Since the start of my pregnancy, I had been hearing people telling me what to eat and what not to eat in order to have a healthy/fair/pretty/strong etc *insert own adjective here* baby. Interestingly, as I come towards the end of the finishing line for my pregnancy (and the beginning of a whole new chapter in both Sunshine’s and my life), I realised that there are some common black and white coloured foods frequently recommended for pregnancy, some after particular trimesters, while others, throughout pregnancy. I will just share some of the “old folks’ tales” I heard about the benefits of eating these foods and not talk about the actual health benefits (which you can Google yourself if interested!).
白 – Soya Bean Milk (or Soy Milk)
Many of us would be familiar with this popular drink and its purported benefits for the baby during pregnancy: baby will turn out fair-skinned! Right during the early stages of my pregnancy, my mum had told me to drink more soya bean milk so that I can give birth to a fairer-looking baby. Though I was not against drinking soya bean milk, and in fact, love drinking it, I generally do not have a habit of buying drinks outside for consumption, especially since there is generally added sugar in these drinks and they make me bloated easily. My other concern for not really drinking much soya bean milk initially was because I thought I was having a boy and I was unsure if drinking too much soya bean milk (estrogen) would have an effect on his development in my womb.
However, ever since I learnt that I was carrying a baby girl instead, I had been consciously trying to drink more soya bean milk whenever I can, maybe about once per week. Sometimes, I tried to be healthier by asking for no added sugar in my drink though. Hopefully, my effort pays off!
Scientifically, I know skin colour is determined by the amount/concentration of melanin (a pigment responsible for giving us our colour) in our bodies and I am more inclined for Baby C to inherit Sunshine’s genes for this. This is because, Sunshine has less melanin in his skin, gets sunburn more easily and turns red before shedding back to his fairer skin colour while I just turn darker with more sun exposure. Haha. Nevertheless, whether Baby C is of a fairer skin tone or not is not of a significant issue for both of us. This was just a convenient excuse for me to buy more soya bean milk for my own consumption.
黑 – Essence of Chicken
This is an absolute life-saver! From the start of the first trimester, I had been hearing other mums-to-be drinking essence of chicken (some take it daily) and swearing by its energy-boosting benefit. This seemed especially true for those who had very bad first trimesters and were weakened by their own constant morning sickness. For myself, as supporting another life was tiring for me at times too, Sunshine bought loads of essence of chicken for me to boost my energy and I found that it really kept me awake whenever I felt like dying in the morning. Fortunately for Sunshine’s wallet, I am contented with the ubiquitous Brand’s Essence of Chicken.
Midway through my pregnancy, I also heard that essence of chicken can help babies in growing. Hence, as Sunshine and I were a little concerned about Baby C being on the smaller side since after our First Trimester Screen (FTS), Sunshine would frequently nag at me to drink this to grow Baby C. Lol.
As my pregnancy progresses through the third trimester and it is getting harder for me to have a good night sleep with the frequent trips to the toilet, backaches and waking often feeling hotter than before, I find that essence of chicken really helped keep me energised throughout the day. Even as we prepared our hospital bag, I told Sunshine a tip shared by other mummies: to drink two bottles of essence of chicken during labour in order to have sufficient energy for pushing. Hence, we packed two bottles of essence of chicken in the bag. Hopefully, it really helps to boost my energy levels for me to
shit push Baby C out! Haha. I am also looking forward to having chicken steamed/braised with essence of chicken for my confinement! *yums!* However, as I become “heaty” easily, I try not to drink essence of chicken every day and only take it when necessary.
白 – Bird’s Nest
Another popular health supplement to consume during pregnancy is bird’s nest! However, most people advised only to start consuming it after the first trimester, when the pregnancy is more “stable”. My mum had long prepared to cook bird’s nest for me by buying $1,000+ worth of dried bird’s nest from 正中平 (zheng zhong ping) when I was still in my first trimester.
Subconsciously, Sunshine and I also gradually accumulated a small stash of bottled bird’s nest in our own home throughout my pregnancy (oops!). As it is also not my habit to drink bird’s nest on a regular basis, I frequently forgot to drink it and again, Sunshine had to nag at me to drink it. Lol. However, he would always coincidentally remember to nag me only when my mum happened to cook bird’s nest for me on that few particular weekends when I go back to my parents’ place. Hence, not wanting to be drinking bird’s nest twice in a day (especially since I always returned home feeling very bloated from all the feeding at my parents’ place), I would always tell Sunshine “tomorrow” and totally forget to drink the bottled bird nest until the next time he remembered and nagged at me again. Lol.
Again, we got the commonly available Brand’s Bird’s Nest together with our essence of chicken. However, of all the bottled brands I have tried, I realised I prefer the New Moon’s Superior Bird’s Nest with rock sugar, perhaps precisely because it was sweeter than the other two brands. Oops!
黑 – Black Sesame Paste
Taking black sesame paste during pregnancy for xx benefits was not something I hear commonly during my pregnancy. In fact, only a handful of aunties mentioned it to me only when I reached about week 37 of my pregnancy. The purported health benefit was that it would make baby’s eyes/hair/eyebrows black black, dark dark. Lol. When I heard this, I was just telling Sunshine how these “old folks’ tales” are so funny! How come taking soya bean milk will make the baby fairer but taking black sesame paste will work its charm on baby’s iris, hair and eyebrows? What happens if these foods mix up their own “target organs/body parts” and the opposite occurs instead? Lol. Despite not really believing in this, I tried to find black sesame paste but did not manage to get my hands on any till now. This was also because I did not try very hard or go out of my way to buy this though I know 记得吃 (Ji De Chi), Hong Kong Sheng Kee Dessert and the rows of dessert shops along Bugis street would definitely sell this traditional Chinese dessert. Maybe I shall be more hardworking and just go out of my way to eat this at least once before Baby C decides that she is ready to arrive. Lol.
Update: Eventually, I went to Hong Kong Sheng Kee Dessert to buy a bowl of black sesame paste and I was very delighted with its smoothness and richness! I totally enjoyed it though Sunshine commented that it just tasted like black sesame 汤圆 and was not very impressed with it. I had to buy another bowl before Baby C arrived and I did!
白 – Coconut Water
As I progressed beyond 30 weeks of pregnancy, my mum had been reminding me to slowly start drinking coconut water. Like what I heard from other mums-to-be, she said coconut water will “cleanse” the baby so that the baby will look “cleaner” when he/she is born. As coconut water is said to be “cooling” which may cause contractions of the womb, it is not recommended for consumption during the earlier stages of pregnancy. For myself, in order to “play safe’, I only started drinking it when I reached 36 weeks of pregnancy. While I very much prefer fresh coconut water from a coconut itself, I switched to drinking bottled ones instead. This was because I find it a waste to only drink the coconut water and throw away the flesh! While I like eating the flesh, I was told eating it would have a counter effect from the coconut water as the flesh is “heaty”. On the other hand, Sunshine does not like eating the flesh. Hence, to be more economical and less wasteful, I am drinking bottled coconut water now.
Personally, drinking a glass of sweet, cold coconut water when I am feeling so hot easily these days really makes me feel so much better. This also seems to quench my thirst better than plain, warm water. Haha. Scientifically though, the whitish stuff (vernix) which makes the baby look “dirty” and prompted the practice of drinking coconut water, is said to have some protective effect for the baby. Balancing the two and bearing in mind that I should still not take too much “cooling” stuffs though I am already 38 weeks pregnant, I try to control my almost-daily drinking of coconut water though I am still indulging in it more often than I would like. Haha.
Are there any other super foods to eat during pregnancy for a more desirable baby? Let me know if you have any to share!