Spotlight on Adam Shaw. At Dads Table

Tell us about At Dad’s Table, how did it come about?

When my wife became pregnant in 2017 I got really excited at the prospect of cooking her all of these delicious meals that would provide the best nutrition for her and our unborn child. However all official advice seemed to focus on what you shouldn't be eating, rather than on what you should. I therefore decided to create and document my own recipes for her, accounting for the differing tastes and needs of each trimester. Since our son was born I now also focus on energy-rich food for exhausted new parents and quick to make meals that adults and babies can both enjoy. 

Whats your background? 

I'm London born and bred but moved to Tunbridge Wells two years ago after stints working abroad in Singapore and Geneva (where I met my wife). I work full time in the conference and events industry but cooking has always been a huge passion of mine. In 2016 I studied part-time at Leiths School of Food and Wine which taught me so much and as my wife became pregnant shortly after it made sense to me to take that knowledge and apply it to pregnancy and new parents. 

Why is what you eat in pregnancy so crucial?

In some ways it isn't, but what is crucial is that you feel good about yourself. My wife had so many people telling her what to do when she was pregnant that the last thing she wanted was to feel like she had to follow a strict eating regime. With At Dads Table I want to emphasise that there is so much great food out there and that eating well in pregnancy should be a pleasure, not a chore. Sure there are certain things everyone should be aware of, like the risk of certain cheeses, raw foods and sushi but it makes me so sad when I meet pregnant couples that have totally cut out fantastically healthy food groups because they think they shouldn't be eating it in pregnancy. Ultimately I believe this comes down to the way official advice is communicated. Preparing great tasting healthy food is also a great way of partners staying involved at a time when we tend to feel a bit redundant!

Can you tell us a little more about the different foods for different trimesters (What to eat and when) 

The main difference occurs between the first and second trimesters. During the first 12 weeks the body is creating a life, rather than growing one, and this requires a huge amount of energy. Therefore you want to be eating lots of energy or protein rich foods like fish, eggs, lean meat, nuts, pulses, pasta, sweet potato and so on. However for most people those first 12 weeks is also a time when you feel the worst and don't really want to eat anything too adventurous. My wife tended to only want beige food so there was a lot of hiding vegetables in soups, pasta and scrambled eggs and she ate a lot more wholegrain bread, pasta, rice and sweet potatoes as oppose to their whiter cousins. The second trimester is also known as the honeymoon trimester, a time when things should be moving along nicely so that's a time to increase the vegetable and fruit intake alongside a few portions of fish a week, specifically oily fish rich in Omega-3 like salmon. The final trimester is a bit like a combination of the first two in that a tremendous amount of energy is required but you still need to incorporate enough protein and vegetables. Towards the end of pregnancy the stomach also shrinks and my wife was eating more frequently but smaller portions.

Do you have any tips for cooking with babies / toddlers?

Relax. Remember that food before one is just for fun and that if your child is hungry, they'll eat. We went through a few months of frustration that my son wasn't eating enough or wasn't eating enough different foods but now we are learning to feel relaxed about it and now each evening we eat the same food. A real game-changer for us around his first birthday was increasing the amount of finger food we gave him, so I make a lot of chicken/pork/fish balls, veggie packed muffins and scones, scrambled eggs, breadcrumbed chicken and fish and so on. He's only 14 months so the rules keep changing though!

On your Instagram you talk about prepping and freezing dinners, is there any types of food to avoid freezing? 

Nothing specific to avoid but I would focus on heartier meals like bolognese, casseroles and the like that you can make in big portions. I spend about one day a month filling our freezer and it really is a lifesaver most days. 

(This one is purely for me!) Can anyone learn how to cook? Where’s the best place to start?

Absolutely! Focus on what you like and trust your intuition. Don't follow recipe books too carefully, if you want to change something, change it! 

Instagram @at_dads_table

Photography Credit: Rose Bainbridge

InterviewsHope Marshall