Health Magazine

A Common Sense Approach to Eating When You Have a Bun in the Oven

By Staceycurcio @staceymccosker

When I was pregnant, I remember feeling overwhelmed with the dietary recommendations regarding what to eat, and what not to eat. I wasn't alone.

I noticed many of my pregnant patients were confused, and concerned about eating foods like eggs, hummus, yoghurt, and even honey! Last year, one of my clients was so worried about eating sushi and pre-prepared roast vegetable salads (her go-to lunch most work days), that she was eating McDonalds as an alternative, because it wasn't on the 'blacklist' of pregnancy foods. When women are choosing Maccas over salad, we have to stop and wonder where common sense nutrition has gone...

There are so many opinions regarding what you should and shouldn't eat during pregnancy, and sound advice often gets lost in public misinformation and conflicting messages. Obviously, there are many foods and drinks which deserve to be on the blacklist... soft-serve ice cream and alcohol I'm looking at you! However, the current guidelines are so generalised that it's easy to see why women are feeling lost, or even paranoid.

All this confliction made me very curious... what are pregnant women in other countries eating? In Korea its seaweed soup, in Iran pregnant women are guzzling pomegranate juice, and in Senegal (Africa) its bone broth. In India, until late in the pregnancy women are advised to avoid very hot /over-heated foods due to a belief that this could lead to a miscarriage. It seems all over the world, pregnant women are eating ALL kinds of different foods!

Interestingly, there is also plenty of superstition around certain foods in some cultures. Some women believe that spicy foods can make a baby short tempered, milk can whiten a baby's skin, and that eating snails during pregnancy can make a baby sluggish! In parts of Tanzania, some women even abstain from eating meat, fearing that the baby might take on the characteristics of the animal consumed.

Seafood is where there's a whole lot of controversy. On one hand it's full of omega-3 fatty acids, protein and Iodine; all essential for a developing baby's brain and nervous system. On the other hand there's a risk of Listeria and heavy metal contamination. In Japan, eating raw fish is considered part of healthy antenatal and neonatal nutrition. When I was 25 weeks pregnant I went to one of the best Japanese restaurants in Melbourne, and enjoyed a big plate of the freshest sashimi I've ever eaten! In my opinion when it comes to seafood, sometimes the benefits outweigh the risks.

Bottom Line

During pregnancy, try not to sweat the small stuff, use common sense, and relax a little. In the case of seafood for example, simply be picky about what kind of seafood you eat, where you source it, and how it's prepared. Your goal should be to consume a range of real, nutrient rich, unprocessed foods so your growing babe the very best start to life. Finally, listen to your body, always consider the benefits versus the risks, and enjoy the journey and miracle of pregnancy!

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