This post may be slightly controversial, but please remember I am not a doctor (I don’t even play one on TV). Please use your common sense and do what you feel is right for you when eating during pregnancy.
People are always entitled to their own opinion and here’s mine. I don’t mean for you to take it as the gospel. I just feel the need to state my own personal feelings about what I’m avoiding during pregnancy.
Feel free to disagree (respectfully) in the comments or share your own personal opinion. I love a good conversation.
I have to admit that I get a good chuckle from what some people think when it comes to pregnancy. Whether it’s undying belief in an unscientific old wives tell about determining the sex of the baby to things and foods you should avoid during pregnancy. Especially when it comes to things to avoid, I’m sure my opinion may seem a little cavalier compared to some of my friends (but not all).
Did you ever see the episode of How I Met Your Mother when Lilly goes to the OB and asks her what she can and she can’t eat? Her answer to everything was, “Just a little bit.” And I guess that’s my perspective on most things. If I choose not to eat something, it’s probably because I don’t really like it that much anyway than I think it’s actually going to hurt my baby.
So here’s my perspective on the whole “foods to avoid” thing.
First, I’m shocked at the different opinions of one OB to the next. Unless my friends are straight up lying to me (and of course they’re not), their OBs have told them to avoid things that mine have not. Or, they’ve been way more specific than the little list of things to avoid. Personally, I like my short little list and I respect my OB a lot so I’m going with her little list with a few caveats in the strict and less strict spectrum based on my own research and personal opinion.
Second, I’m shocked at what people will avoid because they read it on an internet forum form a random person on the internet with the “better safe than sorry” line thrown in there. Just for fun one night, I played a game where I looked up random fruits and vegetables to see if I could find anything that said they were “unsafe” to eat during pregnancy (what a wild life I have). Did you know there’s an old wives tale about how it’s unsafe to eat tomatoes while pregnant? I gave up in disgust after a few searches because I meant for it to be funny, but just grew aggravated at what I was reading, and even more so at people’s reaction to the completely unscientific information. Better safe than sorry. Really? Tomatoes?
So what am I avoiding and in what context and what am I not avoiding (that some people do)?
1. Deli Meat/Lunch Meat
You’re supposedly not supposed to eat deli meat cold because it can carry listeria. Uncooked meats can carry listeria, but supposedly deli meat can pick up listeria after the cooking process and before the packaging process. I’ve never been a huge fan of deli meat. It’s that that I don’t like it; it’s just that I can usually take it or leave it. For the most part I have avoided it because I don’t eat it much anyway. I keep Boars Head deli meat in the fridge for Brad but barely every touch the stuff when I’m not pregnant. If I loved deli meat, I might eat it every now and again because according to my OB, it’s perfectly fine once or twice a week. However, I’ve only eaten it once during my pregnancy and it was on a roasted chicken and brie sandwich with strawberry compote on a baguette from Amelie’s Bakery. And it was amazing. The chicken was also hot and according to everything I’ve read, deli meat is fine if it is hot (one of many sources).
2. Soft Cheese
Speaking of that brie, I have not cut out soft cheeses since becoming pregnant. Everything I’ve read says you should definitely avoid soft cheeses, but if you keep reading (which I’m guessing most people don’t) the article/study will go on to say unless the cheese is pasteurized. I don’t know how often you go around reading cheese labels, but personally I have never seen cheese in a grocery store or otherwise that doesn’t say “pasteurized”. It’s actually illegal to sell unpasteurized cheese in most states (including NC) that aren’t pasteurized, unless they’ve been aged for 60 days and then they have to be clearly labeled “unpasteurized” (source). So I’ll just check the label and continue enjoying my brie. And at a restaurant, I just ask. No need to avoid something I love.
3. Smoked Salmon
Smoked Salmon is considered unsafe for the same reason deli meat is. When served cold, it can carry listeria. So smoked salmon is fine to eat if it’s hot or served as part of a cooked dish (like in an omelet). But for the record, listeria is unsafe for non-pregnant people too. It’s not that it only affects pregnant ladies. However, it’s effect on fetuses can be more serious.
Personally, I believe that if alcohol (enjoyed in moderation) was bad for fetuses, most of Europe’s babies would have major issues, as well as everyone in the U.S. 50 and older. But I made a point not to drink anything, except a sip or two of Brad’s beer, through my first trimester. I’ve only been in my second trimester a few days now and at a chef’s table a few nights ago, I asked the waiter to pour me “a swallow” of wine. I didn’t even finish my swallow. So I guess the verdict is still out for me whether I’ll actually have a glass of wine while pregnant. Part of it is that Brad isn’t really into me having a glass of wine while pregnant and even though I’m the baby’s house, I believe he should get a say in these things too. So as long as he feels this way, I’ll enjoy a “swallow” every once in a while, but no more.
5. Undercooked Meat and Eggs
When I’m not growing a little human inside of me, I prefer my steak bloody and my eggs drippy. But since there is an increased chance of bacteria in undercooked meat and eggs, which can affect not just me, but the baby, I’ve been eating my steak medium and my eggs scrambled. If I can’t have my eggs runny, I’d rather just have them scrambled. But I honestly don’t think a bit of rare meat or some slightly runny eggs would really be that big of a deal. In other words, if I was to be served a slightly rare steak or a runny egg, I probably wouldn’t send it back. But that’s just me.
6. Raw Fish
Notice that I didn’t say “sushi”. Sushi is a style of food. Sushi doesn’t equal raw fish. I still eat sushi at least once a week. It’s been one of my biggest cravings. But I am avoiding the raw fish versions. However, I’m fully aware that Japanese women do not stop eating sushi when they’re pregnant and if I lived in Japan or even on the Pacific coast where sushi is very fresh, I might feel differently. In the mean time, I’ve been eating plenty of eel (which is very low in mercury and always served cooked). Any shellfish sushi is also served cooked including shrimp, crab, and scallops. So yes, I’ve been enjoying plenty of sushi, just in a limited way.
This one is even easier to avoid than deli meat. Sprouts don’t really add any flavor so whether or not avoiding them is silly, it’s just easy so I do it. According to the FDA, “Bacteria can get into sprout seeds through cracks in the shell before the sprouts are grown. Once this occurs, these bacteria are nearly impossible to wash out,” (source).
Swordfish is on the list of high mercury fish that you’re not supposed to eat during pregnancy. I’m avoiding the rest of them too (shark, tilefish and king mackerel), but swordfish is the only one I actually ever eat so it’s the only one I care to mention.
9. Caffeinated Coffee
Doctors say that one cup a day is fine for soon-to-be mommies, but I gave up caffeinated coffee last July before we were even trying to conceive. Coffee had made my stomach start to feel funny, especially if I had two cups. So I gave it up because of that reason and because I knew that impending conception was near. It seems easier to deal with nausea if I don’t also have to tackle caffeine withdrawals at the same time. So, do I think coffee is evil? Of course not. I still have a decaf cafe au lait when I find myself at a coffee shop, but other than that, I really don’t miss it.
So there you have it — my lax interpretation of what you aren’t supposed to eat during pregnancy.
Now tell me, what have I left off my list? What did you avoid? What did you miss the most?