What I’m Not Eating During Pregnancy

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. 

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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).

cheeseplate

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.

smokedsalmon

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.

wine

4. Alcohol
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.

nigiri

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.

sprouts

7. Sprouts
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

8. Swordfish
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.

coffee

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?

8 Responses to What I’m Not Eating During Pregnancy

  1. Linda

    Just a note in relation to soft cheese. I don’t meant this to be scaremongering and it is certainly not meant to be a criticism of your choices, but just for information. Australia also has a legal requirement for pasteurisation. However in the last few weeks a particular brand of soft cheeses (who apparently complies with the requirement to pasteurise their milk) has been recalled due to listeria contamination which has caused over 20 cases of listeriosis, 3 deaths and 1 miscarriage.

  2. Lee

    One of my friends told me self-serve frozen yogurt also could contain listeria. In the brief time that I was pregnant, I still ate it though because, come on, I’m already avoiding alcohol and coffee, I need some fun in my life!

  3. Laura Ward

    Kelly, I think this is a great article and I agree with, and appreciate, your view on “what and what not to dos”. I struggled with the same things, what people were saying versus what I felt. I read a lot to and it is funny to read the “American” reports and then the “European”. Even my Dr. agreed, if you are going to be more stressed out by completely cutting out things you love, that is actually worse for the baby. Baby needs a relaxed, happy environment to grow and flourish. Enjoy that cheeses! (like you said, unless you go abroad, it is all pasteurized anyway!). Enjoy that sip (swallow or glass) of wine! Enjoy some pink meat! :)

    My biggest craving (after the cereal bout) was red meat. And I cannot eat well done meat. I felt, if I was cutting out most of the other things I “should’t” have, then my red meat (as long as cooked to the right temperature) was a-OK. Let’s just say my iron levels were great!

    Matt didn’t like the idea of my having alcohol either, so I respected that. I had sips and swallows here and there. I poured my first beer on Fat Tuesday (was into my 3rd trimester at that point), but didn’t even finish it. However, if you feel like having a glass of wine with your girls and it won’t make you feel bad about yourself. DO IT!

    People my disagree with me as well, but those are my opinions for me, and I respect everyone else’s for them.

    So happy for you, Kelly!
    Laura

  4. Great post! I’m wondering if we have the same doctor….mine was so relaxed and gave me the world’s shortest list of things to avoid….advil, alcohol, recreational drugs, cigarettes, and fish with high levels of mercury. That was about it! The only one I struggled with was advil for all my aches and pains. Tylenol just is’t the same.

    I love a good sub, so I definitely had my share of deli meat. I did try to avoid places like subway where who knows how long the meat has been sitting out, but didn’t think twice about going somewhere like Jersey Mike’s. I also read a statistic while pregnant that said your chances of contracting listeria while pregnant is the same odds you’d have of getting in a car accident while also being struck by lightning. In other words, VERY slim!

    I also ate lots soft cheeses (I love brie!), just always checked the labels or asked my waiter first!

  5. This is a refreshing view on pregnancy today, Kelly. I appreciate it, even as someone who never plans to have a baby. So many of my friends are so dramatic in their avoidance of all of the foods you mentioned above (and more) that I just… stopped having meals with them during their pregnancy (and well into the time where they were breastfeeding) because they were ridiculous about it just because “they heard someone say something.”

  6. Chrissy

    My OB sounds similar! She said she really wasn’t telling me anything she would tell her non-pregnant patients (other than no alcohol). Caffeine and alcohol are the only things I regularly hear differences in OB’s opinions. Mine says no to alcohol, OK to limited caffeine (1-2 servings daily).

    I also think it changes every few years, soft cheeses were the big thing to avoid 5-10 years ago…now it’s deli meat? A few random strangers asked me “are you supposed to eat that?” about soft cheese, a Coke and a Poptart. I hear the no caffeine thing a lot on TV and in movies! My friend even gave up chocolate to avoid caffeine.

  7. I think my eating approach is similar to yours. My OB is very laid back and really nothing is off the table when it comes to food — as long as it’s in moderation. I think I’ve even been MORE laid back this time than previously – but I guess that’s pretty normal when it comes subsequent children in general!

    Deli meat wasn’t even an issue when I was pregnant with Braeden – but it seems to be the biggest thing I’ve seen my friends avoid. I do skip Subway (although, I can’t tell you the last time I went to Subway even before I got pregnant), but I can’t say I’ve been saying no to Jimmy John’s or Publix (both fresh slice their meat).

    And I have definitely had a glass of wine here and there – mostly diluted and always over a long period time. Although, I poured myself a half of a glass this week and then it gave me heartburn, so that might be the end of that. Boo!

  8. It sounds like you’ve got a very relaxed and realistic approach to it all which, as someone mentioned above, I think is best! There’s no reason to stress yourself out about the “what if’s” and such… I never knew that about deli meat or that, depending on your own interpretation, you could have a few sips of alcohol – I feel like that, caffeine, and smoking are the 3 big no-no’s that doctors often advise to stay away from.

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