There's something of a stereotype drifting around that the biggest perk of being pregnant is getting to eat whatever you want. This is a myth. In fact, allergies aside, we can all actually eat pretty much whatever we want any old time, it's one of the joys of being alive.
Still, traditionally, pregnancy is seen as the time when women might be forgiven for feeling just a shade free of the shackles of diet culture - don't get too comfortable, though, gals: the so-called bounce-back is just nine months away. Plus legions of strangers are still queuing up to make pass-remarkable comments about your body, whether it's big or small. I recommend loud chewing noises to drown out any unwanted 'advice' from apparently well-meaning randoms.
For me, pregnancy is not a time to cut loose and eat all the doughnuts - if anything, it's the time when I feel compelled to rein in my usual eating habits. In an annoying irony, when I'm pregnant, a pesky sense of responsibility kicks in after the general nausea of the first trimester has died down. I'm no stranger to maternal guilt - it's an inevitable side effect of parenting in the millennial age - but it really ramps up during gestation.
It's is the only time in my life when I feel guilty about what I eat. I look down at my customary Coco Pops mixed with mini marshmallows and think, "This poor child deserves a vegetable".
As a result of this, pregnancy is like a healthful interlude in my otherwise slightly sloth-like existence. Normally, I basically have the diet of an aging, gout-riddled Dickens character, minus the brandy-guzzling. The fact that I've been pregnant for roughly a year-and-a-half out of the last five years is probably the only reason why I don't have scurvy.
In pregnancy, I behave extremely out of character and feel an unfamiliar urge to take better care of myself in new, unexpected ways. Take last week, when I visited a prenatal personal trainer and got myself a weights programme. Wild stuff. I like the odd sweaty shuffle from time to time, but a personal trainer? Who even is this obnoxious person? A person who now owns a kettlebell, that's who.
I even went to interview a nutritionist for work and actually took note of at least some of what he was saying. It was actually a slightly terrifying conversation; when I told him my unborn child was practically made of three-in-ones, he looked positively stricken. He offered some fairly damning insights into some of my favourite takeaways in general, which spurred me to create this spicy lentil soup for the next time I'm craving a curry.
Hearty Lentil Soup
You will need:
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 butternut squash, peeled
and chopped into 2cm
2 potatoes, chopped into
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground
1-2 teaspoons chilli powder
1 tablespoon curry powder
200g red lentils, rinsed
1 x 400g tin whole peeled tomatoes
Natural yoghurt, or wilted greens, to serve
1 Heat the sunflower oil in a large pan and add the finely chopped onion, the finely sliced garlic, the diced butternut squash and the diced potatoes. Cook gently over a medium heat, stirring to prevent sticking. Next, add the ground coriander, the ground cumin, the chilli powder and the curry powder. Continue stirring over the heat for about five more minutes, then add the rinsed red lentils, the tinned whole tomatoes and stock.
2 Bring to the boil, then simmer the soup for about 40-50 minutes until the vegetables and the red lentils are tender.
3 Serve this lentil soup with some natural yoghurt, or add some wilted greens, such as spinach, for extra-hearty bowls of warming goodness.
The prenatal period is a very volatile time for a woman (and anyone in her vicinity, really). She is liable to be under a lot of strain - not from the sheer exertion of growing another human being, we're actually ace at that. The prenatal strain comes from our heroic continued efforts to not scream at or physically attack all the annoying people who orbit us during these trying times.