.
Although I might suggest the inclusion of an index with a second edition for ease of reference, in general this is a very readable, convincing and enjoyable book, and I give it an enthusiastic thumbs up!
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2014