Friday, 23 December 2011

Food Glorious Food!

The moment people find out you're pregnant, they automatically start telling you about what you should and should not eat.  If you're like me, you'll have done your homework in advance, and find yourself telling them that you already know about it all.

If you are like me though, your diet is likely to get questioned by the majority of people. I'm pescatarian - meaning I'm a vegetarian who eats fish. My choice is a moral one. 

Too many people seem to be under the impression that by being vegetarian - and I will be using the term loosely here, to describe all varieties of vegetarianism - or vegan, you're not eating healthily enough and you are therefore harming the baby and will have to eat meat.

Sorry, you lot who are of the above opinion. That is complete and utter bullshit.  As long as you are on a balanced diet, you don't need to eat meat. Also, keep in mind that you'll be put on pregnancy vitamin supplements, meaning that whatever nutrient you're not getting from your diet, you're going to get from the pills.

Let us have a look at the most common foods that you're told to avoid, and why:
  • Soft Cheeses with a white, mouldy rind, such as brie and camembert, and blue-veined cheeses such as stilton. All these cheeses could contain listeria, a bacteria that could harm your baby.
  • Pate, and raw or undercooked meat and eggs. All are possible sources of bacteria that can harm your unborn baby, such as salmonella. When cooking meat and eggs, make sure they are cooked properly. Avoid products made with raw eggs, such as home-made mayonnaise.
  • Raw seafood, such as oysters, or sushi that has not been frozen before making. This means, any sushi that contains crab meat is fine, since it is a processed food purchased in the 'stick' format - i.e. frozen food. Vegetarian sushi is also another alternative. Shellfish is usually a food you're told to avoid for the simple reason that it is one of the most common foods that causes food poisoning.  If cooked properly, then you're fine. 
  • Shark, swordfish or marlin. These fish contain unsafe levels of naturally occurring mercury. Tuna contains some mercury too, so it's best you don't eat more than four medium-sized cans, or two fresh tuna steaks per week.
  • Don't eat liver and liver products (such as pate or liver sausage), because they may contain large amounts of the retinol form of vitamin A. Too much of this could be harmful to your developing baby.
  • You should stop or cut down on drinking alcohol during pregnancy, too. If you really want to drink during your pregnancy, don’t drink more than one or two units of alcohol, once or twice a week, and don't get drunk.  Having said that, very few people are capable of moderation.  Refraining from alcohol is your safest bet. Wanna know what happens to babies whose mother keeps on drinking heavily throughout the pregnancy?  Clicky here, here, here and here.
  • It's best not to have more than 200mg of caffeine a day. That’s two mugs of instant coffee or four cups of tea or five cans of cola a day. You could switch to decaffeinated hot drinks and colas, instead.  A good idea is to limit your chocolate intake - especially if you've had coffee/tea/cola throughout the day.  Keep in mind that chocolate contains caffeine.

When it comes to raw vegetables, make sure they are properly washed.

By the way, you know that whole "Eating for two" thing? Yep. That's bullshit as well.

When you're pregnant, your body knows that it needs to be more efficient in utilising the food you eat on a daily basis. What this means is that you don’t actually need any extra calories for the first six months of pregnancy. Then you only need about 200 extra calories per day for the last three months.

If you're like me, 200 calories doesn't mean anything to you. I eat what I eat because I like it, not for its calorie count. So, after some googling, I've found out that 200 calories is equivalent to:
  • a slice of wholemeal toast with a small can of baked beans
  • a toasted pitta bread with two tablespoons of reduced-fat hummus
  • a slice of malt loaf or fruit scone with butter or spread
  • one slice of cheese on toast
  • 145 grams of cooked pasta
  • 83 grams of dried apricots
  • 41 grams Snickers chocolate bar
and the list goes on. Clicky here for a visual list of more 200g foods.

And another thing. You know those cravings pregnant women go on and on about? Yep. You guessed it. Bullshit too. It is all in the pregnant woman's head.  I can safely say that my cravings have not changed from my pre-pregnancy days up until now, that i'm approx 34 weeks pregnant.  I just feel like having chocolate milk more often. That much, I justify with the need of extra calcium.  Then again, I've always liked chocolate milk.

Pregnant women - do yourself a favour - eat healthily, and don't over indulge. The pregnancy weight so many women complain about after they give birth is merely their own fault.  You should be looking at gaining an average of 12 kilos by the end of the pregnancy. And this weight should be gained gradually.  [insert smug grin here. I'm happy to say I've so far gained about 8.3kg from the beginning until now. Go me!]  Your pregnancy weight gain should be on your torso, not your ass.

And on this note, I'm off to cook!

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