Hi, again, from the pregnancy diaries. It’s been a crazy 9 ½ months with only a few more weeks to go. As I reflect on the joys and challenges of pregnancy, there’s one challenge in particular that I’d like to shed some light on: eating away from home while pregnant.
During pregnancy, there are two main concerns on food: making sure you get all the right nutrients and calories needed to support your growing baby and ensuring the food you eat is safe. Both are completely doable but may need more attention when you aren’t eating just food you cooked and prepared for yourself.
For example, with food safety, eating out at restaurants brings to mind a ton of questions. Has your food been refrigerated at the right temperature? Was a thermometer used to check the meat? Does the waiter really know if the cheese is pasteurized? You could make yourself crazy trying to stay on top of all the food safety “do’s and don’ts” anytime you are eating outside of the home. And then what about the nutrition side? How do I know how much 340 extra calories is when ordering off a menu? Is this dish going to give me the calcium I need for the day?
If you are like me, the questions can become overwhelming. Instead, I chose to focus on three simple things to help me navigate the challenges of eating right while away from home during my pregnancy.
1) Make your move with made-to-order food
Whether it’s a restaurant, café, or coffeehouse, the best bet is to choose made-to-order food that comes to you either nice and cold or piping hot. Skip the cafeteria section with chicken salad or the display cases full of quiche. You don’t know how long they have been sitting out. Too much time at the wrong temperature could make them susceptible to harmful bacteria. If you are dying for that egg sandwich in the window, ask them to heat it up so that it is steaming when you cut into it. That’s the only way to ensure any bacteria has been killed. In general, you are better off ordering something that has a short transit time between the stove/fridge and your stomach.
2) Pick foods that have a plethora of nutrients
Many times during this journey, all I wanted was to sink my teeth into a big ol’ plate of pasta. But staying focused on eating foods with a variety of nutrients helped steer me in a better direction when ordering out. I would still get the pasta but would always make sure that there were veggies and lean protein, like chicken, also included in the meal. Pregnant women need the right mix of vegetables, fruits, low-fat/non-fat dairy, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats. It might be a little tough to get all of these at each meal. I decided to challenge myself to get at least three per meal. That way I would stay on track with getting these important nutrients in my diet while still having variety.
3) Consider your calories (no math required)
Remember, you don’t need extra calories in the first trimester. In the second trimester, your calorie needs increase by 340. In the third trimester, you should be looking for an extra 500 calories per day. Of course, it’s important to remember to consume these extra calories in the form of nutrient-rich foods (see tip #2). But it’s also OK to have treats once in a while too. Some days you couldn’t pry the dessert menu out of my fingers with a blow torch. As long as I was getting all the important nutrients I needed in other foods, dessert still had a place at my table.
Luckily, many restaurants have their calorie counts on their menus. This can be helpful when trying to consume a certain amount of extra calories. If the calorie count isn’t available, there are plenty of online tools to help you keep track of your calories.
I’m counting the minutes until I can go back to eating sushi and sunny-side-up eggs. Yet, I have found a lot of consolation in the fact that so many options exist when eating away from home while pregnant. I never found myself saying, “There’s nothing I can eat!”
Eating out can be a regular part of your pregnancy. You can get still get the nutrients you need, stay safe, and most importantly, avoid washing dishes!