You already know that you shouldn’t drink alcohol or eat high-mercury fish during pregnancy, but did you know that some benign-seeming foods like that salad you made for lunch, may harbor dangers, too? Here are some foods you might not know are big don'ts for pregnant women.
13 Bagged salads
You're tired and you're supposed to eat a lot of veggies, and ripping open a bag of pre-washed greens seems like a pretty low-impact way to do that. But bagged salads may be harboring an organism called listeria, which can cross the placenta and lead to blood poisoning or miscarriage/stillbirth. And don't think you're safe because you've been eating bagged salads your whole life without getting sick—pregnant women are 20 times more susceptible to listeriosis than healthy adults who are not expecting.
12 Eggs over easy
If you're like a lot of modern breakfast eaters, you love mopping up those runny yolks with your hash browns or a nice piece of wheat toast, but don't. For the next nine months, order your eggs well-done—undercooked eggs can harbor salmonella. And just as pregnant women are more susceptible to infection with listeria, salmonella is also more dangerous when you’re expecting.
11 Hollandaise sauce
It's not just those sunny sides up that could make you sick—sauces like Hollandaise, homemade mayonnaise, Caesar salad dressing, and Béarnaise are traditionally made with raw eggs, and because those eggs are mixed in, it may not always be obvious to you what you're eating. When in doubt, ask your server if a sauce you plan to order is made with pasteurized eggs.
10 Raw cookie dough
I know how much you love to sample that chocolate chip cookie dough while you're getting it ready for the oven, but the raw eggs you used to make it, could make you sick. If you just can't resist licking the spoon, try using a pasteurized egg product like Egg Beaters instead of fresh eggs from the carton.
9 Smoked salmon
You'll have to eat your bagels with unadorned cream cheese for a few months—refrigerated smoked salmon can harbor that nasty listeria bug. This is true primarily for prepared, cold salmon (and other refrigerated, smoked seafoods)—shelf stable smoked salmon is usually safe.
8 Soft cheeses
Yes it's true, you'll have to leave your favorite Brie or Gorgonzola in the deli case for a while. Soft cheeses are often unpasteurized, and are common culprits of listeria outbreaks in the U.S. If the label doesn't say "pasteurized," don't buy it.
7 Deli meats, with a caveat
Skip those cold sandwiches from your favorite deli. Deli sliced meats are favorite hiding places for—you guessed it—listeria. But the good news is that you can still enjoy a hot roast beef sandwich at home, just heat the meat to steaming in your microwave and that should be enough to kill the nasties.
6 Hot dogs
Never mind that hot dogs are not really that good for you anyway, but for pregnant women, they carry the same risk as deli meats and smoked salmon. Because they are processed and sold cold, they could become contaminated with listeria during packaging. Like deli meats, they’re safe when heated to an internal temperature of 160 degrees—so those barbecued franks are probably OK—but bring your own meat thermometer just in case.
5 Herbal tea and supplements
It's a common misconception that herbal teas and supplements are good for you just because they’re natural. They’re not regulated by the FDA, which means that their safety hasn’t been adequately studied. Hibiscus, nettle, and lemongrass are just a few of the herbs that are known to be dangerous during pregnancy, so it’s best to ditch herbal teas altogether in favor of a cold glass of fruit-infused water.
Medium rare meat
If you prefer a steak medium rare, it’s time to opt for a little extra time on the grill. Even a medium rare steak is still considered undercooked, and can be a breeding ground not only for salmonella, but for other dangerous organisms such as coliform bacteria and toxoplasmosis.
Sorry, sushi lovers—uncooked seafood is a no-no. Raw fish can harbor parasites, and even though they’re not likely to cross the placenta you’re more susceptible to infection when you’re expecting. That doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy your favorite Japanese restaurant—but stick with California rolls, cooked eel, and tempura.
3 Bean Sprouts
Bean sprouts grow in warm, moist conditions—conditions that are also perfect for the growth of several types of bacteria, including that troublemaker listeria, salmonella, and e. coli. And because bean sprouts have a lot of nooks and crannies, it’s impossible to rinse all of the bacteria out of them—which means that the only safe way to eat them is cooked up in a stir fry.
2 Unwashed fruits and vegetables
Speaking of washing, raw vegetables should be avoided unless you know they're clean. Vegetables are grown in fertilizer, and, well, you know what’s in fertilizer. This means that a raw vegetable of any kind could have harmful bacteria on its surface, so thorough washing is a must.
Yes, it’s true, you may have to give up your morning cup of joe. Now, the jury is still out on just how harmful caffeine actually is during pregnancy, but there have been several studies linking even moderate consumption to miscarriage. That means you can drink a little coffee and/or soda, but because the data is still inconclusive, it might be best to keep driving the next time you see a Starbucks.