Following a nutritious diet is an important part of maintaining a healthy pregnancy and giving birth to a healthy baby. However, because you’re immune system is weakened during pregnancy, you’re more susceptible to the harmful effects of bacteria and other food-borne illnesses. Avoiding certain foods, and taking care to properly handle and prepare all food during pregnancy, helps keep you and your baby well.
Fruits and Vegetables
For most healthy pregnant women, any fruit is fine to eat, as long as it is washed properly. Unwashed fruit not only has the potential to contain pesticide residue, but also contaminants from the soil where the fruit was grown. For example, some soil contains toxoplasmosis, a potentially harmful bacteria present in animal feces. Additionally, if you have a pregnancy complication, such as gestational diabetes, your health care provider may limit the amount and type of fruit you can eat in order to keep your blood sugar at a healthy level.
Fish has plenty of health benefits, but pregnant woman should carefully monitor their fish intake. Avoid fish that tends to be high in mercury, such as tuna, swordfish, mackerel, tilefish and shark. Canned tuna generally contains less mercury than fresh fish, but you should limit your intake to less than 12 oz. per week to avoid potential problems. In addition, fish caught in freshwater lakes and rivers often have higher levels of contaminants than the commercially caught fish available in the grocery store. Your doctor will provide more information about local fish species to avoid, and about how much fish you can safely consume while pregnant. Avoid raw fish, such as sushi, and raw shellfish, for the duration of your pregnancy.
Sliced deli meats, refrigerated smoked meats and hot dogs also have the potential to carry Listeria, a harmful bacteria that can cross the placenta and cause serious infection or miscarriage. In general, pregnant women should avoid these foods, unless they have been heated to steaming before consumption. Refrigerated pate or meat spreads also potentially contain Listeria; canned pate that can be stored at room temperature is safe. Take care to thoroughly cook all meats to a safe temperature to kill any bacteria that may be present.
When you’re choosing dairy products to eat while pregnant, look for products that specifically state that they are pasteurized, or made with pasteurized milk. Unpasteurized milk, or imported soft cheeses, such as brie, feta, queso fresco or gorgonzola made with unpasteurized milk, can contain Listeria. Also, if you’re consuming food that normally contains raw eggs, such as Caesar salad or Hollandaise sauce, confirm that the recipe was made with pasteurized eggs. Unpasteurized eggs can contain salmonella, which is very dangerous for pregnant women.