it took us a a while and quite some effort getting pregnant with our little one. so when i finally got pregnant, i was naturally, maybe a little overly, cautious about what to eat. i read some articles about what to and not to eat during pregnancy, and heard about friends’ experiences and diligently followed those advices.
surprisingly enough to some people, i ate sashimi, raw fish, every now and then during my pregnancy amongst other seafood. the japanese guideline states that pregnant women can eat raw fish occasionally as long as they are fresh (fresh in the japanese context, which means “super” fresh in the global standard i believe). i avoided eating large-sized fish from sea water such as tuna and sword fish, as they allegedly carry certain amount of mercury. also i avoided shell-fish, since i thought there was higher risk to get food poisoning, but this is not backed up with a clear scientific research.
my hong kong chinese friends told me that in chinese culture you are not supposed to eat any sort of seafood during pregnancy, raw or cooked…. hah, i’m so glad i wasn’t in china while pregnant. i love fish and seafood in general, and it would have been a torture if i couldn’t eat any of it for months. actually, there appear to be a lot of food you are not supposed to eat in the chinese culture during pregnancy, including seafood, many types of fruits, certain types of tea, and not even cold water since it is considered to lower your body temperature. woah, very strict!
in italy, i learned they don’t encourage pregnant women to eat cured ham, such as prosciutto, salami, etc., as well as certain types of cheese because of some bacteria they carry. well, if you think about it, it makes sense. just like avoiding raw eggs for salmonella i guess.
another friend (american/italian) told me that they avoid eating salad leaves. as far as i remember, it was because the water used to wash salad leaves may be contaminated…? well, this makes sense if you live in developing countries where tap water is not potable, or even in japan when we had nuclear meltdown scare… but it didn’t really occur to me during my pregnancy, and i ate salad on a daily basis. i am glad that i did not find this out before i delivered my little one!
but the most rewarding and interesting for me to learn was when i was in south of france for summer holiday visiting my best friend and her partner during my pregnancy. we were having dinner at the back garden of the house we were staying, and the host served us the famous and luxurious “pata negra” ham from spain for appetizer, along with a glass of rosé, the popular summer drink in the region. ….and of course i wasn’t touching any of it. i did explain why not, and the host (a bit reluctantly) accepted the reasoning. however, as they drunk a bit more wine and got more tipsy, my friend’s partner started to explain us about his frustrations with the theory of this food restrictions for pregnant women. they said in france anything can be accepted if you eat in moderation, and the most important thing in pregnancy (or even in general) is to enjoy food rather than being scared or worried about it. this goes to wine also, it doesn’t harm if you have a sip (or probably he said “glass”) or two. he claimed, “what is there to enjoy, if you can’t enjoy food and drink in life?”
i know there are people who would go totally against the french way, but considering all the stories i’ve heard and learned, i realised there is no right or wrong answer to this – the best thing is to follow what you feel most comfortable with. otherwise, you’d get lost in the flood of information and different beliefs which vary in each culture. just trust your gut feeling, and enjoy.