Family & Home

Eating Out While Pregnant

Here’s the ultimate guide to making healthy choices for you and your baby, excerpted from What To Expect: Eating Well When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff, with Sharon Mazel.

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Whether you’re grabbing a quick bite at the food court or lingering over four courses at a four-star restaurant, entertaining a client or date-nighting with your spouse, eating out to celebrate or eating out because you don’t have the strength to face the stove again, there will be plenty of times during your pregnancy when you’ll be feeding yourself and your baby away from home. How to make sure good nutrition is on the menu, even when cooking isn’t? It’s easy, as long as you keep these tips in mind:

Eating Out While Pregnant

Choose a baby-friendly restaurant. It won’t be high chairs you’ll be scouting for when you’re taking your baby out to dinner (at least not yet)—it’ll be healthy eating options. Realistically, you won’t always get to pick the restaurant, but when you do, be picky. Before you ask for a table, ask for a menu and scan it for nutritious offerings. (Most restaurants have at least some.)

Order first. It might not be particularly polite to order your meal first, but it can keep you from being swayed by the less wholesome choices of others. (“Mmmm . . . fried clams! Sure could go for some of those myself!”) Instead, you’ll be able to set the nutritional standard for the table.

Be on portion patrol. Many restaurants serve portions that are much heftier than the recommended serving sizes for most foods. To avoid becoming too hefty yourself (especially if you’re a frequent diner), eat only as much as you need to fill you up, not stuff you up. Take the rest home in a doggie bag (which— sorry, Fido—you’ll be able to bring to work for tomorrow’s lunch). Another option: Share an entrée (or an appetizer) with your dining companion, instead of ordering your own. Or skip the entrée entirely and select only a salad and appetizer (but make sure it’s a high-protein one, like shrimp cocktail) instead of a full meal.

Survey the bread scene. Before you leap into the basket mouthfirst, check out the contents for wholegrain options. If none turn up there, ask the waiter if there are any available from the kitchen (whole wheat sandwich bread, for instance). If you’re still out of luck, go easy on the white stuff, saving your appetite for more wholesome foods still to come. And try not to spread your bread with too much butter or dip it into too much olive oil. (Even if you order carefully, there’ll be enough fat in the rest of your meal—in the salad dressing, on the fish; no need to add it on before the first course even arrives.)

Think green. To make sure you fill your leafy green requirement, order a salad as a first course. Ask for the dressing on the side so you can choose how much dressing you want to pour on. Don’t quite feel like a salad? Start with some grilled vegetables instead.

Slurp your Daily Dozen. In many restaurants, some of the most nutritious dishes come in bowls (or cups). Look to lentil, bean, vegetable soups (from minestrone to tomato, sweet potato to winter squash), and don’t forget to consider cold ones, too. (Gazpacho, for instance, is a veritable salad-in-a-soup-bowl.) Care for clam chowder? Take Manhattan when you have the chance; New England chowder and other creambased soups are typically heavy on the fat.

Keep it simple. In most cases, the less time the waiter has to spend describing your entrée (“and then after it’s sautéed, it’s finished with roasted shallot sauce and . . .”), the better your selection. Stick to lean meat, poultry, fish or seafood, and order them simply broiled, grilled, roasted, baked, steamed, or poached (preferably not sautéed or fried). Ask for sauces and gravies on the side. If you’re looking for a vegetarian alternative for your main course, choose dishes with tofu, beans, peas, cheeses, or whole grains.

Be side savvy. The company your meat (or fish) keeps is important, too. Since many restaurants offer a choice, choose wisely: Opt for steamed vegetables, beans, a baked potato, or if it’s offered, brown or wild rice or another whole grain. Since veggie servings are often skimpy (are those two orange circles the carrots you ordered?), you might consider asking for an extra portion.

Breathe when the desserts come your way. Remember, desserts spelled backwards is stressed, which may be the way you feel as the waiter rolls temptation your way. A few deep breaths may give you the power you need to say, “Fresh fruit and sorbet, please.” When your cravings occasionally bring you to the edge of a dulce de leche cheesecake, share it with your dining partner instead of attacking it all by yourself. And (breathe!) slowly savor each creamy mouthful instead of inhaling your half of the slab in thirty seconds.

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