So far this pregnancy has thrown a curve ball at my appetite. Early on, my appetite was non-existent and nothing sounded good. Deciding what to eat at my next meal was a challenge so I didn’t even want to think about planning ahead. Now that I’m past the nausea and morning sickness, my appetite is much stronger, but I still find it hard to decide what to eat. In fact, earlier this week, I struggled to figure out what to eat for lunch. I didn’t pack anything and nothing sounded good. After calling on my coworkers for inspiration, the only thing I could come up with was a deli sandwich, but I couldn’t stop thinking, “But I can’t eat lunch meat.” Luckily, I work with a group of nutritionists and dietitians that are not only patient with me in my need for guidance on even the smallest decisions (like what to eat for lunch), but they also quickly reassured me, “Yes, you can eat a deli sandwich; just make sure the meat is heated up.”
During pregnancy, we don’t want to mess anything up, especially if it could harm the baby. We can end up making ourselves worry too much about what might go wrong. A little worry is healthy, but there also needs to be a bit of reality to balance it out. The truth is most foods can be safely eaten during pregnancy.
Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:
Avoid undercooked meat, poultry, eggs and unpasteurized foods. Pregnant women are at a higher risk of getting sick from bacteria like Listeria, which can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, or an infection in the baby that can result in health problems after the baby is born. Listeria can survive at low temperatures, think refrigerator, and is commonly found in foods that have a long shelf life or foods that don’t require cooking before eating. Here are a few specifics: certain cheeses like, Brie, Roquefort, Mexican-Style soft cheeses and feta are often made with unpasteurized milk and should be avoided during pregnancy. What else? Deli salads, raw or unpasteurized milk or juice, raw or smoked seafood, and sprouts such as alfalfa, clover and radish should be avoided during pregnancy due to the risk of Listeria or E. coli. To be eaten safely, hot dogs and deli meats need to be heated up until they are steaming.
Always practice food safety. Wash your hands thoroughly (20 seconds) before cooking or eating. Always wash fresh produce before eating even ones with a thick skin or rind.
Keep foods out of the temperature danger zone (40-140 degrees). This is the temperature that bacteria can grow very rapidly in foods, making them unsafe to eat. If a food has been left at room temperature for more than 2 hours, throw it out!
Back to my lunch story. I was worried about asking the sandwich shop to heat up the deli meat so I was going to go without the one thing that sounded good. Don’t be afraid to make requests at restaurants especially when you’re concerned about the safety of yourself or your baby. The worker at the sandwich shop didn’t even think twice when I requested my meat to be heated up. She just did it. Then I ate my delicious turkey sandwich, safely!
As I said before, don’t get too tied up in the worries. With a little bit of knowledge and few tools you too can easily eat safely during pregnancy.
Want more information on food safety during pregnancy? Here are a few trustworthy resources: