November 16, 2012

Off limits

I subscribe to a great mailing list that offers pregnancy advice and updates on your baby's progress. It's so fun to share them every week with Matt - this coming Sunday, for example, is day one of week 17, and the baby will be about 5 inches long and weigh about 5 ounces, about as much as a turnip. There's a cute fruit or veggie comparison every week, which is fun to visualize. When we first started to follow, Nugget was just a blueberry!

Some of the emails they send, though, are ominous, and genuinely put the fear in me. This week's was a list of holiday foods you need to avoid - followed by a list of holidays and at least one thing for each.

One thing that has been oddly strange to get used to with pregnancy is consulting ingredient lists to see if I can or cannot eat something. There are extensive lists of foods that are considered off-limits to pregnant women, and some of them are surprising. Raw/undercooked meat? That was a little obvious. But sandwiches?! I wouldn't have thought. Sushi is off limits, including varieties with cooked fish, as you can't be sure if it's been kept at a healthy temperature. Smoked salmon, soft cheeses, apple cider, eggs cooked any way other than hard boiled or scrambled ... even tea!

When I really think about it, I suppose it is obvious. Sandwiches with cold cuts/deli meat may contain listeria, a bacteria that is usually broken down with ease but can affect pregnant women and their fetus(es), so your choices are (a) toasted sandwich or (b) something else. Runny eggs, soft cheeses, and cider, when unpasteurized, also carry the listeria risk (as does the mailing list's Thanksgiving threat, stuffing that has been inside a raw turkey). And the effect on pregnant women from the herbs in most varieties of teas has not been studied, so doctors recommend avoiding it.

I asked a midwife at the clinic this week about teas, because most days, I have a hard time getting my water in. I used to drink three or four 32 ounce bottles a day! Now I struggle some days to finish one. She suggested adding lemon to the water to maybe make it more palatable, or Crystal Light, which, to be honest, I'd be more worried about drinking than tea. I'm a lot more worried about the effect of artificial sweeteners on my baby than the herbs from tea!

She also said that if I reallllllly wanted to, I could drink tea if I wanted, just in moderation. Women who are coffee drinkers are asked to keep it to one cup a day, and soda drinkers should reduce consumption as much as possible. But tea, that's the one she said was off limits!

I'm a bit torn. I find it hard to believe that women in Japan avoid sushi for nine months, that women in France avoid cheese, that women in China avoid tea. Still, I would rather be overly cautious than not cautious enough, and so I am sticking to the rules.

It's interesting, because something that I struggled with for so long before losing weight was the idea of restriction. If I was told I couldn't have something, I wanted it harder. I craved it. I couldn't stop thinking about it. Then, I'd binge, and the "diet" was over. This time, I found success in weight loss because I permitted myself the things I craved, just in a healthy way. I bought pieces of string cheese one at a time, instead of a half pound block. I bought just one cupcake instead of a dozen, and it was eaten in a bakery, not alone in the dark of my living room. I had pizza for lunch once a week, except it was Lean Cuisine and not Pizza Hut. In doing these things, I found the balance I needed in order to avoid overindulging.

Now, I have restrictions. And I don't have a say in them. It doesn't matter how badly I want smoked salmon sushi (hint: REALLY badly) or how delicious a poached egg on a toasted English muffin sounds (hint: REALLY delicious). I think it's a lot easier to avoid a binge, though, than my previous diet attempts, because I know what's at stake here. I need to be strong and fight the cravings to make sure my baby is safe and healthy.


Anonymous said...

Wow, I've never heard of those "lists" - but then again, my oldest is 23 and youngest is 18 now. I understand the raw things - not so much that they're dangerous for you, just if you do get some bad bacteria, and get sick, it can really have implications for the baby (and you). And it would compromise what sort of care you could be offered. But tea? Regular tea? I know that raspberry tea can cause uterine contractions, and that makes sense to avoid, but regular green tea or herbal tea, even orange pekoe? Sounds odd to me.
But then again, when I was pregnant years ago they had signs up and told us that "a drink or two was okay" - now it's avoid all drinking (which makes sense to me - I never drank during my pregnancies - alcohol anyway - and was mocked for being such a "stickler" - just didn't make sense to me - a baby is being formed, why would I put something that can cause intoxication into my body?) ... anyway... Hope you get it figured out. Use common sense, I'd say.

Frickin' Fabulous at 40 said...

When I was pregnant, it was canned tuna. I guess there's a lot of mercury in our fish now and I imagine that's not good, lol. I think black tea is fine, but you have to watch your caffeine consumption. It all sucks, but it's for a good cause, and you'd rather be safe.

Bethie boops said...

Ah! I haven't read that all tea was off limits- only caffeinated tea. I drink a figurative ton of Rooibos (the sole perk of living in South Africa I guess) and everything I've found says that it's okay and helps with a variety of belly issues. Go figure. I won't stress too much though- I personally avoid uncooked food ie sushi/soft eggs/soft cheeses/steaks (not well done)/ caffeinated beverages/ and anything that might be 'sketchy' (I'll stick to restaurants I know before trying a new hole in the wall). But I figure I've gotta LIVE MY LIFE! I went a little crazy googling everything at the beginning "is ___ safe in pregnancy" and realised that most things ARE safe. I still check medication with my Dr, but have decided to stay away from the big miscarriage culprits and live and let live for the other ones.

Bethie boops said...

And as a PS: Ohmygoodness poached egg would make my life. mmmmmmm

Janine said...

I wouldn't get overly ooncerned about what you can or can't eat. My daughter is 11 and when I was pregnant with her I was told no sushi, no soft cheeses, no raw egg and no pates, but everything else was ok. I ate rare meat, sandwiches, eggs (including soft boiled) and I drank plenty of tea and coffee and sometimes half a glass of wine if I was out. My daughter is perfect :) My sister-in-law had a baby last Sunday and she was told she could eat sushi, she certainly ate a lot of smoked salmon (we eat tons of it in our family), she pretty much ate what she wanted, and the baby is also perfect. Things that were ok before are all of a sudden not allowed and things that were not allowed are now ok, it's all guess work really and as long as you're sensible I'm sure you'll be fine.

Weight Wars said...

The risk of Listeria is incredibly small, same with E Coli and Salmonella as long as food is prepared correctly. I took the rule that if I was prepping it myself I would eat it if not it was off limits. Came through unscathed :)

The one thing I didn't touch during pregnant was eggs, couldn't stomach them, and guess what? The boy is crazy allergic to them, like stopping breathing allergic. Irony eh?

Weight Wars said...

Oh and in the UK we are advised a drink of wine a week is ok, no more than 2 glasses, in france they usually continue to drink willy nilly.

Unknown said...

It was a funny thing to get that list when I was pregnant -- all of a sudden all I wanted was goat cheese ( a no-no) and sushi! I didn't know about the tea. but I guess that makes sense.

BU said...

You can make your own sushi pretty easily. Get flavored rice vinegar to cut out that step, and any short or medium grade rice.

If you have a hard time rolling it, start with hand rolls - plenty of instructions on the web.

If you do it yourself, you can control the ingredients. I would still stay away from raw fish, but since my favorite is the California roll that's not a problem for me. It was pregnancy that motivated me to learn how! If you really crave a smoked salmon roll and are not willing to take the fairly slight risk, you can always heat it up first and then cool it down in the fridge.

krz1211 said...

There is on way to follow all the rules!,if you are worried anout Listeria, should alsomstayvaway from spinach & cantaloupe as well!

The Paris Chronicles said...

It's interesting to see how culture-specific these forbidden foods are, and, as always, it is vital to follow the research trail behind each one to see who funded it.

In France we are told to stay away from any root vegetable and salad (toxoplasmosis) and that's it. We continue to eat raw unpasterized cheeses, drink our wines, and of course many French people smoke.

The biggest "forbidden" in France is weight gain. To gain over 15 pounds during the entire pregnancy is the worst possible thing you can do. OB GYNs prefer you to continue smoking than to quit and suffer weight gain. I'm not kidding; this was the advice given to my SIL.

Again, culture-specific, as the French abhor obesity, especially in women. They'll put up with anything but fat.

Anonymous said...

You can eat refrigerated smoked fish if you cook it and can eat shelf stable smoked fish no problem. So I suppose you could concoct your own sushi (thereby also watching for cross contamination): Shelf stable smoked salmon rolls, cali roll, cuke roll.

Tea? All tea? Even decaf? My sister took ginger tea for nausea.

You could always make your own infusions - that way you know what is in it. Ginger, lemon basil, mint...

Some of the things they tell pregnant ladies these days seem kooky.

So glad you are doing well.

Stacey said...

Wow things have changed since I had both of my children (ages: 8 & 11). It was no tuna, no sushi, no soft cheeses and limited caffeine.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I lived on Subways Italian BMT sandwiches. Only thing I could keep down for the most part. Both my kids are beautiful healthy kids. So I wouldn't overly worry too much.