The holidays are here, and that means: We shall be faced with pie. Oh yes. In fact, many of us may want to dig into a slice of pecan pie every hour on the hour until Santa shows up. And if you’re pregnant, all those holiday cravings — pie or otherwise — are likely raging wild. But many holiday-favorite foods are actually a pretty terrible idea for pregnant people. Either they’re super-high in sugar, they’re alcoholic (chill on the spiked eggnog, Mama) or they’re simply not appropriate for nourishing a soon-to-be baby.
That said, there are quite a few solid options that are healthy and delicious — and will let you enjoy that big holiday spread in good company (that is, the good company of your fetus).
Here are the best and worst holiday party foods for pregnant people.
You can’t have a holiday party without guac, can you? OK, maybe you can, but we certainly wouldn’t want to. “Avocados are rich in unsaturated fats as well as a good source of folate, pantothenic acid, vitamin K and fiber,” registered dietitian and author of The Fertility Foods Cookbook Elizabeth Shaw tells SheKnows.
Not only do avocados taste delicious on toast, which comes together in no time, but also, you can process with a little cocoa powder and honey to create a healthier chocolate frosting to satisfy cravings too. Next time you’re making a holiday chocolate treat, use avocado to make it healthier for you and your child.
Don’t pass up those hard-boiled deviled eggs! “Eggs are a nutrient-dense food that provides many nutrients, like biotin, choline and protein. In just one large egg, there [are] 6 grams of high-quality protein that will help keep you (and Baby!) fuller for longer,” says Shaw.
“Salmon sliders are the new trend I’m seeing lately as holiday apps. Salmon is a great way to get in those omega-3 fatty acids that are important for Mom’s mood and Baby’s growth and development,” says Shaw. But don’t eat raw salmon, like sushi — this is a big no-no for pregnant people, as it is unsafe to eat uncooked fish.
Don’t dismiss the party nuts! “Peanuts are a heart-healthy nut that provide plant-based protein as well as a slew of nutrients like vitamin E, folate and magnesium,” Shaw says; however, any type of nut in that bowl is great for pregnant people too.
As far as peanuts are concerned, they’re “not only quick and convenient to enjoy on whole-grain bread when you have no energy to cook, but research has also identified that exposure in utero may help minimize the chance of the baby developing a peanut allergy later in life,” she explains. Let that baby enjoy the taste of peanut butter, please!
Munch on that holiday side of roasted root veggies, like parsnips, potatoes and turnips, says OB-GYN Felice Gersh, the founder/director of the Integrative Medical Group of Irvine in California and author of the upcoming book PCOS SOS: A Gynecologist’s Lifeline to Naturally Restore Your Rhythms, Hormones and Happiness.)
Root veggies help support the gut microbiome, she says. “Having a healthy microbiome is critical for many reasons — maintenance of a healthy pregnant [person], reducing the risk of pregnancy complications, setting the stage for a baby acquiring the proper microbes,” Gersh tells SheKnows. So enjoy a few helpings of that veggie side!
Usually, there’s a great braised greens dish, a salad, roasted Brussels sprouts or green bean side on the table at holiday gatherings, so if it’s green, eat it up. “Green leafy vegetables provide the essential vitamin – folate. Folate has many roles in the body, and in pregnancy it helps prevent neural tube defects,” explains Gersh.
Green leafy vegetables also provide essential calcium, which is important for healthy bone development in babies, she says.
Stay away from these
Don’t pick up that fried calamari on the table. “Fried foods are recommended to be used with caution since they can exacerbate indigestion commonly experienced with pregnancy,” says Shaw. Plus, most fried foods are nutritionally void and contain excess fat and sodium, which won’t do your baby (or yourself) any good.
Unless the soup is homemade and low in sodium, avoid that salty chicken noodle or canned options. These are high in sodium and may contribute to fluid retention, says Shaw. Pregnant people can often already feel bloated, so bombarding their bodies with extra sodium will only worsen that feeling, she says.
Of course, you should still enjoy a slice of your favorite pecan pie or a holiday cookie, but don’t get too crazy when you’re eating for two. “Simple sugars like candy bars, cookies and cakes that taste delicious but also are more likely to cause a surge in blood sugars followed by a steep crash leading to more cravings and high-calorie, nutrient-void foods,” says Shaw. All of this sugar isn’t healthy for your baby and won’t be digested as smoothly.
Ahi tuna cups
You’ll typically find ahi tuni cups or smoked salmon on toasts as a form of a pass-around during cocktail hour. Yet you shouldn’t eat these when you’re pregnant. “Raw fish, such as sushi, is to be avoided due to the potential for foodborne illness and toxins present in the fish,” says Shaw.
Be careful with charcuterie plates at your next holiday gathering. Deli meats, such as turkey and ham, should be avoided, as research from the FDA suggests a higher risk for pregnant people and their children since the lunch meat could be infected by listeria bacteria, says Shaw.
If so, this can cause damage during pregnancy. “While the odds are very slim, it’s best to proceed with caution and focus on other protein sources or cooked and heated meats,” she says. Plus, deli meats are also very high in sodium too.
Just remember — being pregnant can be a wonderful time of life, and there’s no reason not to celebrate with some festive foods. Nor is there any reason to compromise on your holiday time (unless you’d rather be home napping, that is — which is totally legit). In fact, the holiday season can be prime time to relish in all that good preggo cheer, with close friends and family getting ready to welcome a new child into the world. So have at it with the healthy foods above, and maybe even some (booze-free) eggnog for good measure.
A version of this story was originally published in December 2018.