As the old adage goes, you are what you eat. But for expecting mothers-to-be, a better saying would probably be, your baby becomes what you eat. While a healthy diet full of the vitamins and minerals is instrumental in helping your baby develop, pregnant women must pay close attention to what they eat in order to avoid ingesting any dangerous or potentially harmful bacteria. With that in mind, here are five common food items expecting mothers should avoid.
Many soft cheeses are made with unpasteurized milk, which can contain the bacteria listeria. For your developing baby, listeria can be extremely dangerous, and even potentially life threatening. Unless the label reads “made from pasteurized milk,” mothers-to-be should avoid Brie, feta, blue cheese, Camambert, queso blanco, queso fresco, and panela cheese. When dining out, make sure to ask your server if you have any questions about whether the cheese used in a menu item is made with unpasteruized milk.
Deli Meats or Pates
As with soft cheeses, deli meats also possess the potential of becoming contaminated with listeria, which, unlike most other types of food borne germs, can still grow in the lower temperatures inside of your refrigerator. Cold cuts, hot dogs, pates and cured meats can become easily tainted if they sit inside of your fridge for too long after purchase. Since it’s hard to tell when ready-to-eat meats were packaged, pregnant women should try to avoid eating them altogether. However, you can make these foods safe by cooking them until they reach a temperature that will kill of any latent bacteria, usually around 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
Unwashed Fruits and Vegetables
While pregnant women should eat plenty of fruits and vegetables as part of their diet, they also need to wash any produce they eat carefully before biting down. The parasite toxoplasma can live on unwashed fruits and vegetables, and can cause the illness known as toxoplasmosis when ingested. (Toxoplasma is the same parasite that is known to live in cat feces, and is the reason why pregnant women are told to stay away from the litter box.) Instead of using soap to clean off any produce, try using a vegetable brush to thoroughly clean away any potentially dangerous bacteria. You should also be sure to cut away any bruised areas, as these spots are known hotspots for harboring bacteria.
A definite red flag item for any mom in waiting, sprouts can become contaminated with bacteria while still a seed, which makes it nearly impossible to clean away any latent bacteria after they have sprouted. Make sure to stay away from alfalfa, clover, and radish if raw, and always thoroughly cook any sprouts before eating to destroy any hidden bacteria.
Choose Your Fish Carefully
While eating fish is good for the health of pregnant women and their baby, you need to make smart decisions about they types of fish you decide to eat. Certain types of fish, such as mackerel, shark, tilefish, and swordfish contain high levels of methyl mercury, which can be harmful to your baby’s health. Doctors generally recommend expecting women eat up to 12 ounces of seafood each week, so try to choose fish with low mercury levels, which include salmon, cod, catfish, and light canned tuna. You should also avoid eating any fish caught in local rivers, lakes, streams, or bays, unless you know for certain that the body of water the fish was caught in isn’t polluted. You can check with your local fish and wildlife department if you have any questions about the cleanliness of a nearby body of water.