Healthy Pregnancy: Foods to Avoid by Dana Angelo White in Healthy Pregnancy, September 9, 2009
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What can’t I eat now? That’s one of the first questions that pops into your mind when you find out you’re pregnant. Sure, you cut out the alcohol and avoid caffeine, but what about those foods that might have lurking bacteria? Here are some I skip to cut back the risks.
The list of risky foods for pregnant women varies depending on who you ask, but most agree that when you’re pregnant, your immune system is more susceptible. Because of this, you need to be extra cautious about food-borne illnesses. Here are some of my main no-no foods because they may be contaminated with harmful bacteria.
Cold Cuts and Cured Meats
Yep, that means no turkey sandwiches or hot dogs for the time being. Cold cuts and other processed meats can be tainted with listeria monocytogenes. Experts say that pregnant women are three times more likely to become infected (which can cause a miscarriage in the third trimester). Another concern is nitrates, a common preservative found in deli and cured meats like bacon; the Center for Science in the Public Interest warns pregnant women away from them as well.
Unpasteurized Eggs and Dairy Products
Because they’re not pasteurized (which kills off bacteria), steer clear of raw milk, raw cheeses and unpasteurized eggs. Soft cheese like Brie, Camembert and blue are some of the ones to especially watch out for. The good news is there are many safe varieties — just check labels to make sure the ingredients are pasteurized.
Raw and High-Mercury Seafood
Cooked seafood should be fine, but raw seafood (from sushi to clams on the half shell) can contain dangerous bacteria and parasites. But even if you’re eating cooked seafood, skip swordfish, large species of tuna and king mackerel, which have high amounts of mercury that may harm your growing baby. If you’re a fish lover, Gotmercury.org has a good list of safer sources and cool calculator that can help you add up your intake.
What About Ice Cream?
This one was new to me. Some soft serve ice creams and frozen yogurts might have listeria in them if machines aren’t cleaned properly (ick!). I’m addicted to the scoopable, old-fashioned stuff (which is safe), but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re trying to beat this end-of-summer heat with a cup of fro yo.
Don’t Be Shy!
When in doubt, do some digging. Check the ingredient lists on food labels to make sure things are pasteurized. Ask questions when you’re at restaurants and markets. I’m a cheese fan, but had to say a temporary good bye to many of my top picks from the local cheese shop. I never realized how many of my favorites were unpasteurized — glad I asked!
Some More Quick Tips
Here are a few more friendly reminders:
- Wash your fruits and vegetables completely whether before cooking or eating them raw.
- Cook your meats thoroughly to kill off any possible salmonella or other bad bacteria.
- Skip the raw cookie dough, Hollandaise sauce, Caesar dressing or any other food that contains raw eggs.
Check out Dana’s previous post on eating healthy while pregnant.