A semi-follow up to my Japanese food label guide on Best Living Japan, this article is about helping pregnant women and nursing moms stay hydrated while addressing common issues like weight gain, nausea, constipation, and other concerns.
As if we haven’t heard enough from our doctors and nosey busybodies, we all know that staying hydrated is key when you’re pregnant or nursing (or when you’re pregnant and nursing!). While water is no doubt the most important drink that helps us reach our daily fluid intake, sometimes water just doesn’t cut it.
Luckily for us, there are plenty alternatives on the Japanese market; many became my “to go” drink when I was pregnant. And now that I’m breastfeeding – 10 months and going strong – I still stand by these 6 drinks.
UPDATED on 12/15/2017: Be sure to consult with your physician if you have any questions or concerns regarding these drinks and how to incorporate them into your diet. This is especially the case with herbal teas and aojiru. Special thanks to @loveniklauskubo on Instagram.
Kikkoman Soy Milk
I’ve been drinking Kikkoman’s soy milk years before I was pregnant with the monster. You might immediately recognize Kikkoman as the soy sauce maker, so it’s only natural that they make soy milk, right? There’s plenty of soy milk brands on the Japanese market, but Kikkoman’s soy milk stands out with its simple colored packaging that clearly states the flavor along with a whimsical drawing of the main ingredient.
Whenever I see a new one in the store I instantly pick it up and have yet to be disappointed. I even loved their ginger ale soy milk. I recommend annin dofu, banana, amazake, and matcha flavors. Check out the full lineup here.
Wakodo “Yasashii” Gyunyu-ya San Series
There are many non-caffeinated milk teas out there, but Wakodo delivers when it comes to taste. Gyunyu-ya San “Yasashii” (やさしい）series is the non-caffeinated version of Wakodo’s best selling powdered tea mixes that first came out in 2005. When you’re craving milk tea, do your tastebuds a favor and head straight for Wakodo. I’ve tried nearly every non-caffeinated milk tea in the maternity section of drugstores and baby stores, but Wakodo tastes the best, perhaps because it uses fresh cream.
Gyunyu-ya san drink mixes are available in individually packaged sticks of 12 grams each, or you can buy the 220 gram bag resealable bag.
MUJI Organic Non-Caffeinated Herbal Teas
As seen on my Instagram post, these herbal teas from MUJI are (in my humble opinion) the MVP of non-caffeinated drinks for pregnant and nursing women in Japan. These are organic and made in Germany. Its lineup is wide and has everything from your standard rooibos tea to exotic blends like elderberry and hibiscus. I bought several packs and like experimenting with them by adding citrus fruits, honey, spices, and ginger.
Lemongrass should be avoided by pregnant women. I’ve seen conflicting information online about breastfeeding and lemongrass. When it comes to herbal teas, be sure to check with your doctor!
MUJI Powdered Latte and Chai
When I was on assignment in MUJI, I also picked up these packages of latte and chai on a whim — and am thoroughly disappointed that I did not buy more! These are great iced or hot and go well with a variety of foods and sweets. Next time you’re in MUJI, pick up one of their chai or latte and a package of curry. You’ll thank me later!
Suntory Non-Aru Kibun
You’ll find plenty of non-alcoholic beers in Japan, but I doubt it’s because beer manufactures felt pity on pregnant women. I suspect it’s simply due as a means to alleviate the pressure of drinking alcohol at work functions. At any rate, there are two brands of alcohol free cocktails here, made by Suntory and Asashi. I find that Suntory’s Non-Aru Kibun is more widely available than Asahi’s. Plus, in true Japanese fashion, they frequently add new flavors to their lineup.
When you think about it, you’re just drinking carbonated juice, but somehow these taste like the real thing. Suntory states on the label and on their website that their product contains 0.00% alcohol free and that it is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women to drink. But don’t get too excited — the sugar content in these drinks is just as high as any standard cocktail!
Before kale became trendy in the West, the Japanese had been drinking it as a powder blended with other green leafy vegetables in the form of the nutritious but bland drink known as aojiru. Literally meaning “green juice” (青汁), Aojiru has been around since the 1940s. Older Japanese like my in-laws swear by this drink, which is the reason why I drink it (because they send us boxes of the stuff).
Aojiru is a rich source of vitamins and minerals, perfect for when you can’t keep anything down but need nutrition. However, if you’re undergoing certain treatments or taking certain medications you should consult with a doctor first. Aojiru is an acquired taste so I’ve come up with my own ways to down the drink. In the summer, I add it to smoothies. In the colder months, I add honey, hot water, and grated ginger.
Where To Buy
With the exception of the MUJI products, these drinks can be found in your local drugstore, supermarket, or convenience store. Be sure to check out the maternity section at Akachan Honpo and Nishi Matsuya for these and other non-caffeinated and non-alcoholic drinks. Happy hunting!
Check out my posts on being pregnant in Japan and on breastfeeding: