You were craving something wholesome and colourful, produce with a peppering of protein, but those neon words – DO NOT EAT – kept flashing in your head, slashing your options, until you found yourself up to your elbows in fatty fries. What's a girl to do? Pippa Henderson finds out.
Let’s just come out with it. It’s a hard task to find safe healthy salad options when you’re pregnant. If you’re scouting for one on your lunch-break it’s nearly impossible. The Ministry for Primary Industries website has clear guidelines on safe food for pregnant women, and it states ready-made salads and coleslaws from delicatessens and bars are a no-no. It also rules out any processed meats or poultry, unless they’re piping hot. The same goes for smoked fish, shellfish and seafood. Slim pickings just got slimmer. Hummus and tahini – store-bought and homemade – are also out of bounds. Other potential hazards for the pregnant salad-scout are cheese and eggs. Eggs must be well cooked. Hard cheeses like cheddar and parmesan are ok, but soft unpasteurised cheese is out, and soft pasteurised cheese, like brie, mozzarella and feta, are only ok if purchased in the manufacturers original packaging, and eaten immediately after opening – in small quantities.
So, salad bars and delicatessens are out, and restaurants and cafes, adhering to the aforementioned restrictions, will most likely need their menus significantly edited and tweaked. When it comes down to it, if you’re pregnant and after a salad, the best option is to make it yourself. On the bright side, this is your opportunity to step out of the box, break free from your usual recipes, and discover something new. The great thing about salads is that they don’t need to be time consuming to be delicious, or a long list of ingredients to impress the tongue. For those short on time, energy (or kitchen space at the office) here’s a list of pregnant friendly salad ingredients that don’t even require chopping, followed by a few examples of how to throw them together:
🥗 Pouches of 90 second microwave rice
🥗 Crispy noodles – plain or spicy
🥗 Soba noodles
🥗 Cherry tomatoes
🥗 Mandarin segments
🥗 Sugar snap peas
🥗 Baby carrots
🥗 Jarred olives
🥗 Canned tuna
🥗 Canned chickpeas
🥗 Canned beans
🥗 Canned corn kernels
🥗 Nuts: cashews, almonds, pinenuts, walnuts…
🥗 Seeds: pumpkin, sunflower, sesame…
🥗 Dried fruit: raisins, cranberries…
Tuna and rice salad:
Throw half a packet of microwaved brown rice in a bowl along with a small can of lemon and pepper flavoured tuna, a handful of cherry tomatoes and a handful of spinach. Voila!
Chickpea and corn salad:
Drain and rinse can of chickpeas and a can of corn kernals. Mix half of each together with a smattering of cherry tomatoes and some ripped basil, dress, and it’s a wrap!
Walnut, spinach and mandarin salad:
I’ve given away all the ingredients in the title! Choose your own quantities, you can’t go wrong.
If you’re up for just a little cutting or cooking…
Greek salad (feta free):
Slice up a handful of olives, a cucumber/courgette (zucchini), a tomato and little red onion and toss with dressing.
Just as dressing yourself while pregnant takes a little more thought, so can dressing your salad. The Ministry for Primary Industries advises expectant women to stay clear of homemade mayonnaises and dressings containing raw egg. Bought dressings and mayonnaises are fine to eat, but be sure to store them in the fridge, and to check their maximum storage time. If in doubt you can hardly wrong with a splash of olive oil and vinegar, and a few squirts of lemon juice. If you’re after a little extra kick keep some root ginger in the freezer and finely grate it over the top.
It’s worth keeping in mind that you’re not actually more likely to get food poisoning when pregnant; it’s just that the ramifications are larger if you do. At the end of the day your food intake is your choice, but we encourage you to know the guidelines, weigh up the risks, and minimise them by erring on the side of caution. Wash your produce first, and if you do choose to eat salad when you’re out ensure it’s a reputable place with a high turnover.