Holiday foods to avoid when pregnant

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ST. LOUIS, MO — During the holidays, many of us tell ourselves, "I'm going to indulge."  But what about women who are expecting a baby? The same rules do not apply. Dr. Kristin Wheeler is an Ob-Gyn with SSM Health DePaul.  She is here to talk about it.

Pregnancy weakens your immune system and makes you more vulnerable to food-borne illnesses that could make you sick and harm your baby. Cook meats thoroughly, use a thermometer, avoid sauces, unpasteurized juices are unsafe to drink during pregnancy because they can contain bacteria, including E. coli.

  • Turkey and stuffing:Cook turkey until it reaches an internal temperature of 180 degrees F. (Use a meat thermometer to check it.) If you're preparing stuffing (also known as dressing), cook it in a separate baking dish to 165 degrees F. The inside of a stuffed turkey doesn't get hot enough to kill harmful bacteria.
  • Carving stations:Make sure the meat is cooked well-done and is still steaming hot. Unless you're sure they're well cooked, avoid sauces like béarnaise, hollandaise, and aioli, which can contain uncooked eggs.
  • Unpasteurized cider and juice:Make sure apple cider (whether hot or cold) is pasteurized before you drink it. Unpasteurized juices, including cider, are unsafe to drink during pregnancy because they can contain bacteria, including E. coli. Almost all juice sold is pasteurized, and unpasteurized juice sold in containers must be labeled as such.
  • Unpasteurized soft cheeses:Stay away from soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk. Unpasteurized or "raw milk" cheeses may contain listeria, which is killed during the pasteurization process.
    The FDA recommends checking the label of any soft cheese to make sure it says "made with pasteurized milk." If you can't check the label – if you're at a party, for example – avoid blue cheese and soft cheeses (including Brie, Camembert, goat cheese, feta, and Roquefort) and Mexican-style cheeses (like queso fresco, queso blanco, and panela).
    If you're not sure which cheeses are safe, stick with hard cheeses, like cheddar and Swiss, and semi-soft cheeses, like Monterey jack and mozzarella. Cream cheese and pasteurized processed cheeses like American are also safe.
  • Smoked meats and meat spreads:If you're serving meat spreads (like pâté), or smoked fish (such as smoked salmon or trout), make sure they're canned, not from the refrigerated section of the grocery store. Refrigerated meat spreads and smoked meats, fish, and shellfish can contain listeria, so it's only safe to eat them if they're heated until steaming or part of a dish that has been cooked.
  • Sushi:Avoid sushi trays with raw fish, which may contain parasites and bacteria. If you're a sushi fan, opt instead for a California roll made with avocado and cooked crab. Although raw fish poses little direct risk to your baby, if you get ill from sushi you'll probably suffer from vomiting and dehydration, which can affect your unborn baby.
  • Eggnog:Homemade eggnog is generally off-limits because it's usually made with raw, unpasteurized eggs – and alcohol. But you can make a virgin, pregnancy-safe version at home with pasteurized eggs, a pasteurized egg product, or an egg alternative. Or try store-bought eggnog (just check the label to make sure the eggs are pasteurized).
    You might also consider "soy nog," which doesn't contain eggs or any other dairy products. You can find it during the winter holidays in most large grocery stores and in natural food stores.
    You'll also want to avoid desserts that may contain raw or undercooked eggs, like some custards, mousse, and homemade ice cream.
  • Fruitcake and other alcoholic food items:Fruitcake and other desserts that use alcohol as an ingredient are generally okay, because most of the alcohol burns off during cooking. If the fruitcake has been soaked in rum or other liquor after being baked, however, little of the alcohol will have evaporated and you should probably not eat it.
  • It's important to be vigilant against germs and bacteria in the kitchen. Wash your hands frequently when preparing meals, and be careful to clean any surface that has come in contact with raw meat or eggs before using it for other foods. Use separate cutting boards for poultry and produce, and keep uncooked poultry and meat chilled in the refrigerator and separate from other food items.
  • Don't leave leftovers out for longer than two hours, and store them in shallow containers so they'll cool quickly. Set your refrigerator between 35 and 40 degrees F and your freezer at or below zero to keep cold foods from going bad.


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