When it comes to mindful eating and parenting, you know you are doing something right when your toddler likes to pluck shiitake mushrooms and daikon out of his mama's miso soup. "At one year his favorite was bok choy. He would grab it with his little hands," says Alicia Silverstone, when asked about her son Bear's favorite first foods. When it comes to feeding your body—and baby—from pre-pregnancy to birth and beyond, Silverstone is anything but Clueless. On the heels of the release of her latest title, The Kind Mama, Silverstone kindly shares her advice for mamas and mamas-to-be.
A healthful, plant-based diet for fertility and pregnancy seems to be just as much about what not to eat as it is about what to eat. Can you offer a quick list of what foods to avoid and what foods to fill up on?
Eat your greens! Greens such as kale, bok choy, collards, and watercress are packed with a host of great things like vitamin B9, vitamin K, folate, calcium, and iron. Nurture your body with all kinds of veggies made in a healthy variety of cooking styles. Fill up on whole grains (brown rice, quinoa), beans (adzuki, black beans) and bean products (tofu, tempeh). You'll find some seriously delicious and healing recipes in The Kind Mama, like Watercress with Creamy Tahini Dressing and Toasted Sesame Seeds. For the sweetest and most blissful pregnancy, avoid meat, dairy, eggs, processed foods, and sugar.
Soy so often gets a bad rap. Can you explain the relationship between soy and estrogen? Do women need to be wary of their soy intake? And, on that note, are all soy products created equal?
Soy in its purest form has some amazing qualities: it can help protect you against breast cancer, rebalance hormones in post-menopausal women, and reduce the risk of fibroids in the uterine lining. Organic tofu, tempeh, miso, and shoyu are great for you. Asian cultures have been using soy for millennia and don’t experience the estrogen hype. This is because they eat small amounts of high-quality soy and are not indulging in processed foods that contain soy fillers and by-products. Consuming items such as soy ice cream, soymilk, chips and other processed foods daily or often is not healthy. When transforming to a healthier, kinder diet, allow yourself some of these replacement treats in moderation—they are all better than reaching for animal-based items. Once you become more balanced and comfortable with a plant-based life, think of these products as occasional treats.
What’s up with “pregnancy brain”—is that a myth or is it real? Are there foods that can help clear the foggy-headiness?
“Pregnancy brain” doesn’t happen to everyone but it can happen and for good reason! Your brain needs extra fuel during pregnancy since the crucial building block DHA (the omega-3 fatty acid that builds our smarts) is being funneled to your baby to develop its noodle. Your brain is also shrinking and restructuring itself during pregnancy since your metabolism is changing (don’t worry, it grows back post-birth). Then, toward the end of your pregnancy, you get an extra shot of the hormone progesterone, which has a tranquilizing effect. All of this can contribute to you feeling fuzzy or out of it. You can protect your neurons by eating plenty of omega-3 foods. DHA-rich plant-based foods include microalgae (chlorella and spirulina), sea plants, tofu, nuts (walnuts), and seeds (especially flax and chia seeds). Foods that help you metabolize these fatty acids are whole grains like quinoa, dark beans (black and adzuki), as well as dark leafy greens.
Did you have any pregnancy cravings? What were they and how did you satisfy them healthfully? On the flip side, did you have any food aversions?
I had a strange relationship with food— I didn’t like or want anything really, but did the best I could. Overall when it comes to cravings, the goal isn’t to be perfect, but to be resolved. You do your best but are flexible and compassionate with yourself if you fall off the path! If you’re craving something meaty, salty, or fried try the following recipes from The Kind Mama: Fat-Fried Udon Noodles or the Sausage and Sweet Potato Hash. Want something sweet? Try the Chocolate-Dunked Coconut Delights.
What were some of your son Bear’s favorite foods at six months, one year, and today?
At six months the baby still isn’t totally into complete meals, so it’s more about introducing gentle foods. At six months Bear was fed lots of whole grains. Whole grains help lay a strong but gentle foundation that assists in fueling development. He enjoyed brown rice and barley porridge. You can find some of these perfect first food recipes in my book. At one year his favorite was bok choy. He would grab it with his little hands. He also liked the shiitake mushrooms and daikon out of my miso soup. Mochi has always been a staple that’s quick and easy (the recipe can also be found in my book). Today, he loves cabbage, green beans, sushi with brown rice and avocado (or almond butter in place of the avocado), and of course sweet fruits like strawberries and apples.