We are going to be adding a new member to our family this summer, which means that we alternate between excitement about meeting our baby girl and feeling terrified about what lies ahead (how are we ever going to wrangle a super-energetic two-year-old along with a newborn?).
As someone who loves to eat, I've spent a lot of time both this pregnancy and my last pregnancy thinking about food. Of course I'm constantly thinking about what I want to eat next, but I feel like issues of health and food safety become particularly fraught when you're pregnant. It's like your body becomes community property, and people feel perfectly comfortable telling you that you shouldn't eat or drink something or that you look huge, even though they wouldn't dream of doing that to a non-pregnant person.
Obviously each woman has to make her own decisions about the foods she is comfortable eating (or heck, the food that she's able to keep down), along with any risks she is willing to take. But I thought I'd share my thinking on some of this, and would love to hear about the balance that you all have struck for yourselves.
First up: sushi. Conventional wisdom, of course, is that pregnant women shouldn't eat sushi. During my first pregnancy, I did eat some California rolls and some eel (unagi), but I figured I was safe because those were cooked. But I pretty religiously avoided raw seafood, as I didn't want to do anything that might hurt my baby. This time around, I read a very persuasive op-ed from the New York Times. The author, Steven Shaw, points out that Japanese pregnant women eat raw sushi all the time with no ill effects and that you are more likely to get sick from eating chicken than sushi. So with this pregnancy I have been happily eating sushi. My one regret is that I didn't read this article and decide that raw fish was fine until after our dinner at Komi, so I missed several courses of delicious-looking sashimi and crudo (the vegetarian substitutes were delicious, but I still wanted the scallops, yellowtail, and lobster that my husband got to eat!).
Next there is the issue of soft cheese. A lot of the guidelines out there state that pregnant women should avoid soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk. This drives me crazy because, if you live in the United States, it is virtually impossible to purchase soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk. This article explains that, since 1949, the U.S. has banned the sale of raw milk cheeses that are aged less than 60 days. So unless you have a bootleg local source for soft, raw-milk cheeses, any soft cheese that you buy will be made from pasteurized milk (and hard cheeses made from raw milk pose very little risk because the aging process knocks out the harmful bacteria). So I've been a voracious consumer of soft cheeses throughout both my pregnancies -- this time around I can't seem to get enough feta. I should note that some sources state that there is a risk of listeria from some soft cheeses made with pasteurized milk, but after discussing this issue with my OB (last time) and my midwife (this time), I feel pretty comfortable that the risk is negligible. In May, my husband and I are going to be spending a long weekend in Paris (I know, I'm so lucky). I haven't yet decided what I'm going to do about the plethora of delicious, soft raw-milk cheeses that I'll be faced with while we're in France. The safer course of action would be to stick to hard cheeses, but who knows when I'll get the opportunity to go back? Maybe I'll just have to console myself with some extra croissants.
This post is already getting pretty long, and I haven't touched on deli meats (I've generally avoided them, mostly because it's one of my few pregnancy food aversions), alcohol (I do have the occasional half-glass of wine and will taste my husband's cocktails), weight gain (I had a fairly alarming number come up on the scale at my last weigh-in, so maybe it's time to cut back on all the feta?), or eggs with runny yolks (I cook mine a little more than I usually would, but not until they're hard).
So what choices have you made when deciding what to eat while pregnant? Any articles or blog posts I should be sure to check out? Should I eat soft cheese in France? And any tips to avoid spilling food on my ever-larger belly? Yesterday it was a splash of salad dressing, today it was a smear of peanut butter.