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What is the Brewer Diet?
The “Brewer diet” is the eating plan created by Dr. Tom Brewer, an obstetrician known for his work with pre-eclampsia/HELLP Syndrome/toxemia. You can read more about the theory here, but a quick summary is that it’s an eating plan designed to ensure that pregnant mothers get a diet rich in all the nutrients they need, without complicated calorie counting, etc. It’s especially important to get enough calories, protein, and salt (the good stuff, please!) to support the rapid blood volume expansion that needs to occur during pregnancy.
The eating plan is comprised of a specified number of servings of particular food groups or categories. If you get all of these checked off in any 24-hour period, you can be pretty confident of having gotten everything you need. In their simplest form, the food groups can be found listed here: Brewer Food Groups
A couple clarifying notes:
- The protein servings are not regular “serving sizes”! If you’re thinking 4-ounce pieces of meat, you’re going to think this is way too much food! They’re roughly 7 grams of protein which is a very small serving size compared to the “standard serving.”
- The calcium supplement category is not needed at all if you’re eating regular dairy. It’s purely intended to provide the added calcium that alternative “milks” lack.
- The whole grains, starches, etc. category includes starchy fruits and vegetables as well as grains.
- There have been multiple iterations of the diet over the years. If your version has a “potato” category, it’s old.
- You can eat anything you want within a category to satisfy the servings (although, obviously, it should ideally be real food, not processed).
An up-to-date and easy-to-use version of the checklist is the one available from Informed Beginnings. I printed mine front and back on a sheet of cardstock, and laminated it. That’s what you see in my photos. One of the things that’s really helpful about it is that it has (on the back/page 2) examples listed of foods that satisfy each category. These are not the only foods in those categories, but they do get you started, and give you an idea of serving sizes.
A lot of people simply check these off each day, then wipe them clean and start over. That’s totally fine. I wanted to be able to keep a record, though, so I made myself a tiny checklist that prints on address labels. I can stick an address label to my daily planner and check the categories off there, while using the larger checklist for reference. I’ve added downloadable versions to the free downloads page in my store, or you can download the pair of them below:
The colored version is designed to roughly correspond to the colors on the Informed Beginnings chart, and it’s the one I recommend. There is, however, a black-and-white version in case you don’t have a color printer. These should print on address labels that fit the Avery 5160 template. (Be sure to not use the “reduce to margins” option; print at 100%.)
If you need extra support, the Facebook group is fantastic.
In case you need a little bit of inspiration, I thought I’d share a couple examples of things I ate when I was pregnant with Shoshannah. I was on a mostly-AIP diet, although I was eating cheese and yogurt, and raw milk where dairy is concerned. This means no grains, nuts, seeds, or beans, and I had to substitute for eggs. (By the way, this is strongly recommended against unless you have to. Eggs are very rich in some very beneficial nutrients. But you do what you’ve gotta do!)
One of my favorite meals was a salad with leaf lettuce (or spinach), grilled chicken, cheese, and dressing (opt.: olives, seeds, etc.). This equates to (depending on your serving sizes):
1-3 servings green vegetables
3-4 servings protein
1-2 servings dairy
1 serving fat
and whatever your extras provide (olives = calcium)
Another common option was a smoothie with banana, strawberries, orange juice concentrate, and milk. I use collagen protein, but if you can eat nuts, I’d use nuts.) This includes:
1-2 servings starchy foods (depending on whether it’s 1/2 or whole banana)
1-2 servings vitamin C -or- an additional 1/2-1 serving starchy (1/2-1 c. strawberries)
1/2-1 vitamin C (OJ conc)
1/2-1 dairy (1/2-1 c. milk)
1 protein (1 scoop collagen or 1/4 c. nuts)