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 are expecting doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all the fun. With thirst-quenching mocktails, veggie sushi platters and sharp cheese to look forward to, your pregnancy diet is shaping up.
Do this, not that
At your first prenatal appointment, your doctor probably gave you a list of foods and drinks to avoid for the safety of your growing babe. Although it might be tempting to sneak a forbidden item on occasion (especially over the holiday season when you’re surrounded by goodies!) it’s important to try to stay on track, says Carolyn O’Neil, RD.
“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 food-borne illness.”
Although the harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites and other pathogens found in raw seafood, unpasteurized milk, undercooked eggs and meats can cause sickness in all people, they can be especially dangerous for expecting ladies. Be sure to carefully read labels and cook food thoroughly (invest in a food thermometer if necessary) to avoid consequences. 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 alternatives to your favorite foods. In the meantime, here are a few ideas to help you get started.
Shaken or stirred
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’re 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 a round of toasts; 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 drink ingredients. “Bringing your own ‘mocktail mix’ makes you look like a rock star because people who aren’t into booze can have something delicious to sip. A tasty juice recipe is also a great base for those who want to shake it up with a little liquor,” she notes. Freshly squeezed juices (think watermelon or lemon) and market fresh ingredients, like the clove syrup used to make festive sangrias are key for creating the perfect concoction, she says.
Roll with the homies
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 FDA now recommends that women consume at least 8 ounces of fish each week while expecting.
Unfortunately, most varieties of sushi are off-limits, as raw fish/seafood and mercury-filled options can be dangerous. But that doesn’t mean you have to avoid your favorite Japanese restaurant—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, 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 to satisfy your craving.
When shopping the cheese aisle, you can still indulge, but remember to avoid fresh, soft varieties, advises Colleen Levine, mom of two and co-founder of the blog Cheese and Champagne.
“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 cheese monger,” 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. With options this delicious, you can stay on the party train and still play it safe—live it up, ladies!