Let’s be honest: Being the pregnant lady at the dinner party is not a lot of fun. As everyone else digs into the cheese plate and downs libations, you are likely left searching for a glass of ginger ale and longing for dessert. But worry not—just because you’re expecting doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all the fun. With thirst-quenching mocktails, mom-approved sushi and the sharpest of cheeses to look forward to, your pregnancy diet is shaping up.
Eat this, not that
At your first prenatal appointment, your doc probably gave you a list of foods and drinks to avoid for the safety of your growing babe-to-be. Although it might be tempting to sneak a forbidden item on occasion (especially during the holiday season when you’re surrounded by temptation!), it’s important to try to stay on track, says Carolyn O’Neil, MS, RD, co-author of The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous.
“While eating a varied diet of healthy foods during pregnancy is vital for the health of your baby, it’s also super important to pay attention to foods you should avoid, as pregnant women are considered a high-risk group when it comes to food safety,” she notes. “Pregnancy affects the immune system, making you and your unborn baby more susceptible to foodborne illness.”
Although the harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites and other pathogens found in raw seafood, unpasteurized milk, under- cooked eggs and meats can cause illness in all people, they can be especially dangerous for expectant ladies. Be sure to read labels carefully and cook food thoroughly (invest in a food thermometer if necessary) to avoid getting sick. When eating out or attending dinner at a friend’s house, try to plan ahead and memorize (or keep in your phone) a list of foods to steer clear of. To avoid feeling deprived, be on the lookout for low-risk alternatives to your favorite foods.
Go ahead and mock me
As grandma’s spiked eggnog gets passed around and friends open the “good bottle” of champagne, this time of year can understandably feel like a drag if you are expecting, says Natalie Bovis, mixologist and author of Preggatinis: Mixology for the Mom-To-Be. But just because you aren’t drinking alcohol doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the toasts over the holidays. A well-mixed mocktail is a great way to quench your thirst.
Instead of offering to bring a dish to share at your next get-together, Bovis says it’s a great idea to bring your own ingredients. “Bringing your own mocktail mix makes you look like a rock star. People who aren’t into booze can have something delicious to sip, and a tasty juice-based mocktail is also a great base for people who want to shake it up with a little liquor,” she adds.
Freshly squeezed juices (think watermelon or lemon) and market fresh ingredients are key for creating the perfect concoction, she says. Click here for a handful of festive recipes to get you started.
Roll with it
Throughout your pregnancy, you’ll want to eat plenty of fish and seafood for the omega-3s, which help with healthy brain development. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration now recommends that moms-to-be consume at least 8 ounces of fish each week.
Unfortunately, most varieties of sushi are off-limits, as raw fish and seafood can be dangerous. But that doesn’t mean you have to avoid your favorite Japanese restaurant for the next nine months—just be careful when placing your order. “Yes, you can still go to a sushi place with friends while you’re pregnant, but choose the cooked seafood items, such as cooked shrimp or mock crab, in a roll instead of raw fish to avoid the risk of consuming parasites or bacteria,” recommends O’Neil.
Safe sushi choices might include heart-healthy avocado rolls, California rolls or as an alternative, a well-done salmon served on top of rice.
When shopping the cheese aisle, you can still indulge yourself, but remember to avoid fresh, soft varieties, advises Colleen Levine, mom of two and co-founder of the blog Cheese and Champagne (cheeseand champagne.com). “The rules may seem confusing, but there are many cheeses safe to eat during pregnancy,” she says. “While rare, listeria contamination is most often found in young cheeses, like feta or queso, but when it comes to hard, aged cheeses, they are aged well beyond the point where listeria bacteria can survive.”
Keep your eye out for varieties of cheddar, Gouda and Parmesan. “If you want to err on the side of caution and stick to pasteurized versions, they can be easily identified by checking the label or consulting a cheesemonger,” notes Levine. Some of her favorite pregnancy-safe picks include Cypress Grove Creamery’s Humboldt Fog, a creamy goat milk cheese made from pasteurized milk, and Drunken Goat, a wine-washed aged cheese that she says lets you get “just a hint” of the wine you’re abstaining from.