An interview with the authors of "Fertility Foods Cookbook"
It has been a true honor to get to know Elizabeth ("Liz") Shaw and Sara Haas, the authors of "Fertility Foods Cookbook." (You can read my cookbook review here.)
Both authors are registered dietitian nutritionists and speak, write, and consult frequently about nutrition, food, and the role it plays in our health. They are both in the midst of their own fertility journeys and share their experience to help others.
As a follow up to my cookbook review, they agreed to answer a few questions just for readers of my blog - how nice! I hope you enjoy getting to know them as much as I have. And, if you are interested in picking up a copy of the cookbook, you can order it here or find it at your local bookstore.
What inspired you to choose nutrition/food as your career? At what point did you start to focus on nutrition for fertility?
Liz: I’ve actually known I wanted to be an RDN since I was 13. I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa and saw a multidisciplinary treatment team. From them on out I knew as a freshman in high school I wanted to help others realize the important role nutrition plays in fertility. When I was diagnosed with infertility and realized the connection that food can play in making this terrible situation more bearable, I knew it was my calling to incorporate fertility nutrition into my practice.
Sara: I’ve always loved food. I come from a foodie family. And when my mom was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, I was fascinated how food had the power to effect her illness so strongly. I wanted to know more! So that’s why I chose nutrition in college. As far as fertility, that focus happened while I was trying to conceive our first child. There wasn’t a lot of information out there, but I knew that nutrition had to make a difference.
Talk a bit more about how food can be healing. What examples from your personal or professional experience can you share?
Liz: Food is both social and necessary. Food can be used as a way to connect and find peace at times, especially when united with others or used as a therapy when preparing a recipe. I find that after a rough week at the fertility doctor, setting aside time in the kitchen to make nourishing recipes to enjoy with my husband is one of my most favorite things to do!
Sara: Food plays a larger role than just “filling your belly.” It can literally make you happy from the inside out! If you make nourishing choices, your body will reward you. And the act of eating brings us so much joy - it brings people together, it helps us connect - it’s unifying! So it “heals” in a physical way and a mental way!
What is the most important thing you want people to know about diet and fertility?
Liz: While there is no one superfood to “cure infertility”, diet can play a huge roll in how you feel throughout this rollercoaster of a journey. Taking time to evaluate your current habits and find the time to nourish your body the best you can will in the long run ease stress and just make you feel better! Simply put, good food equals a better outlook for your entire future health!
Sara: That what you eat matters! That it’s something you have total control over in a totally (seemingly) uncontrollable situation. And the foods that nourish fertility, are delicious foods and include plenty of plant-based foods. We strongly believe in the philosophy that “everything fits.” We don’t place focus on what you CAN’T have, because we don’t feel there’s anything you can’t have (albeit, we do recommend limiting caffeine and alcohol, as we would for any TTC or pregnant clients). We focus on what you can have and the research that supports it.
What would you offer to someone who says they are “over” the fertility “diet”?
Liz: I’ve been there too! Don’t fret, if there’s something you’ve put off limits because you think it’s not the best fertility fueling item, add it back in on occasion. In the book, Sara and I make it a point for you to know we don’t expect an all or nothing approach! That’s why we do include Baked French Fries and Cakes or Cookies made with wholesome ingredients and some “good stuff (hello chocolate)” too! While we don’t encourage smoking or drug use, having a glass of wine (4 ounces) on occasion will not make or break your fertility. Stress plays a huge roll and part of this journey is doing things for self care, too!
Sara: Ha! I would say, “diets don’t work!” That’s why this book isn’t about diets in the traditional sense at all. Instead, it’s more about eating the foods you love, while trying to focus on a more plant-focused way of eating.
Are there any foods that can be beneficial at certain points in a cycle - either natural or during ART?
Liz: Not necessarily at “certain” points, while some studies do show adherence to a Mediterranean diet 6 months prior to IVF may increase the likelihood of success. But, there are certain foods you can see here that definitely aid in conception. (Liz has shared this downloadable ebook if you'd like to learn more.)
What is the benefit to someone to work 1x1 with a dietitian or nutritionist while they are TTC? Are there particular situations where you think it could be most helpful?
Liz: Finding someone who can 1) relate and, 2) has the knowledge and education to help you get set up for success is a big step in this journey. Doctors rarely speak to nutrition when it can play such an important role in this journey! That’s why we created the book to help those who need that first overview. I do offer virtual nutrition coaching and in person workshops for males, females and couples looking to work on their diet for their fertility. (For more information, contact Liz here.)
Sara: Absolutely! It takes an army, right? Why go this alone! Dietitians love what they do and they love to help people achieve their goals. I say YES to enlisting the help of an RDN at any point in the process.
What should someone look for when choosing a dietitian to work with?
Liz: First look to see that they are an RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist. Make sure that you can get a 1-1 call before to see if you mesh before making the investment. Also, evaluate their style and the packages to make sure you find the best fit for you!
Sara: Agree totally with Liz. Do your research! Find someone who is trusted and is actually credentialed. A nutritionist is NOT the same as a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist!
What do you most want people to know about your book, Fertility Foods Cookbook?
Liz: YOU ARE NOT ALONE! We created this for you, for us, and for the community! This process is hellish enough, don’t go at it alone. While diet can’t make you pregnant over night, it can certainly help you feel more in control of a situation that is so out of your control!
Sara: Agree here with Liz. We wrote the book because we thought it was missing! So we wrote it for anyone and everyone looking to conceive. We know the journey can be long and hard and we wanted to create a powerful and positive resource that you can turn to at any point!
What is your favorite recipe from the Fertility Foods Cookbook - and why?
Liz: All of them! But IRL, I love the Mexican Pizza because it shows you can enough a family favorite food in a diet that is conducive to fertility!
Sara: I love the salmon recipe because it’s beyond easy to make and it tastes amazing! A dish that you could even easily serve at a dinner party!
What has been your biggest “lesson learned” thus far in your fertility journey?
Liz: Honestly, You plan, God laughs! When my husband and I set out using ART, we surely thought we’d be pregnant in a year. While things don’t always happen as planned, trusting yourself, your body and remaining hopeful during the darkest of times (even if that hope is coming from others!) is essential.
Sara: That there’s a lot that’s not in your control. That really, as trite as it sounds, you do have to “let go” a little bit. It’s not easy, but that’s when you start to relax and I do think that made a huge difference in my journey.
What keep you going, keeps you hopeful, on your journey?
Liz: The rainbow at the end of the storm ❤️
Sara: The amazing women that surround me!!!