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Pregnancy Food Safety

Eat a low-risk diet during pregnancy

Awareness of safe food-handling practices and other food safety during pregnancy is very important to maintain your and your unborn baby's optimal health. Many of principles of food safety that apply to individuals apply similarly to pregnant women; for example, that organic produce can be healthier because it contains fewer chemicals than traditionally grown produce, or that meat must be cooked to an adequate internal temperature in order to be safe to eat. A healthy pregnancy diet consists of a wide variety of foods, but there are also some foods and preparation methods that are best avoided.

Pregnancy and Seafood

The debate is ongoing about whether, or how much, seafood during pregnancy is all right. Fish provides important nutrients like protein, iron and omega-3 fatty acids, and while they may disagree on the ideal number of weekly servings (some say two, some say more), many experts do agree that low-mercury, fully cooked fish, such as salmon steak or canned light tuna, can and even should be part of a healthy diet during pregnancy.

High-mercury fish like swordfish and shark, on the other hand, should not. Sushi is also off the menu, as raw fish carries the potential for bacterial infection, and so are smoked-fish products such as lox (smoked salmon).

Avoiding Food Poisoning during Pregnancy

There are many different kinds of food poisoning, some much more dangerous than others, and you simply can't guarantee that every bite you eat during your pregnancy will be completely free of bacteria, parasites, viruses, chemicals and toxins. Many cases of food poisoning, however, result from bacterial infection, so you can follow some pregnancy food safety guidelines to minimize your risk:

  • Nix the nigiri. As noted above, raw fish can carry unsafe bacteria.
  • Never cross-contaminate. One cutting board and knife for fruits and vegetables, one for meat -- raw meat or anything that touched it should not touch produce. Be especially careful with how you handle raw chicken.
  • Eat in. Not that you can't go out to eat, and not that many restaurants aren't very particular about their food preparation methods, but if you make eating out the exception instead of the rule, and choose to make most of your meals home-cooked fare, then you will have more control over food-poisoning factors like cooking temperature and cross-contamination. And you will probably eat more healthfully, as well, since restaurant meals don't have the best reputation when it comes to saturated fat and empty calories.
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