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Pregnancy Foods to Avoid – A New Mom’s Must Read!

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As someone who wants to start a family one day, I’m often weary of just how many foods an expecting mom has to avoid. Many of these foods may be a routine part of the female’s diet, which makes 37 weeks (or up to 42 weeks) feel excruciatingly long. But, as you can imagine, “better safe than sorry” is a good rule to abide by if you are a mommy to be.

Following a well balanced diet, such as the one outlined by Canada’s Food Guide, is the first step to eating well for your pregnancy. However, today we’ll focus on what foods to avoid during pregnancy. Here’s a simple list of what pregnant women should avoid to protect their own and their unborn baby’s health:

Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

  • Unpasteurized cheese and dairy products
  • All soft cheeses, even if they are pasteurized (such as Brie, Camembert, Feta)
  • Deli meats
  • Cured meats (such as salami, prosciutto, uncooked hot dogs)
  • Raw and undercooked meat and eggs (such as steak tartar, raw egg, runny egg whites or yolks, food dishes with undercooked eggs)
  • Raw and undercooked fish and seafood (such as sushi, raw oysters)

Listeria Bacteria

The reason why you should avoid the above foods during pregnancy is because they may contain the listeria bacteria, which grows on foods we often do not cook. Women who experience a listeria infection (also known as listeriosis) have an increased risk of stillbirth, premature labor, spontaneous abortion, and neonatal infection. If you’ve had any of the foods lists and are experiencing the symptoms of listeriosis (fever, headache, nausea, and vomiting), visit your family doctor immediately.

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What About Other Food Bugs?

While listeria gets a lot of bad press (and rightfully so!), we must not forget that other bacteria (such as Salmonella, and E.coli) can be equally as devastating. Therefore, expecting moms must be diligent when preparing meals to ensure their food safety practices are up to par.

Food Safety Rules

  1. ALWAYS separate raw foods (meat, poultry, seafood, eggs) from other foods while cooking AND in the fridge. Keep raw foods at the bottom of the fridge where they cannot drip onto other foods. If this isn’t always possible, place these raw foods onto a bowl or plate with a raised edge to catch all the drippings and make sure they do not touch cooked or ready-to-eat foods nearby.
  2. USE a separate cutting board and knife for raw foods and cooked foods. If you don’t have two sets of cutting boards and knives, you may use the same board and knife ONLY IF you wash both of them thoroughly with hot soapy water between uses. If you’re using a wooden cutting board and you notice it’s got cracks in it, replace it with a new one. You want to avoid using cracked cutting boards because bacteria may be dwelling deep within those cracks, which are hard to clean properly. Consider using  plastic or glass cutting boards to avoid this issue or simply replace your wooden cutting board once it begins to crack.
  3. BEWARE of keeping foods within the DANGER ZONE of 4-60 degrees Celsius (40-140 degrees Fahrenheit) where bacteria can grow very rapidly. Keep cold foods in the fridge below 4 degrees Celsius (40 degrees Fahrenheit) and hot foods above 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit). Defrost frozen foods in the fridge overnight (or over several nights for large items like turkey) instead of on the counter at room temperature. After meals, cool hot foods down quickly and refrigerate as soon as possible. Remember that bacteria grows most quickly in room temperature, and more slowly at cold and hot temperatures.
  4. PRACTICE good hand hygiene by washing your hands with warm soapy water for AT LEAST 20 seconds (sing “Happy Birthday” in the your head twice) before and after handling food, touching pets, cleaning or working, and using the washroom.
  5. COOK all foods to their safe internal cooking temperature before consumption to kill off bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. Using a food thermometer will be the easiest and safest way to check whether you’ve cooked something until it’s hot enough for food safety.
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