There are a few things most people know to avoid eating or drinking when pregnant or seeking to become pregnant, like limiting caffeine intake and alcohol. However, there are many other considerations to keep in mind when creating an effective and healthy diet during gestation to help keep both mother and baby safe.
The best way to know what foods are safe and unsafe to consume during pregnancy is to have a personalized recommendation from a maternal fetal medicine specialist, although there are several guidelines that can be applied to pretty much all pregnancies.
Uncooked seafood and rare or undercooked beef or poultry should be avoided because of the risk of contamination with the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis and salmonella.
Cold-cut deli meats have been known to be contaminated with Listeria, which has the ability to cross over the placenta leading to infection of a fetus. If you are considering eating deli meat, reheat the meat until it is steaming.
It is essential to make sure your vegetables are washed to avoid potential exposure to the toxoplasmosis parasite, which may have contaminated the soil where the vegetables were grown. Rinsing off fresh veggies ensures any soil residue does not end up in your food. This includes all fruits and vegetables with a rind or peel, such as an onion or melon, as bacteria can be transferred to the edible flesh as you cut into them.
Fish that typically contain the highest content of mercury include: bigeye tuna, shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish. For a full list of low, medium, and high mercury containing fish consult the EPA and USDA online.
Refrigerated, smoked seafood such as lox, nova style, kippers, or jerky should be avoided because they could be contaminated with Listeria. They are okay to eat if they are part of a meal and have been cooked. Canned or shelf-safe smoked seafood is also okay to eat.
Contact your local health department or environmental agency to determine which fish are safe to eat in your area. This is regarding fish caught in local waters and not from nationally sourced grocery stores.
The majority of seafood-borne illness is caused by undercooked shellfish, which includes oysters, clams and mussels. Cooking helps prevent some types of infection, but it does not prevent the algae-related infections that are caused by red tide. Raw shellfish should be avoided during pregnancy.
Raw eggs or any foods containing raw eggs should be avoided because of the potential exposure to Salmonella. These include homemade Caesar salad dressings, homemade ice cream or custards, and Hollandaise sauces made with raw eggs. Most commercially sold mayonnaise is made with pasteurized eggs and is safe to consume.
Imported soft cheeses may contain Listeria. You should avoid brie, camembert, Roquefort, feta, gorgonzola and Mexican-style cheeses that include queso blanco and queso fresco unless they clearly state they are pasteurized. All soft non-imported cheeses made with pasteurized milk are safe to eat.
Similar to soft, unpasteurized cheeses, unpasteurized milk may contain Listeria and should be avoided during pregnancy.
Refrigerated pate or meat spreads should be avoided because they may contain Listeria. Canned pate or shelf-safe meat spreads can be eaten.
Caffeine should be limited to no more than 200mg/day, which is equal to about one 10 ounce cup of coffee, 2-3 ounces of espresso, or 2-3 cups of black tea.
No amount of alcohol is recommended during pregnancy.
The only way to know what foods and drinks are safe for you personally to consume is to meet with an expert, who can guide you through any circumstances that may affect your diet. As a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator, our nutritionist, Casey Seiden helps mothers and families of all ages craft individualized pregnancy diets navigating diabetes, heart and kidney conditions, and many other complications that could affect your pregnancy care.
Learn more by contacting Maternal Fetal Medicine Associates today either by phone or online to schedule your appointment.