When I was pregnant with Henry, I remember I was about 8 weeks along when I went to our company Christmas dinner. At that point I wasn’t ready to share our news with my co-workers. We had a very small office, with only about 8 people attending the dinner. Pre-pregnancy, I would have had some wine or some other alcoholic beverage; I thought people would be suspicious if I didn’t. So, I arrived early at the restaurant and spoke with our waiter. I explained my situation, and he agreed to bring me ginger ale every time I ordered a “rye and ginger”. It was perfect and as far as I know, no one suspected anything!
Being pregnant comes with a whole host of things that one must learn, including which foods are best to avoid; however, around this time of year, avoiding those foods can be even trickier with of all the work parties, kids events, and family gatherings, all of which are often food-focused.
I’ve compiled a list of common holiday foods that are best avoided by pregnant women, as well as a few tips on how to stay away from them. I’m not one to typically focus on the things you CAN’T eat, but in this case, I feel this list is important. I always supply my clients with a complete list of foods they should try to avoid.
In most cases, the chances of actually getting sick or getting an infection are quite low, but there is still the possibility/risk. Therefore, I highly recommend you avoid the foods and beverages listed below in order to keep you and your baby healthy.
Soft cheeses: Varieties such as brie, camembert, soft goat or sheep cheese, Stilton, Roquefort, Boursin can all be contaminated with listeria (food-borne, disease causing bacteria found in refrigerated, ready-to-eat foods). Hard, pasteurized cheeses are fine to consume. In Canada, most common cheeses are pasteurized, but to be certain, I suggest you always read the packaging.
Raw or soft eggs: Eggs need to be fully cooked (both the white and yolk should be solid) in order to be sure the risk of salmonella is eliminated. This means, no soft-boiled eggs, eggnog (unless it says it is pasteurized), homemade caesar salad dressing (most of the prepared dressing is pasteurized, but check the label!), hollandaise sauce, mayonnaise (found in a lot of dips), or raw cookie/cake batter.
Apple/Fruit Cider: Most apple cider is unpasteurized, leaving room for the growth of bacteria. Unless the container says otherwise, this drink is best left for others to enjoy. Even heating the liquid isn’t enough to kill all of the potentially harmful bacteria.
Smoked seafood and raw shellfish: Seafood that is smoked has not been brought to a temperature that reliably kills harmful bacteria. As well, raw shellfish (think oysters, clams etc.) can cause serious food poisoning (unless it is really fresh), so it is best to avoid these as well.
Foods left out of the refrigerator: This is a big one (and often overlooked!). Refrigerator foods are commonly placed out on a table during a party or event. Sometimes they can sit out for many hours. If the food is left out for more than 2 hours, the FDA (USA Federal Food and Drug Association) suggests pregnant women don’t eat it due to the risk of listeria. Listeria is different than most bacteria because it can grow at refrigerator temperatures. You can be infected by listeriosis and not even feel sick, but still pass it on to your growing baby.
Undercooked meat: Be careful that any meat you eat is fully cooked. I’m not only referring to turkey, but also beef (which is often cooked to medium rare). Undercooked meat can contain salmonella.
Alcohol: Although this is definitely the most well known “no-no” for pregnant women, it can be tricky during the holidays. Be sure to always make sure the drink you are being served is alcohol free. Things like punch and eggnog often have a bit (or a lot) of alcohol in them. Also, sometimes that harmless looking fruitcake may have an alcohol rich glaze over it, which is added after it is cooked.
Tips to avoid these foods:
- It is always best to ask your host about the foods you are eating, and read the packages of foods you are concerned about when you can. If you aren’t comfortable talking to the host about the food they are serving, it may be best to avoid anything you suspect falls within the list above.
- If you are going to a potluck, make sure you bring something healthy and filling that you can eat. That way you’ll ensure you won’t be hungry and you can feel confident with what you are eating.
What one food item on the list above will you miss the most this season? Leave me a comment below.