Gail Simmons On

Making Smart Food Choices, Trusting Your Instincts, And Finding Your System

Gail knows good food… and life as a busy working mom. I met up with the author of Bringing It Home, judge on Bravo’s Top Chef, and mama to Dahlia, one sunny morning at her home in Brooklyn for a spin around her kitchen. We chatted about making smart food choices (hint: know where your food comes from!), plus how to manage the “mom guilt” by doing what works for your family. @gailsimmonseats

Current state of mind:

Oscillating between excitement and panic—mostly excitement with moments of panic that creep in from time to time.

On having a second child:

Having a second child wasn’t a cut and dry decision for us. We’ve loved the last 4 years with Dahlia, so it was a big move to consider going from one to two kids. However, once we decided, it took a minute, as I’ve never been the person that could sneeze and get pregnant. I’m so grateful to be having our baby, but I’m cognizant of how it’s going to change our lives and the systems we have in place.

Is this pregnancy different from your last?

With my first, I basked in every stage of pregnancy, but now I simply don’t have the time. Plus, with Dahlia I didn’t show until well over 4 months, and with this one I looked fully pregnant by 3 months. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by how much energy I’ve had in comparison. When I was carrying Dahlia, I had no energy, it was the summer, and we were shooting Top Chef in New Orleans. The whole time I was nauseous and taking naps on our breaks. However with this pregnancy, I was on a book tour during my first trimester—13 cities in 8 weeks— and felt great the whole time. On one hand I’m calm, because I know what to expect, and on the other hand, I’m unnerved, BECAUSE I KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT.

  

Cravings:

With Dahlia I craved very specific things, namely cold fruit and ice pops. This time I’ve been fairly even keeled although very snack-y. I go from insatiable hunger to completely full in two seconds, but want everything from pasta to candy to chocolate.

Avoiding:

Being in the food world has proved beneficial when it comes to truly understanding what I’m eating. I’m not particularly restrictive about what I eat, as long as I know it’s from a clean, quality source that’s nitrate & sulfate free. I’ve mainly been avoiding raw protein—eggs and meat—but that ’s about it. I can’t stress enough the importance of making smart food choices and being educated on what you’re eating. 

Cheese:

Most cheese in America (unless you’re buying a rare European cheese) is fine, as it’s typically pasteurized or aged over 60 days—there’s very little to worry about in general regarding cheese in the States.

Other thoughts on food while pregnant:

It’s important to be cautious about raw fish, meat, and eggs—mostly because of cross contamination, as you don’t know how many people have handled it. I’m less worried about runny eggs during this pregnancy, but I’ll only eat eggs from a trusted source. I also try to avoid seafood filters like clams, oysters, and muscles, as it’s their job in the ocean to filter the water. I don’t eat soy for the same reason, as the soy plant acts like a sponge and it’s roots naturally absorb pesticides plus other contaminates while growing.

Exercising:

The first time I was pregnant, I only exercised between my 3rd and 6th month of pregnancy, as I was very worried about retaining the baby. However, this time I’ve been a lot more relaxed about working out. I go to Soul Cycle, strength training classes, chase a toddler around, and walk to work everyday—my office is ten blocks from my house. So far I’ve felt great! Being in motion has kept some of the cramping, nausea, and less-than-awesome symptoms of pregnancy at bay.

Wellness:

I take a prenatal and fish oil vitamin everyday, plus I drink nettle tea. However, what’s proved best for me, is to go easy on myself both physically and mentally. This includes listening to my body and my instincts. Most of the time I feel great and my body says, “Go for it!”, but there’s days when I need to take a break, stay home, skip the workout, and not feel bad about it. While that sounds simple enough, it tends to be the hardest thing for me to do. Pregnancy has become such an industry (especially with social media) and it’s easy feel like you’re never doing enough. Therefore I try to focus on taking care of myself, by eating well and not over-analyzing my pregnancy!

   

Maternity leave:

Since I work for myself, I don’t have a set maternity leave—it’s going to be up to me to set boundaries and slow down. I’m traveling a lot over the next couple months and when I get back, I plan to draw a line in the sand when it comes to work. Once the baby comes, I’ll see how it goes…you never know what kind of birth you’re going to have or what kind of baby you’re going to have. My plan right now is to take off the summer to be with my family and aim to go back to work as soon as I feel mentally and physically able.

Birth plan:

No plan. I call bullshit on the birth plan.

I felt that way with my first as well, yet I’m always amazed when mother’s have it all sorted out. Power to them if that pans out, but I’m yet to see a single birth plan go as planned.

That shouldn’t scare anyone, nor is it a bad thing, it’s just one of the few times in life you can’t control. My goal is to have a healthy baby, and to get to the hospital on time. That’s my plan. My plan is to not have my baby in an Uber. Doula:

I had a great one for my first birth, however she’s not “doula-ing” anymore. The first time it was really valuable to have her as you don’t know what to expect, you’re in agony and your husband—while he may be amazing—is looking at you like a dear in the headlights. However, this time I feel like I got it!

Working and momming:

So hard. It’s still hard for me with a 4 year old! But, you figure out a system that works. Truth is, biologically we have this major responsibility and as long as we’re the ones having the babies, we’re always going to be faced with this conundrum: “How do we work? Do we work? How much do we work?”  And no matter how much balance we try to strike, it’s going to be frantic and ladened guilt. Reality is, most people have to work, because life is expensive. And, even if you financially have that option, but want to work, you shouldn’t have to choose.

I constantly feel conflicted. When I’m at work, I want to be with my daughter and when I’m home, I’m thinking about work. I do my best to be present and carve out quality time with my family. For example, I know that I can’t be home for dinner every night, because of my job, so instead I make breakfast a really big deal in our house. We eat together every morning, and then I walk Dahlia to school. That time is really important to us.

Advice:

Pregnancy is so individual and you have trust your instincts—which we’re always afraid to do. There’s so much conflicting information out there, from the news, to your neighbor, to your mom, and Instagram, all telling you something different. It’s important to cherry pick from the noise what works for you and your family.

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