People tend to think of getting pregnant as an eating free-for-all, but that is so not the case. In fact, one of the first things I learned when I became pregnant was a laundry list of foods I can’t eat, including two of my favorites in the whole world – sushi and coffee. And if you live in a city such as New York, where sushi restaurants and Starbucks line the blocks, it’s particularly hard to abstain. While I know that most studies and doctors say that caffeinated coffee may be okay to consume in moderation, I used to be a 4-cup-a-day coffee drinker, and I find it easier to give coffee up entirely than to cut down to one cup a day. But that’s just me.
There are also many other food items pregnant women are told to avoid, including the following from the American Pregnancy Association:
- Raw Meat: Uncooked seafood and rare or undercooked beef or poultry should be avoided because of the risk of contamination with coliform bacteria, toxoplasmosis, and salmonella. Goodbye medium rare steaks.
- Deli Meat: Deli meats have been known to be contaminated with listeria, which can cause miscarriage. Listeria has the ability to cross the placenta and may infect the baby leading to infection or blood poisoning, which may be life-threatening. Goodbye prosciutto.
- Fish with Mercury: Fish that contain high levels of mercury should be avoided. Mercury consumed during pregnancy has been linked to developmental delays and brain damage. Certain types of fish used in sushi should also be avoided due to high levels of mercury. Goodbye tuna avocado rolls.
- Smoked Seafood -Refrigerated, smoked seafood often labeled as lox, nova style, kippered, or jerky should be avoided because it could be contaminated with listeria. Goodbye brunch time salmon eggs benedicts.
- Raw Shellfish: The majority of seafood-borne illness is caused by undercooked shellfish, which include oysters, clams, and mussels. Goodbye $1 raw oyster happy hours.
- Raw Eggs: Raw eggs or any foods that contain raw eggs should be avoided because of the potential exposure to salmonella. Goodbye eggs-over-easy.
- Soft Cheeses: Imported soft cheeses may contain listeria, which can cause miscarriage. Goodbye brie and crackers.
- Caffeine: Although most studies show that caffeine intake in moderation is OK, there are others that show that caffeine intake may be related to miscarriages. Avoid caffeine during the first trimester to reduce the likelihood of a miscarriage. As a general rule, caffeine should be limited to fewer than 200 mg per day during pregnancy. Goodbye venti vanilla soy lattes.
- Alcohol: There is NO amount of alcohol that is known to be safe during pregnancy, and therefore alcohol should be avoided during pregnancy. Goodbye Bloody Marys for brunch, pina coladas on vacation, and wine with dinner.
And that’s not all. The above list contain only the standard pregnancy “no-no’s” according to doctors and health experts. If you are Asian or of Asian decent (or have nagging Asian parents and in-laws…), there are a slew of additional foods that you’re advised to avoid.
Below are just a few that I’ve gathered from lectures, I mean conversations, I’ve had with my parents:
- Foods that are “cold” should be avoided, especially in early pregnancy because it is believed to lead to premature birth or miscarriage. And by cold foods, I don’t mean the actual temperature, but food considered to create cold effects on the body according to the yin and yang balance of Chinese medicine. These include: watermelon, bananas, pineapples and mungbeans.
- Geese, crab, and prawns should also be avoided because they are thought to give the baby skin diseases.
- For superstitious reasons, rabbit shouldn’t be eaten because it will give your baby a rabbit-like cleft-lip.
- Spicy food will cause the baby to be bad tempered, so avoid at all cost. (Because really, who wants a bad-tempered kid?)
That’s all I can remember right now; I’ll add to this list as the parentals pass their ancient wisdom along.
All together, this makes for quite a heavy-hitting list of taboo foods that formed 99 percent of my pre-baby diet. Now I completely understand why pregnant women have the reputation of being moody and grumpy – because we never get to eat what we want!
All I’m saying is that they’ve already taken away my beloved sushi, coffee, spicy foods, oysters and cold cuts – if they come after the last remnant of my foodie past – Cheez-Its – don’t be surprised to find this Mom in a (rare) double (middle) finger situation.