Separate but Equally Delicious? Are Special Pregnancy Menus Necessary?
The stories are nearly as common as pregnancy itself. Ask any mother of a certain age (over 60) about what they craved and what they, in turn, ate when they were pregnant, and half the time you will get all sorts of stories about succumbing to unrelenting cravings for soft serve ice cream, smoked fish, black licorice, and an assortment of other indulgent edibles. Some even have stories of cocktails and the occasional cigarette to ease the discomfort of carrying a child for nine months. For most pregnant readers (and likely even those who are not) the idea of recklessly indulging in everything from sushi to smokes is just unthinkable. But a healthy pregnancy diet is a bit of a moving target from decade-to-decade (even year-to-year). While avoiding cigarettes and alcohol was seemingly enough 30 years back, now it is avoiding those two indulgences along with licorice, aioli, prosciutto, and even soft serve ice cream just to be safe. Most mothers to be study up on the dos and don’ts of what to eat when you are expecting, but sometimes confusion and/or temptation set in and eating becomes something far less disciplined.
A new emphasis on eating right when you are pregnant is popping up in a somewhat unlikely place – restaurant menus. While hardly a “hot” trend (but with potential to get sufficiently warm) many restaurants around the world are starting to cater directly to pregnant women with tailored menus for pregnant mothers. The Guardian UK recently reported on this trend in an article titled, “The Pregnancy Menu” and posed the question, when “vegetarians are catered for why not cater for pregnant women?”
From Miami to London, specialty menus for pregnant women are being created and promoted as safe options for mothers to be. These menus obviously focus on omitting dangerous or questionable items like raw eggs, certain fish high in mercury, as well as soft cheeses (long viewed as a listeria risk), but some of them focus on distinctly nourishing items that might otherwise be overlooked. For instance, the T’ang Court restaurant in Hong Kong offers four different six-course set dinners – one for each trimester of pregnancy and one for new mothers. Long part of the Chinese tradition, these pregnancy diets are taken to the next level (and a luxurious one at that) with a menu that sounds both conscientious, as well as decadent:
“In the early stage of pregnancy, women need extra folic acid, calcium and iron, and the best food sources of these nutrients are dairy products, fish, beans and pulses. Award-winning Chef Siu uses ingredients that are rich in these nutrients to create the exquisite and nutritious “First Trimester Pregnancy Menu” which include dishes such as Sautéed Bird’s Nest with Scrambled Egg White, Fresh Milk, topped with Olive Kernels, Sautéed Sliced Garoupa with Lily Bulbs and Sweet Peas and Stewed Bamboo Pith Rolls filled with Enoki Mushrooms, topped with Conpoy”.
But most pregnancy menus are not nearly this lavish, nor calculated. Expect to see more of a lack than abundance. While all pregnant women should know that foods high in omega-3s, fiber, protein and calcium, is it just too much, and possibly too presumptuous, for restaurants to start dictating menus for pregnant women? Is this a positive move towards promoting good nutrition for mothers and unborn children alike, or is it yet another way for society to be judgmental and dictatorial? Is it coddling or accommodating?