In a nutshell

An easy-to-follow recipe book that takes a family from the early stages of pregnancy right through to family meals, with sound advice and adventurous flavours.

Pros

  • Healthy, nutritious recipes
  • Lots of variety and exciting flavours
  • Advice is supportive, not preachy

Cons

  • Some expensive / harder to find ingredients
  • Not all meals are easy for novices
  • Some sections are more comprehensive than others

Chef Adam Shaw has built a name for himself sharing family recipes via his Instagram account At Dad’s Table, which now has almost 50,000 followers. His new book, How to Grow Your Family: From pregnancy to new parents - one meal at a time, brings his knowledge and experience to a new audience, offering “recipes that take you from pregnancy through to parenthood.” There are over 110 recipes in the book, starting with the 3 trimesters of pregnancy and continuing through weaning to easy family meals.

Advertisement

Tested by

Gemma is Consumer & Reviews Editor at MadeForMums and mum to Myles, aged 2. She considers herself an enthusiastic novice in the kitchen!

What were your first impressions of this recipe book?

I’ll admit when I first saw the book I had my doubts, particularly about the pregnancy recipes. As someone who survived mostly on cheese toasties while carrying my son, I was wary of taking advice from a man who’s never been through it personally – although Adam has supported his wife through two pregnancies, and that was the inspiration behind the book. I admit I approached it with slight trepidation...was this going to be a "ladies, don't let yourself go during pregnancy" situation?

But I needn’t have worried. Adam doesn’t shy away from the fact pregnant women have cravings, nausea, and food aversions. This book extolls the virtues of a varied diet and encourages having fun with food when you feel like it, but it doesn't preach. Adam explained to MadeForMums that when his wife was first pregnant he read the advice available and felt like it was just a big list of things you can't eat, coupled with unhelpful advice like "eat more greens"; something most women can't stomach in those early days. "Already, from day one, you feel like you're failing," Adam told us. Which is why he wanted to create a guide to family food that's more celebratory.

What's the approach to eating during pregnancy in this book?

In general the approach, particularly with his first trimester meals, is to find ways to ensure pregnant women get the nutrients they need for a healthy pregnancy while respecting that they will only be able to stomach certain foods. I was impressed by Adam's stance that, as long as a woman is taking the right supplements, she can eat all the beige food she likes.

There are recipes for macaroni & cheese, meatballs, even a spicy nasi goreng for those who need a salt and spice kick in those early days. He focuses on simple ways to introduce folate and vitamin-rich ingredients when you feel like it: can’t stomach spinach? no surprises there, but could you perhaps tolerate a bit added to some pesto to stir through some pasta?

Moving to the second trimester, a rainbow of fruits, vegetables and interesting ingredients are welcomed back in, reiterating the fact that very few foods are off limits during pregnancy provided they're sourced and cooked correctly.

The third trimester recipes are all about getting your game face on ahead of birth: including a section on batch cooking. There's even a recipe for smoked salmon and avocado poké for people who're missing sushi, something I really would have appreciated a couple of years ago!

Post-birth, I loved fun little touches like a spotlight on foods that can be eaten one-handed (because the baby always wants feeding at the same time as you) and some healthy snack swaps for the moments when all you want is to bury your face in a bag of crisps. There's also a focus on ingredients that could help boost milk supply, for those who are breastfeeding.

What advice is there on weaning and family meals?

As well as covering pregnancy and post-birth, this book also goes on to give advice on weaning and cooking for the family. Although there's some really nice up-to-date advice and starter recipes in there, I would say most people would probably end up wanting to do further research to better prepare themselves for whichever type of weaning they end up doing.

Adam's approach sounds like it was very similar to mine: "a bit of everything" in the early days featuring purees, finger foods, and some of what the rest of the family are eating, with a focus on getting the child confident at self-feeding as soon as they seem ready.

Adam's puree recipes are a bit more adventurous in terms of flavour than the ones I've seen in similar books, and will require stocking up on dried herbs or getting a bit green fingered to grow fresh ones. The finger foods all look and sound delicious but some have a number of steps or require a lot of prep in terms of dicing, slicing and grating: something worth bearing in mind if time is limited.

Once you hit the 8-month mark, things get simpler (in real life, and this book) and there are some great meals – from pasta bake to chowder – designed to feed the whole family.

How easy are the recipes to follow and what are the ingredients like?

Everything is well explained and simply laid out, but on the whole I would say these recipes are best for relatively confident cooks. You will need a well-stocked herb and spice cupboard and because the book is adventurous when it comes to flavours, it's quite adventurous when it comes to ingredients too.

Although most of the ingredients are pretty easy to come by and there are plenty of meals you can make on a budget, there are a few things that might not be found in smaller supermarkets, and some recipes could get quite pricey. There's a lot of fish, which is great in terms of nutrition, but a couple of monkfish tails could wipe out some people's food budget for the week. The veggie meals are better budget options, and there are lots of tasty and filling options that don't rely on meat as the centrepiece.

What should people know before buying this book?

Although you don't need to be a trained chef like Adam, I would say this book is not for people who've never stepped foot in the kitchen before. By virtue of the fact it's written by a dad I'm sure there will be plenty of people considering buying this for their husbands/partners: I'd advise you only do that if your partner already cooks quite frequently, or has an interest in learning.

There are recipes here that I would struggle to tackle on a good day, let alone sleep-deprived with a baby in the house: a delicious-sounding chicken schnitzel recipe that requires 2 baking trays, 2 pans, numerous bowls/plates and time to batch-fry for the best results is one good example. Not all recipes are like this (the pasta bake is a doddle) but overall I think this book is best for fairly adventurous cooks who are able to keep the fridge and cupboard well stocked with more than just the basics.

Where can you buy How to Grow Your Family?

It's available from Amazon, Waterstones and Foyles

Advertisement

MadeForMums verdict

An interesting and well-structured book that is particularly useful during pregnancy. Recipes are adventurous, nutritious and tasty, but some are quite complicated and the cost of ingredients quickly adds up. Weaning advice is basic but well thought out, with interesting flavours and fun finger foods to help encourage your children to eat a variety of flavours and cuisines.

Authors

Gemma Cartwright
Gemma CartwrightGroup Digital Editor

Gemma has two decades of experience in digital content. She is mum to a preschooler, and aunt to 4 children under 4. She is particularly passionate about sleep (for babies and parents) and loves testing out gadgets, technology and innovation in the parenting world.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement