Eating for Two: Asian Cabbage Salad

Last fall I caught up with an old friend over dinner. Slender, tall, beautiful, and very stylish, she has a fancy high-paying job that requires her to travel a lot, eat in swanky restaurants, and generally be glamorous. Average height, average build, and mousy-haired, I spend most of my days working at home in yoga pants and a sweatshirt from the children’s department at Target and get truly excited about the prospect of a Saturday night trip to Brooklyn for dinner out.

When I told her that Andrew and I were ready to start a family and that I looked forward to find out what it was like to be pregnant, she grimaced and said she herself would be horrified to watch her figure disappear. My own anxieties revolved (and revolve) around getting back into shape after delivering; I thought it would feel natural to grow ever bigger before. But it turns out that she was right: it’s pretty weird to watch yourself inflate like a balloon.

I’ve always prided myself (maybe even a little too much) on not being a girl who gets really stressed out about food and weight. Sometimes I weigh a little more than I want to and sometimes I weigh a little less; I like to exercise and I don’t eat processed food often, so I’m lucky enough to kind of hover around my set point without ever shrieking, “Oh my god, I can’t believe I just ate a muffin! How many calories do you think that muffin had?” When, on occasion, I shock my system with four muffins in a row or a meal at Peter Luger, I feel a little sheepish, but I just try to balance it out with a long walk or lighter meals the next day.

Accordingly, I didn’t think I’d get stressed out about pregnancy weight gain, but my own quickness to cast judgment on my expanding body has surprised me. First I was a little thick through the waist, then my pants got tighter and tighter, and soon enough I had an undeniable belly. As is common in the early part of pregnancy, I yearned to get the bump so I would look and feel pregnant instead of just fat. But when the bump came and I encountered it while plopping down onto the sofa or caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror, my first thought was always, Yuck. What happened? Then I’d remember what had happened.

Now when I see my reflection, I don’t think yuck so much as who’s that? My friends with kids tell me to enjoy these middle months since my own middle will soon be enormous. When I showed Andrew and my mom the maternity dress I bought to wear to my sister’s rehearsal dinner in August, they both said, “Yeah, you’re going to be a lot bigger than that then.” This is hard to imagine, so I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, I’m still trying to find a healthy balance, eating enough for the baby without gaining 20 extra pounds that I’ll eventually have to lose. I’m in my 21st week and have gained about 15 pounds so far. The recommended pregnancy weight gain for women who start out at a healthy weight is 25-35 pounds, and at this point for baby’s sake I should be gaining about a pound a week. There’s definitely more pressure now not to overindulge; in the beginning 25-35 pounds sounded like a lot, but now that I’m halfway there I don’t really have much wiggle room. I’ve been pretty good since my first-trimester compulsive dessert eating came to an end, in part because I keep nutritious snacks like nuts and chopped salads around and try to satisfy my sweet tooth with raisins or smoothies at least part of the time. Then I enjoy the occasional blowout meal or special dessert without feeling that girly-girl food stress I’ve always tried to avoid.

About the author: Robin Bellinger recently escaped a career in book publishing, which was cutting into her cooking time. Now she's a freelance editor and can bake bread on Tuesday afternoon if she feels like it. She lives in Midtown Manhattan with her husband and blogs about cooking and crafting at home*economics.

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Eating for Two: Asian Cabbage Salad

About This Recipe

Yield:4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 1 12-ounce package frozen shelled edamame
  • 1/2 head red cabbage, finely shredded (about 4 cups)
  • 1/2 head green or napa cabbage, finely shredded (about 4 cups)
  • 2 medium carrots, finely shredded (about 2 cups)
  • 4 scallions, green and white parts, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 3/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sambal or another ground chile paste, optional
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • Chopped cilantro for garnish

Procedures

  1. 1

    Cook the edamame according to the package directions, drain, and set aside to cool.

  2. 2

    In a large bowl, combine the edamame, cabbages, carrots, and scallions. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, ginger, and sambal, if using. Pour the dressing over the slaw, mix well, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

  3. 3

    Serve garnished with sesame seeds and cilantro.

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