Eat this! Don’t eat that! Pregnancy is an exciting time but knowing what foods are safe to eat can cause confusion for a lot of women. There is an abundance of information being thrown around that can make it even more overwhelming. Knowing exactly what foods to avoid can take the burden away and help women prepare for their upcoming addition.
One of the most controversial foods for pregnant women is seafood. There is some belief that pregnant women should not eat any but the USDA recommends that pregnant women eat at least 8 ounces of seafood a week and no more than 12 ounces. However, it is important to choose the right kinds of seafood. The environment where the fish come from has an affect on the amount of methyl mercury that may be found in fish. It is always beneficial to check with the DNR for a guide on healthy fish to eat in a specific area. Mercury found in fish can cause damage to the baby’s developing brain, which is why it is so important to avoid foods that are high in it. Always avoid swordfish, shark, king mackerel or tilefish. Pregnant women should also avoid smoked seafood and raw fish, such as sushi due to food borne illnesses or food poisoning. “White” tuna or albacore is safe in small amounts but no more than 6 ounces a week should be consumed.
Other foods that pregnant women should be mindful of include any kind of raw meat. Undercooked beef or poultry should be avoided because of the risk of foodborne illnesses. Lunch meats and hot dogs are also foods that should be avoided. These may contain Listeria, which can cause miscarriages, stillbirths, or other serious health problems. It is advised that if pregnant women are going to consume lunch meats they should heat them until they are steaming. Soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk should also be avoided. Brie, feta, Roquefort, or queso blanco are all examples of these. Raw vegetable sprouts are another food item to stay away from. Bacteria can easily exist in raw sprouts such as alfalfa, clover radish, or mung bean sprouts.
Another food item to consider with caution when pregnant is raw eggs. Some foods such as Caesar dressing, mayonnaise, hollandaise sauce, and homemade custards or ice cream may contain raw eggs without the consumer even knowing. Usually if these foods are commercially made they will be cooked at some point or made with pasteurized eggs but it is best to always double check.
What a person chooses to eat or drink will always directly affect their health. Pregnant women need to take the extra step or precaution to make sure that what they are eating is safe for not only themselves but for their baby too.
Article by Melanie Jaecks, UWGB Dietetic Intern