By: Andrea Howe
Pregnancy is such a strange time for a lot of us women. No matter if it’s our first or our fifth pregnancy, there’s always new ground to cover, uncharted territory to cross, new fears and new delights to be discovered. As I write this out, it sounds silly even to me, but the subject I always have the hardest time navigating through with each pregnancy is the ever dreaded and evolving list of foods to eat and stay away from. At each doctor’s appointment, when the nurse asks if I have any questions for the doctor, I inevitably always have a question about food. Here are some of the foods I eat with wild abandon, and the ones that I suspiciously stay away from.
Now this list in no way should be considered medical advice and a proven safe diet for a pregnant woman. Essentially, this is the list of foods that over the course of the years I have developed and feel comfortable with (for my own strange reasons) eating and avoiding. It’s interesting that as the years have passed, there are certain categories where I’ve relaxed, and certain categories where I have drawn the line in the sand and vowed to not touch.
Deli Meats and Hot Dogs
With my first pregnancy, I avoided these items as much as possible, but by the second and now the third, days have gone by where the only thing I have survived on were deli meats and hot dogs, no joke. During week 13-20, I had a ham, cheese and egg bagel every single morning. And at least 5 nights a week I had to have a hot dog, as if my life depended on it. I posted a picture of a hot dog on Instagram one night saying “Again with the nitrates.” I made sure to have a conversation with my doctor about my obscene consumption of deli meats and dogs and she assured me I’d be okay, and so would Baby. But the first time around I would have never eaten these items so much.
I could eat brie and crackers with salami and consider it dinner, so when I heard that you were supposed to stay away from soft cheeses when pregnant I felt like the rug had been ripped out from under me. By the time I found out that it was really only unpasteurized soft cheeses you should avoid, I felt like I had been jipped out of months of avoiding one of my favorite foods. I now eat feta, goat cheese, gorgonzola and brie as usual, but always confirm it’s pasteurized, especially at restaurants.
I’ve always felt it was okay for me to drink one caffeinated beverage per day, on the okay from my doctor. I had one friend that was so paranoid of caffeine she didn’t even eat chocolate during her pregnancy. I was never this way, but I do admit that I have strange ideas about caffeine that I’m sure hold no factual evidence. For instance, I think dark roast coffee must have more caffeine than your standard hazelnut, so I always avoid dark roast. Or that certain teas have less caffeine than coffee beans, so I order a chai tea latte rather than a regular latte. I think it’s just my way of feeling okay with drinking some caffeine each day.
So this category is where I’m the most strict. Don’t ask me why, as I’m sure some will say that drinking caffeine almost daily is worse than eating fish, but there’s just something about avoiding fish that helps me feel like I’m doing the right thing for me and Baby. Even items that are on the safe list like salmon and tuna every once in a while are foods I avoid. I looked it up and found that oysters were safe to eat, so I ordered a few the other night and felt such guilt after eating them that it wasn’t even worth it. Someone questioned me on this the other night as I was avoiding a smoked swordfish appetizer like it was the plague, and they said “Do you really think there’s enough mercury in this tiny appetizer to harm the baby?” And I said, “Probably not, but I just feel better not chancing it.” It’s where I draw the line in the sand and don’t cross it.
I’m sure my food list doesn’t make the most sense, but for me it helps me feel a bit more in control during a time where you feel like so much is out of your control. So are you super strict with your diet and avoid certain foods when pregnant, or do you hold a relaxed view and eat almost anything?