Most of us know that during pregnancy, alcohol consumption, smoking, and excessive coffee drinking are strict no-no’s, and dangerous for the health of the fetus. Turns out, it is not just these three items which pregnancy puts out of bounds for expecting mothers. Lurking in stores, recipes and meals are over 10 other food and drink items which expecting mothers should steer clear of in order to protect their unborn baby.
These food items can pose serious and highly hazardous risks to unborn babies, and definitely need to be avoided to keep you and your baby 100% safe. The good new is that once you are informed, it should be pretty easy to avoid these foods during gestation. The bad news is that the foods that expecting mothers need to avoid, also happen to be some of the tastiest stuff around. Not only that, these foods are also highly nutritious - we are not a talking about junk food here!
As foodies of course we find this a dire state of things (I mean, expecting moms are supposed to eat what they want!) so we put together not only a list of what pregnant moms need to avoid, but also a list of what you CAN eat instead, to replace these 10 items.
Imagine if your pregnancy food craving turned out to be one of the foods on this list? That would be tragic! That is if we hadn’t done the legwork and figured out how to hack the “you can’t eat this while pregnant” scene.
20 Don't Eat: Unripe Papaya
Unripe papaya is believed by some to be capable of inducing labor and causing miscarriage. This information is pretty much common knowledge among women in India, where green papaya is utilized as a non-invasive abortive, and typically avoided during pregnancy.
Recently Western research has delved into the topic, and revealed that the dangers of unripe papaya are not an old wives tail. Human trials have not been undertaken, for obvious reasons, however studies done on mice and rats reveal abortive responses to ingestion of unripe papaya.
In case you are thinking “Who in their right mind would intentionally eat unripe papaya”, green papaya stars in certain cuisines, especially Vietnamese and Thai style dishes. So bear this in mind when eating out or travelling, as the papaya is typically grated and could easily take on the resemblance of melon.
19 Eat: Almost Any Other Kind Of Fruit
While green papaya may be out of bounds for an expecting mother, you will be happy to know that most other fruits are superb foods to eat while pregnant.
Fruits typically contain high amounts of vitamins, fiber, fluids, antioxidants and live enzymes, all of which are in top demand by the body during pregnancy. Fruit can also be used as an excellent appeasement for pregnancy related sugar cravings.
What's more, research has now revealed that pregnant moms who eat increased amounts of fruit during gestation typically gave birth to babies with higher levels of cognitive ability. Makes one wonder what fruits Einstein's mom was eating on the daily!
18 Don't Eat: Sushi With Raw Fish
Raw fish is listed by the FDA as one of the foods that pregnant moms must avoid. Raw fish can contain listeria. And of course sushi, invariably contains raw fish. It is the whole point of sushi after all.
Listeria is a bacteria which can contaminate food stuffs, and pregnant women happen to be 10 times more susceptible to infection. If contracted, listeria can affect fetuses without the mother feeling the symptoms of the infection, causing very serious complications such as miscarriage, premature labor, or stillbirth.
The implications of listeria put sushi right off of the menu. But, while you may not be able to partake in your favorite sushi, you can still join in the fun. With veganism taking the world by storm, and plant based foodies proving that vegetables don't have to be boring, there are lots of interesting and tasty vegetarian sushi variations available.
17 Eat: Avocado & Carrot Lox California Rolls, & Tempura Vegetables
Avocado has become a superstar 21st century sushi ingredient. Often paired with cucumber for crunch, avocado California rolls can be just as, or almost as delicious as regular sushi.
What's more, some anonymous culinary genius (whose mother must have eaten fruit while carrying them to term), invented carrot lox. If made right, carrot lox can blow the sox, off just about anyone, even the most die hard of carnivores.
If neither of these options are available, then remember there is also tempura vegetables. Most sushi places will have tempura vegetables on the menu. And if they don't it is debatable whether they are a real sushi joint!
16 Don't Eat: Deli Meats & Meat Salads
Deli meats, lunch meats and ready-to-eat meat salads are another potential danger zone when it comes to contracting listeria, due to the conditions in which they are manufactured and stored. There is debate around this, with some health professionals being of the opinion that the chances of contracting listeria from deli meat are so slim, that one may as well eat it.
The FDA however does specifically state that deli meat and ready to go meat salads and luncheon meats are "do not eat" items for pregnant women. As much as this verdict may suck, we are not going to start arguing with the FDA about food safety!
15 Eat: Home Cooked Meats (E.g. Turkey, Chicken, Beef, Lamb & Pork)
Of course, as promised we are not going to leave you without a backup plan. As foodie option number one, you can take advantage any leftover roast meat. Turkey, chicken, lamb, beef or pork can all make great sandwich meat. Just make sure that you refrigerate all meat within 2 hours, at a temperature below 40 degrees.
If you find yourself in a situation where lunch meat must be eaten, then there is a further option. You can heat up the food, until the meat is steaming hot. This may not work well for all situations (seeing as cold meats are typically eaten, well, cold) but heating can be a handy backstop.
14 Don't Eat: Foods Made With Raw Eggs
The common denominator between the above five irresistible food items are raw eggs. Innocuous as they may seem, raw eggs can be another harborer of listeria. Commercially produced forms of these classics are safe, thanks to pasteurization.
However, homemade, restaurant or high end versions will almost invariably be made using raw eggs. Other food items which can contain uncooked eggs are meringues (where the centers may be soft), eggnog, mousses, homemade ice cream and tiramisu.
So... homemade or high end ice cream, cookie dough, eggnog, hollandaise sauce, caesar salad dressing... mayonnaise... mousse... meringues... and tiramisu are all out of bounds? What the!
13 Eat: Products Which Have Been Made With Pasteurized Eggs
Don't panic. there is a way to enjoy all of those delectable things which happen to contain raw egg, while being pregnant. #YouCanHaveItAll
And, the trick is pasteurized eggs. If at a restaurant, ask if the sauce or dessert is made with pasteurized eggs. If so, then its a green flag. If not, that is rough. But!
Once you get away from that house of cruelty and temptation to pregnant moms, a.k.a. the restaurant, you can pasteurize your own eggs, at home, and use them to make the sauce or dessert you are craving. All you need to do is heat your eggs in water for 3 minutes at 140 degrees. Sorted! And if you do not have time for this, you can even buy pre-pasteurized eggs nowadays in stores.
12 Don't Drink: Unpasteurized Milk
Milk which has not been pasteurized is said to be able to carry a number of disease causing bacteria, including listeria and E.coli.
Most expecting moms know that unpasteurized milk can pose a risk, but just in case, we thought it best to mention this item. With the move away from ultra pasteurized everything, back to raw, organic and un-tampered with foodstuffs, the chances of raw milk entering the diet of a expectant mother are high.
Thankfully it is not overly difficult to replace unpasteurized milk with a safe option. However we did think it would be fun to put together a list of substitutes for you, because hey, that is what we are here for.
11 Drink: Pasteurized Milk, Coconut Milk, Nut Milks, Or Oat Milks
Pasteurized milk is more widely available than raw milk, so getting one's hands on some is probably simpler than pronouncing "unpasteurized". But, there are some people who for various reasons prefer not to drink pasteurized milk. If you are one, then there are many tasty alternatives.
Some ideas are coconut milk, oat milk, or nut milks such as almond nut milk, hazelnut milk, macadamia nut milk and cashew nut milk. Not only are these substitutes flavorful, they are also nutritious, an obvious bonus, particularly if you are pregnant.
Tip: If you are buying food at places like farmer's markets, be sure to check that any milk, milk products or items which include milk, do not contain raw milk.
10 Don't Eat: Soft, Unaged Cheeses
Listeria can also be present in soft, unaged cheese. Such as Camembert, brie, chevre, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, queso fresco and certain other mold cured soft cheeses. It has been found that listeria can contaminate soft cheeses made both with raw and pasteurized milk, although soft cheeses that have been made with unpasteurized milk pose the highest risk.
Word on the street is that cheese is a typical food type craved during pregnancy. This is thought to be thanks to one's body going after the high calcium content of the cheese. For example Gruyere or Swiss style cheese clocks in at 270 mg of calcium per oz. Unfortunately these two cheeses which are the highest in calcium, fall into the danger category of cheeses!
9 Eat: Hard Cheeses
Thankfully, while soft, unaged cheeses may be off limits, there are quite a few cheeses that one can eat while pregnant, which do not pose a listeria risk.
Hard, matured cheeses are deemed to be safe, including Cheddar, Gouda, Edam, Emmental, and Stilton cheese. Basically cheeses which are well matured, hard, and dry.
As for softer cheese, one can safely eat quite a few. These cheeses fall into what is known as "curd product" cheeses, and include cream cheese, cottage cheese, mascarpone, ricotta and halloumi. Processed cheeses and cheese spreads, are also safe to eat. Lastly, if you are craving some soft unaged cheese, you can heat it very thoroughly to render it safe.
Are you thinking what we are thinking?
Two words. Baked. Camembert.
8 Don't Eat: Oysters
Raw oysters fall into the same category as raw fish. They can also carry the listeria bacteria, and if eaten raw can cause listeriosis in either the pregnant mother or fetus.
Most oyster connoisseurs will assert that the only way to eat oysters, is raw. Cooking is thought to toughen the tissues and destroy the delicate flavor of oysters. If you are someone who only enjoys oysters raw, then they are definitely a no go during pregnancy.
If on the other hand you ignore the proclaimed oyster pundits, and instead go in for making dishes with cooked oysters, you can continue to eat them. Thorough cooking will destroy any possible bacteria.
7 Eat: Beef, or Crab
Foregoing raw oysters can be a bummer for some. Especially considering that oysters happen to contain the highest amount of zinc of any food on the planet. Zinc is a key trace mineral need for the development of the DNA and cells of fetuses.
So if you can't pop them oysters, what other foods can one turn to, to get in that cell building zinc?
Well beef for one. Beef is runner up in the ranks of foods high in zinc. Just be sure to cook it well, and avoid rare to medium rare steaks.
Another super star when it comes to zinc content is crab, making it an ideal seafood with which to replace raw oysters. NB: Must be well cooked to be guaranteed bacteria free.
6 Don't Eat: Smoked Meat and Seafood
Smoked meat and seafood are another food type which can carry bacteria, including listeria and E.coli. Although smoked meat is exposed to heat during curing, it is not enough to kill any possible bacteria.
Smoked meat and seafood are major umami bombs, which can make them a prime target for expecting mothers who are craving savory foods. Of course, the risk of contracting food poisoning and possibly passing it onto one's baby is totally not worth it.
And what is more, there are some tasty substitutes that you can turn to!
5 Eat: Smoked Vegetables
There is a super easy way to get your smoked flavors on, and that is to utilize the plethora of smoked spices available nowadays. Smoked paprika is a popular option for flavoring stews, and in some stores you can even buy smoked sea salt.
Another option is to make smoked vegetables. This is not as effortless as picking up a jar of spice, but it can yield some tasty results. The serious gourmets use specially manufactured smokers for this, but one can also use a barbecue.
Mushrooms are a popular and tasty item to smoke. However it you try these, take the extra precaution to cook them post smoking, as mushrooms are another possible carrier of food poisoning causing bacteria.
4 Don't Eat: Fish Containing A Lot Of Mercury
Another potentially dangerous food to eat during gestation are fish containing high levels of mercury. Mercury in high doses can travel across the placenta of the gestating mother and cause havoc with the growing brain and nervous system of a fetus.
This is obviously to be avoided at all costs. But how does one go about avoiding fish which contain mercury?
It is not like they come with a sign on their heads stating "I contain high levels of mercury". Thankfully, there is a rule of thumb to follow, which is that longer living, larger fish tend to develop higher levels of mercury in their bodies than smaller sized fish with shorter lifespans.
3 Eat: Anchovies, Trout, Sole and Other Smaller Fish
The 2015 -2020 Dietary Guidelines for America advises that pregnant women should try to consume 8-12 ounces of a variety of seafood per week, as it is one of the highest sources of vitamin B12.
Therefore, rather than avoid fish altogether in fear of mercury levels, treat yourself to smaller varieties of fish on a weekly basis. Safe options include anchovies, trout, sole, tilapia, salmon, herring, sardines, perch, haddock, and pollock.
So, while some fish may be best left off the menu for expecting mothers, there is a good selection of fish that one can, and should, eat.
As with with all fish and meats, make sure that any fish you eat is well cooked to guarantee it is free from any lurking bacteria.
2 Don’t Eat: Sprouts
If you are addicted to sprouts gracing your subs, salads and wraps, this may come as an unpleasant shock. Sprouts are yet another food item that pregnant mothers should not eat due to the possibility of contamination by listeria.
Sprouts are commercially grown in warm and moist conditions, which happen to be the environment that listeria can thrive in. For this reason the FDA has advised expecting moms not to consume sprouts or microgreens.
Sprouts and microgreens can be a favorite way to spruce up a sandwich or salad. Although it is not wise to eat them while pregnant, fortunately there are other ingredient options you can fall back on.
1 Eat: Arugula Or Baby Spinach
Fortunately there are a couple options which will bring a similar nutritional profile (and add flavor) which you can utilize in place of sprouts. Arugula and baby spinach are, like microgreens, both nutrient dense and tender leaved. They can make great sandwich, salad and wrap options, and do not hold a high chance of carrying listeria.
If you miss a little crunch in your subs, bowls, wraps etc, then make sure to include some pimp veg like radishes, pickles, pickled beets or carrots, zucchini, celery and sweet bell peppers.
For safe practice, make sure that all greens and produce, are washed thoroughly.
Top Takeaway: Wash and cook everything to death (literally), for stress free eating.