Frances Largeman-Roth is Senior Food and Nutrition Editor at Health Magazine and author of Feed the Belly: The Pregnant Mom’s Healthy Eating Guide . In it, she provides pregnant women with a great eating guide and recipe resource for a healthy nine months - a must-have for anyone who is expecting.
When she’s not promoting her book, educating readers of Health Magazine on good nutrition, or appearing on national TV to spread her expertise on healthy living, Frances enjoys spending time at home with her husband and toddler daughter, Willa.
And even though she promotes the best in nutrition for good health, it’s nice to know she enjoys regular ice cream - guilt-free!
Your book, Feed the Belly: The Pregnant Mom’s Healthy Eating Guide, provides expectant moms with tips and recipes for a healthful and nutritious pregnancy. Did being pregnant yourself while writing the book factor into the kinds of recipes you included, based on your own cravings and dietary desires?
Definitely! My cravings were mostly for savory items like my Broccoli Mac and Cheese. But I also craved black & white cookies—a New York institution—and those are really impossible to make healthy.
What are the most important things pregnant women should keep in mind when it comes to nutrition during their pregnancies?
I think most women know about folic acid and how essential it is for a baby’s neural tube development, but DHA is also critical. It’s found mainly in fatty cold-water fish like salmon and herring. Unfortunately, many women are still under the impression that they should avoid all seafood during pregnancy. It’s just not true! Of course, you need to avoid the four big baddies: swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel and shark, which contain high levels of PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, which are highly toxic industrial compounds. But low mercury, low PCB fish like wild salmon and tilapia are incredibly healthy and again, those DHA fatty acids are vital for baby’s brain and eye development. Also, low levels of DHA have been linked to postpartum depression, which affects 10-15 percent of moms. If you’re pregnant, aim for 200mg of DHA a day. Many prenatal vitamins are now fortified with it.
What are the biggest challenges you face on a daily basis while juggling your career as senior food and nutrition editor at Health Magazine; a book author; your frequent morning show appearances, parenting/spouse/household responsibilities, etc.? (You are very busy!)
Sleep! I never get enough. Also, I always feel like I’ve forgotten about someone or something. You know that nagging feeling that you probably haven’t sent your good friend a birthday card? I feel that way a lot. The biggest hurdle for me when I first when back to work after having Willa was that I had to come to grips with not being able to do everything well anymore. I can only do some things well, and the rest just gets half-assed, like the housework.
As a registered dietitian, what is the most common issue you see among women and their nutrition habits?
They are always looking for the next best thing to help them lose weight. Low carb, detox diets, hot yoga, etc. It’s pretty boring, but the one that thing will help women lose weight and keep it off forever is a balanced diet (with room for treats and glasses of wine of course), and plenty of exercise.
With toddlers being notoriously picky and wanting to eat just a handful of foods, chicken nuggets, pizza, mac and cheese, etc. do you have advice to parents for getting their kids to eat more healthfully?
I really believe that if you put down the same food for everyone (within reason), you child will try and enjoy a range of foods and will develop a good palate. Of course, pretty much all kids will go through a stage where they reject foods, but it’s your job to keep offering the good stuff. And remember, a 3-year-old isn’t doing the food shopping or driving to the store—you’re in the driver’s seat. At the same time, moms shouldn’t have to cook each and every meal. Look for easy shortcuts and be OK with buying a rotisserie chicken instead of roasting your own.
In the past decade, we’ve seen a heightened awareness about food, its origin and issues such as sustainable farming, supporting local farmers, etc. What’s your advice for those who are overwhelmed by the information and don’t know where to begin with organic products? And are there particular foods over others that you would always recommend buying organic?
Start with the basics. Most families with young children consume a lot of dairy products (milk, cheese sticks, yogurt). It’s really important to go organic with those because non-organic dairy products may contain antibiotics and hormones. And if you can find grass fed, locally-produced milk, even better!
Also, choosing naturally raised meats will go a long way toward protecting your family from pesticides. As far as produce goes, I always buy organic berries, lettuce and apples. Of course if we’re out and need a snack, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t buy a yogurt parfait with berries and yogurt of unknown origin. As most moms know, you have to be realistic.
Your career promotes paying the utmost attention to health and well-being, but what are some of your guiltiest food pleasures? How often do you indulge in them?
I love ice cream and cookies just as much as the next girl. But to keep my ice cream indulgence from showing up on my hips, I always scoop out a serving (never eat from the carton—it’s calorie suicide!) into one of my favorite round vintage glasses, and then enjoy it with a small spoon that my friend brought me from Paris. I eat regular or low-fat ice cream, but never fat-free or sugar-free because they just aren’t satisfying. And I try to balance out the treats with exercise. Luckily, I have a dog who loves to run and a jogging stroller to keep me out there, even with the baby. Oh, and small glasses of wine a few times a week are definitely on my menu.
Aside from food indulgences, what is your most indulgent me-time activity?
Definitely facials. If I’m ever given a gift certificate to a spa, I always go for the facial. Massages are nice, but I find the pleasure to be fleeting. I find a good facial really relaxing (without extractions of course), and then you have the added bonus of glowing skin. I try to get a pedicure about every three weeks too. And if I find myself actually traveling alone someplace, I’ll definitely have a good book with me.
Nutrition Editor and Author Frances Largeman-Roth was interviewed Jeana Lee Tahnk . As a writer and professional photographer, Jeana's work and personal essays on parenting have appeared in high profile outlets as The Boston Globe, NPR's This I Believe and Woman's Day. She is also a public relations consultant with an agency in San Francisco. She currently splits her time between her dual careers of PR and writing from her home on the North Shore in Massachusetts.