‘Tis the season of holiday gatherings with friends and family, and lots of FOOD!
If you are afraid that attending holiday parties while pregnant would have you sulking in a corner, eating food you brought with you while looking longingly at the delights spread out on the table, fear not! With a few guidelines, you can enjoy (most) of the holiday foods you love, while keeping you and your baby safe and healthy. Just follow the tips below for safe holiday eating while pregnant.
To be SAFE at holiday parties:
- Wash your hands often, and ensure other guests are serving their plates with utensils, not their fingers.
- Keep your cup, plate and utensils with you to avoid unintentional “sharing.”
- Eat perishable foods within the first 90 minutes of a party, unless they have been kept heated or cool, or you have verified with a host that the food was brought out within the last 90 minutes. This keeps food well within the safe handling guidelines of being eaten within 2 hours of serving, and allows for the hosts to have put the food out a few minutes early. What about those meatballs kept heated in the crock pot for the entire party? They are fine to keep eating past 2 hours.
- Stay away from these foods: luncheon meats (unless heated to steaming first), raw or smoked fish (including sushi), undercooked meats and poultry (the CDC even says to avoid rare or medium rare meats. ), raw or unpasteurized dairy, and soft cheeses. All of these food could contain bacteria such as salmonella or listeria, which can make you and your baby sick.
- Avoid raw or undercooked eggs to avoid salmonella. This is a tricky one during the holidays, as lots of foods are made with raw eggs, including cookie dough, Caesar dressing, mayonnaise, eggnog and even some icings.
- If you like eggnog, enjoy an alcohol-free version made without raw eggs. Pasteurized eggs in eggnog are ok, or you can try a vegan version such as So Delicious’ Coconut Milk Nog. My kids always love this eggnog!
- Enjoy alcohol-free beverages to avoid the risk of fetal alcohol syndrome/effects. Many holiday punches have alcohol. Don’t be afraid to ask the host, or to bring your own non-alcoholic nog or warm apple cider to enjoy instead.
To be HEALTHY during the holidays:
- Start with the fresh veggies and fruit. For the first 90 minutes of a party, try to fill a good portion of your plate with fruit and vegetables, or salad if there is any. This adds a lot of nutrition, and the fiber helps keep your blood sugar more balanced as you get into the more carb- and sugar-heavy foods.
- Try to eat a variety of food types. In addition to some fresh fruit and veggies, eat some protein, and some healthy fats if you can find any (hooray for nuts and guacamole! Not together though, that would be really weird). This will also help even out the impact the carbs and sugars have on your blood sugar.
- Know your party eating habits, and adjust your meals that day accordingly. When we used to have people over every Monday to play games, there were always snacks out. In a situation like that, I know I am going to get into the potato chips and eat WAY too many no matter how I try to control myself during the gathering. So, I would eat a light dinner with no carbs at all right before everyone comes over, and try to make sure that there was also a tray of veggies out to slow me down a bit. It is not ideal, but it kept the calories in check a bit. Here’s another example: if you know the party will have hardly any fruits or veggies, or that you won’t eat them anyway, have a big salad for your meal before the party.
- Fill a small plate with snacks, then go sit in a room away from the food to hang out. Hovering over the table with the food is guaranteed to result in eating more, and worse selections because we tend to eat more mindlessly then. Getting comfortable while hanging out with friends tends to make us a bit less inclined to get up so often. The food is so far away, and it is so warm and comfortable here…
- Have small servings of desserts. It is the holidays, of COURSE you are going to eat cookies and cake bars and candy canes, and more cookies and pie and fruit cake… well, maybe not fruit cake. I usually eat low-glycemic (slower digesting carbohydrates and minimal sugar) and you had better bet that I am going to eat some gluten-free gingerbread over Christmas (with icing!), and I am going to enjoy every bite. Part of the whole purpose for doing all the other healthy eating is so you can eat some of the yummy stuff, guilt-free. There is no harm in having a few cookies, a small candy cane and a small piece of pie at a party, especially if you already had veggies, protein and some healthy fat. There could be consequences to having a dozen cookies, 2 pieces of pie, a couple of cake pops, and some chocolate. So start with small servings of desserts (after eating lots of healthy stuff), and bring that plate to the other room. That way you can still go back for seconds of a few favorites.
- Stop eating at least 3 hours before bed, if you can. This gives your body time to digest, so sleep is spend healing and rejuvenating (and building your baby!), not processing food.
Do you have other tips for safe & healthy holiday eating during pregnancy? Share them with me!