Pregnant woman eating a sandwich

Fact or fiction: safe foods

The list of foods you're not supposed to eat during pregnancy can be mind-boggling. Will one sushi roll or a tuna sandwich really make a difference? Registered dietician Bridget Swinney weighs in on the dos and don'ts of food safety when you're expecting.

Giving up your favorite foods isn't fun, and it's OK to give in to pregnancy cravings once in a while. The question of what's safe to eat during pregnancy is best answered by what's not.

Some fish is fine, but skip sushi

High mercury content in fish like ahi tuna, orange roughy, swordfish and others can be dangerous, but it doesn't mean you need to cut fish out of your diet. Some fish — like trout, tilapia, shrimp, crab, mussels, barramundi and canned, light tuna — is actually good for you and your growing baby, according to Bridget Swinney, MS, RD, LD, author of Eating Expectantly: Practical Advice for Healthy Eating Before, During and After Pregnancy (Fourth Edition).

She says, "The truth is that fish really is brain food and there are plenty of fish that are healthy and safe to eat. I recommend that pregnant women eat up to 12 ounces of fish per week of the safe choices."

But unfortunately for sushi-loving moms-to-be, even if you've eaten at your favorite sushi bar for years without any issues, Swinney says it's better to be safe than sorry during pregnancy. She explains, "There is no way of knowing how the fish was handled up to the point of eating it, so in my opinion, even eating one piece of raw fish could be dangerous."

Learn more about why you should skip sushi during pregnancy >>

Lay off lunch meats

While there's no harm in making a sandwich with leftover home-cooked meat or poultry, it's best to stay away from processed lunch meats as well due to the risk of listeria, a bacteria that causes food-borne illness. According to the Center for Disease Control, pregnant women are 13 percent more likely than the general population to get it and it can cause miscarriage and even affect your newborn. Swinney says listeria is a risk when eating hot dogs, deli salads and smoked seafood unless heated to steaming first.

Find out about picnic foods pregnant women should avoid >>

Indulge once in a while

No pickles and ice cream? What about late night pizza runs? It's OK to indulge cravings, but Swinney's upcoming book includes healthier choices, such as opting for Greek yogurt, guacamole or hummus when craving something creamy; and nuts, olives or edamame with soy sauce for salty, crunchy cravings. As for caffeine, 

Bottom line? Yes, there are foods to stay away from but there are far more that are perfectly fine to eat. Check with your doctor or midwife if you have any questions about food safety in pregnancy.

More about eating while pregnant

Tips for a healthy vegetarian pregnancy
Healthy pregnancy diet
10 foods pregnant women should avoid


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