Sometimes it can be hard to know what foods are safe to eat during pregnancy and which ones are best avoided.
This is especially the case when it comes to snails, because technically snails or escargot are classified as seafood even though they live on land!
Pretty confusing right?
So let’s take a look at the facts in more detail, so you can safely answer the question of whether you can eat snails when pregnant.
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What Is Escargot?
Escargot is a delicacy of French cuisine, typically served as an appetizer or starter.
The dish is made up of cooked snails that have been removed from their shells and most-commonly cooked in herb-infused oil, wine or garlic butter.
Aside from France, escargots are also popular in other European countries including Spain, Portugal and Germany, as well as around the world.
It’s worth noting there’s no single way to serve escargot, and this delicious food can be eaten in several different forms including in a pasta, salad, stew or tart.
Escargot is also a good source of lean protein and is rich in nutrients, but remember the dish will become less healthy depending on how it’s prepared – for example if eating escargot with lots of butter, which has large amounts of saturated fat.
Is Escargot Safe To Eat During Pregnancy?
Unfortunately there is limited research around eating escargot while pregnant.
The best way to safely determine if you should eat escargot or snails during your pregnancy is therefore to speak with your midwife or doctor.
Two things that you should always keen in mind are:
- Whether you may be allergic to escargot
- How the dish was prepared
One of the key safety considerations is whether or not you are allergic to seafood or shellfish.
Although it may be confusing and counter-intuitive, escargot are technically mollusks and therefore classified as seafood and shellfish (like octopus).
If you have a seafood or shellfish allergy, then there’s a good chance you will also be allergic to escargot, in which case you should avoid eating them while expecting (or at any other time for that matter).
Shellfish allergies are the most common food allergies in adults, with around 2% of the U.S. population reporting an allergy to shellfish.
And according to experts, most people who are allergic to one group of shellfish are allergic to other types, with even very small amounts of shellfish being able to cause an allergic reaction.
It’s also vitally important to consider how the escargot has been prepared and cooked, because eating escargot that has been cooked or stored incorrectly may lead to food poisoning – something all pregnant women should do their upmost to avoid.
Eating raw or undercooked snails may lead result in being infected with something called angiostrongylus cantonensis, which is a parasitic worm of rats (also called rat lungworm).
If you handle snails or slugs, you should wear gloves and wash your hands afterwards.
Chances are you probably don’t cook escargot at home but may occasionally eat this dish in a restaurant.
So if that’s the case, provided the snails or escargot are thoroughly cooked, and have been hygienically prepared in a restaurant that has high food safety standards, then you should be fine to eat escargot while pregnant.
What Can I Eat Instead?
If you have a craving for escargot but don’t want to eat the real thing for whatever reason, then you are probably on the look out for alternatives.
The good news is that because escargot is usually prepared using strong flavors such as garlic butter or herbs, when you eat escargot what you are really tasting is the marinade rather than the actual taste of the snail.
Those who have tasted plain escargots often describe them as tasting something like a slightly salty mushroom, so there’s no surprises for guessing that the best substitute for escargot are mushrooms!
With a similar earthy flavor and chewy texture, mushrooms are therefore the ideal substitute or replacement for escargot while you are expecting.
If you are concerned about eating escargot while pregnant, it’s best to check with your healthcare provider so you have piece of mind.
Provided you do not have an allergy and the dish has been properly prepared – which means cooked thoroughly in a kitchen that has good safety standards – then you should be fine to go ahead and eat this delicious European delicacy.