Chinese Lantern Festival and “you shouldn’t eat too many Tangyuan when pregnant”

Illustration by Ruth Silbermayr-Song (

Illustration by Ruth Silbermayr-Song (

On yesterday’s 元宵节 (Yuánxiāojié), translated as Chinese Lantern Festival, which falls on the first full moon of the Chinese New Year and marks the end of the new year celebrations in China, my company prepares 汤圆 (Tāngyuán), sweet glutinous rice balls filled with sesame paste. It’s tradition to eat Tangyuan, which come in the shape of the full moon, on Lantern Festival.

When my co-worker comes into the kitchen and sees me with a bowl of Tangyuan, she says: “You shouldn’t eat too many of these. They are hard to digest when you’re pregnant – you know, with all the glutinous rice and stuff.”

Has anyone ever advised you on what and what not to eat? I’d love to read your comments.

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9 thoughts on “Chinese Lantern Festival and “you shouldn’t eat too many Tangyuan when pregnant”

  1. I have heard to many comments about what to eat and what not to eat that I simply gave up on listening as soon as I hear people start about it once again.
    However I am some favorites which people told my wife in China while she was pregnant
    “Don’t eat too much food with sesam, your baby will get too dark”
    “If you eat too much chewing gum the baby will get a small mouth”
    “you have to eat over 10 eggs a day to get a nice fat boy”

    and so on…


  2. Is there any scientific basis? Is glutinous rice hard to digest? Do pregnant women usually have digestion problems?

    Please, please, please, don’t eat 10 eggs a day. And if anyone tells you that you have to eat a lot to have a fat baby, punch them in the face for me. Those michelin-fat Chinese babies can’t be healthy.


    • Don’t know about the scientific basis, but pregnant women do easily have digestive problems (I’ve heard it’s usually either loose stools/diarrhea or constipation, depending on the stage of pregnancy). I’d yet have to find eggs here that come in a quality which would make me want to eat 10 daily. Even if I tried, I couldn’t eat that many. I don’t think babies need to be fat in order to be healthy, no worries!


  3. Ha, this sounds familiar. In China everyone has an opinion on what you should and shouldn’t do, and when you are pregnant that is magnified a millionfold. So be prepared for EVERYONE to mind your business. When I was pregnant I was told not to lift my arms up too high, not to walk too fast, not to walk too slow, not to get too hot, not to get too cold, um what else, oh not to ride my bicycle and not to lift up my other children (this would cause a miscarriage, ignoring the fact of all the generations of Chinese women who used to do hard physical labor in the fields everyday, while carrying their children on their backs, even while pregnant!). I was told to eat lots of meat, but not pork as it might be female pork and that would be bad for the baby, so on and so forth.


    • Yes, seems like people are wondering everyday if my belly is too little, too big or just right for this time of my pregnancy (I have found that their judgement usually depends on what kind of clothes I’m wearing – if I wear something a little loose, they’ll say my belly is still very small, if I wear something a bit tighter they’ll say it’s way too big).
      Lifting heavy things is actually something my mother told me to avoid too – she said it can lead to chronic pain at a later time in your life – not necessarily during or immediately after your pregnancy, but maybe in a later pregnancy or just some time into the future, so I’m trying to stick to this one.
      We made clear to my in-laws quite from the beginning that I do not feel like eating meat at all (I have developed a real disgust when it comes to eating most kinds of fish and meat after getting pregnant and I won’t eat either pork or chicken because of all the medicine those animals eat and because of the bad quality of a lot of meat here, so this doesn’t leave room for much meat). Now they eat a lot less meat themselves and I get my share of vegetarian dishes.


  4. Ha! Well you should know I heard similar advice regarding anything made with glutinous rice (or glutinous rice flour) — don’t eat too much, it’s too hard to digest, etc, — and I’m not pregnant! So there you go.


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