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A Babymooner’s Guide to Eating in Charleston

*Thank you to Lauren Manaker for this guest post on how to have a fun (and safe) babymoon while enjoying the endless culinary options around Charleston! Please note, this is not medical advice and you should always consult your doctor with any questions or concerns!

If you are lucky enough to get to go on a babymoon, the destination choices are endless! Based in Charleston, SC I see a lot of tourists who come to enjoy the amazing and unique culinary offerings that you can only find in the Lowcountry. It only makes sense for some couples to pick Charleston as their baby moon destination…No Zika, easy flights, walkable, lots to see and do, and lots of spots to get a massage!

When a woman is expecting, they are often bombarded with the basics on which foods to avoid and which ones are safe to eat. Come to one of the top culinary scenes in the US and you may be thrown for a loop with food you aren’t used to seeing. Octopus ceviche is not listed on your list that your doctor gave you when you learned you were pregnant. Tilefish? What’s that?!

Here’s your unofficial guide to eating while pregnant in the Lowcountry:

  • Raw Oysters: If you come to the Lowcountry in any month that contains the letter “R” you will likely see oysters offered in abundance, whether at an oyster bar or at a backyard party hosting an oyster roast. Unfortunately, raw oysters may carry the hepatitis A virus so you definitely want to stay away from that! Bright side? Many spots will be happy to steam those slimy suckers for you. If you are at an oyster roast, just make sure they are cooked all the way through. *Local tip: Want to try the best thing you will ever eat? Do yourself a favor and hit up Leon’s. They make Char-Grilled oysters that basically tastes like heaven. Ignore how much butter they load up on them and enjoy…you are on vacation and will be walking a ton anyways.  
  • Ceviche: You will find a lot of seafood spots in Charleston, and a lot offer ceviche (raw fish cured in citrus). As awesome as this is, I’m sorry to say I don’t feel okay giving these dishes the green light. The fish is raw and cured, but not cooked, so any pathogens may not be killed. Additionally, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics urges women to avoid ceviche during pregnancy. Double bummer is that steak tartare and raw sashimi are a no-go also. Bright side? There is no shortage of delicious seafood that is safe, fresh, and most importantly delicious! Want to try something equally as delicious and buttery as Leon’s grilled oysters? Try steamed mussels at 39 Rue De Jean. Six choices of preparations and all are awesome.Is it embarrassing to admit that I have tried them all?  
  • Soft cheese: Many say that the soft cheese risk has gone away in restaurants in the US because most that are served are pasteurized. One of the reasons Charleston restaurants are so unique is that a lot of them use local farms to provide their fresh ingredients. With that being said, they do not always use commercially made cheese and therefore, some are not pasteurized. I have learned that you have to ask your waiter if the cheese is pasteurized if you are ordering a dish that contains feta, Brie, Camembert, any blue-veined cheese, and goats milk cheeses to ward off listeria risk. If your server says “all cheese in the US is pasteurized”, then be “that girl” and ask to speak to the manager or chef. Silver lining? There is an amazing spot called goat.sheep.cow (two locations) that have a wide selection of regional and European cheese. They are very knowledgeable about which types have been pasteurized and would be happy to help you get your cheese fix. 
  • Ice cream:  Please don’t freak out, I don’t mean all ice cream. Just watch out for some of the local spots who offer “homemade” ice cream. Again, it may be a listeria risk which is no bueno. Also avoid homemade tiramisu for the same reason. Do I even need to mention that there are a million options for sweet stuff in the Holy City? From benne wafers, coconut layer cake, and pralines at Peninsula Grill, your sweet tooth won’t be missing anything. If you are treating yourself, crème brûlée is totally okay (and made with egg yolks….yay choline for baby!) I am not recommending a particular spot for crème brulee. In my professional opinion, there is no such thing as bad crème brûlée. One other thing to note is if you come across a dessert that is cooked with alcohol, know that the cooking process burns off the alcohol. Chocolate Bourbon Pie at Carmella’s, anybody?  
  • Fish-tilefish and wreckfish: Although local and delicious, they are higher in mercury compared with other choices, and it is best to avoid them when pregnant. Luckily, you can still try triggerfish—meaty, local, and awesome!
  • Condiments: Sometimes it’s not just looking at the actual food you eat, but what you put on top of it. Be aware that some condiments, specifically hollandaise sauces and salad dressings, may have been made with raw eggs, so it’s best to be “that girl” again and ask your waiter how these sauces/dressings are prepared. Honestly a Benedict minus the sauce and cooked eggs instead of poached is still awesome. If you are planning a beach day on Sullivan’s Island, hit up Grace and Grit on the way and grab yourself a Benedict for brunch (hold the hollandaise).

One thing I love about Charleston is how much the restaurants support local farmers and focus on fresh, organic produce. You will not have a hard time filling your plate. Although the fried chicken is to die for and the cheesy grits are not-to-be-missed, I hope you take advantage of some more nutritious choices too. Fresh peaches in the summer, root veggies in the winter, I could go on and on. Whatever you choose, I know you will have an amazing time visiting the Holy City, and hopefully will return with an adorable new addition to your family on your next visit.

About the Author 

Lauren Manaker is a dietitian turned entrepreneur. She is the owner of Nutrition Now Counseling, a virtual nutrition counseling service that is tailored to fit the unique needs of busy clients who are eager to conceive or enhance pre and postnatal health. When she is not researching the latest nutrition interventions for reproductive health, she is enjoying mom-life with her three year old daughter Hannah, husband Matt, and dog Bella on James Island. Follow her on Instagram at @nutritionnowcounseling

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