In the world of prenatal nutrition, it is well known that pregnancy slightly suppresses the immune system. This can make the body more sensitive and susceptible to foodborne illnesses. These illnesses can lead to more serious complications for the mother and the baby’s health. Some foodborne illnesses can actually affect the growing baby even when the mother is feeling totally fine. This is why it is so important to follow food safety recommendations and best practices.
Today, we’re sharing a roundup of food safety tips that can help reduce the risk and keep you and your baby worry-free throughout your pregnancy.
10 Tips To Ensure Food Safety During Pregnancy
Thoroughly Wash Fruits and Vegetables
It is essential to wash your fruits and veggies before eating. Wash all produce before eating regardless of whether it will be peeled or not. Washing produce helps to reduce the risk of harmful bacteria and pesticides. The FDA recommends thoroughly washing all fruits and veggies before eating with plain running water. Soap is not needed. As an extra precaution, feel free to use a vegetable brush on hard produce, like melons.
Clean Surfaces and Utensils Often
As a rule of thumb during pregnancy, always be sure to thoroughly clean surfaces that are used for prepping and preparing food! Harmful bacteria can live on these surfaces. And increase the risk of foodborne illnesses. Wash countertops, dishes, and utensils with warm water and soap. Also, be sure to regularly clean all dish rags. These are often forgotten! And, don’t forget to replace your dish sponges regularly, too! Lastly, be sure to clean those small surfaces like stove knobs, the lids of seasoning jars, and faucets, too.
Wash Your Hands Often
As mentioned earlier, your immune system is slightly suppressed during pregnancy. This is one more reason why it is so important to wash your hands regularly! Bacteria and germs can stay on your hands and affect the mother and baby’s health. While pregnant and even after delivery, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly and often. Great times to wash your hands are after using the restroom, before and after cooking. Or after visiting places outside the home.
Use a Meat Thermometer
When consuming any type of meat or poultry during pregnancy, it is essential to make sure that it is cooked thoroughly. Consuming raw or undercooked meat can increase the risk of exposure to harmful bacteria and parasites. Exposure can lead to foodborne illness. When cooking meat, poultry, or seafood use a thermometer to check temperatures. This is a great one. The FDA provides a list of safe cooking temperatures.
Defrost Raw Meat Properly
When pregnant, it is important to make sure you are defrosting meat properly. This helps to reduce the risk of harmful bacteria growing and foodborne illnesses. According to the FDA, the three safe ways to thaw food are: in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave.
Avoid thawing meat at room temperature on the counter or in the sink.
Avoid Raw or Undercooked Shellfish
When pregnant, it is best practice to avoid raw or undercooked shellfish. Shellfish should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145 F. In addition to thoroughly cooking seafood, pregnant women should be aware of which seafood options are safe to consume during pregnancy and which should be avoided. Pregnant women should stick to high-quality, low-mercury options. Like salmon and cod, and should avoid seafood high in mercury like king mackerel and shark.
Avoid Unpasteurized Juice and Dairy Products
Dairy and fruit can be great additions to your prenatal diet, including a healthy pregnancy lunch. Unpasteurized dairy and juices are at an increased risk of being contaminated with harmful bacteria. These foods have a greater chance of containing harmful bacteria. And these foods have been linked to foodborne illness outbreaks.
As fruits are peeled for juicing, their raw skin is exposed and can pick up bacteria from unclean hands or surfaces. When consuming dairy or juices it is best practice to choose pasteurized options. The pasteurization process reduces the chances of harmful bacteria. Contamination with harmful bacteria can hurt your unborn baby. Be sure to also check out our list of what not to drink while pregnant for more information. To learn more about juicing or celery juice, join The Prenatal Nutrition Library.
Use Separate Meat and Produce Cutting Boards
It’s recommended to have separate cutting boards for meat and produce to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. Also, be sure to clean your cutting boards before you use them. Similar to surfaces and utensils, cutting boards can also harbor harmful bacteria when not thoroughly cleaned. When cutting boards become worn or get cracks they should be discarded. Grooves and cracks can be a holding place for bacteria too, even when washed.
Avoid Pre-Cut Fruits and Vegetables
Pre-cut produce is more often linked to foodborne illness outbreaks. It has more exposures, points of contact, and opportunities to be contaminated in its journey to your plate. To reduce risk when eating fruits and vegetables, avoid pre-cut produce. And make sure that you are thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables before eating.
The best option is to purchase whole fruits and vegetables, wash them, and cut them yourself. For example, purchasing whole heads of lettuce versus bagged salads.
Avoid Raw Sprouts
There are many types of sprouts including radish, mung bean, alfalfa, and clover. Sprouts’ growing environment is very “bacteria-friendly”. They have caused many foodborne illness outbreaks. For this reason, they are considered a high-risk food when pregnant. Raw sprouts should be avoided unless thoroughly cooked to 165 F. If dining out, make your meals sprout-free. Double-check any sandwiches and salads that you may consume outside of the home for raw sprouts.
Food Safety is Essential During Pregnancy
Food safety is key during pregnancy! Pregnancy slightly suppresses your immune system which makes it easier to get sick. In the instance of a foodborne illness, the consequences could also be more severe than outside of pregnancy. But, there is no need to worry! Put these food safety tips into practice.
Be sure to check out The Prenatal Nutrition Library to feel confident in your food choices for two during pregnancy and find more tips and tricks for healthy eating during pregnancy. Also, be sure to download The Prenatal Nutrition Library app to have all this information right at your fingertips!