Fantastic food swaps

With all of the dietary restrictions around pregnancy it is easy to feel confused and unsure of what you can safely eat. Luckily there are many options for you to pick from that can satisfy your cravings! Read on for six ideas of how to swap in pregnancy-safe.

Instead of: Large fish high in mercury, like tuna, sea bass and swordfish
Choose: Smaller fish that are lower in mercury, like salmon, shrimp, freshwater trout, Atlantic haddock, sardines, crab, scallops and tilapia
Even though fish is healthy, large sized fish are higher in mercury and may be harmful to a developing baby’s’ brain and nervous system. Smaller fish have less mercury and are a better choice. Eat 2-3 servings of low-mercury fish per week and try to eat a variety of different types.

Instead of: Cold deli meats
Choose: Cooked deli meats
Your favorite sandwich fillings like ham, turkey, roast beef and even hot dogs are more likely to carry listeria, which is a type of bacteria that can increase the risk of pregnancy loss. Pregnant women are 10 times more likely to get sick from listeria because our immune systems are weaker. So if you can’t resist that turkey sandwich, cook your cold cuts in the microwave until steaming hot before eating. Add a little cheese, lettuce and tomato and you’re ready to have a delicious lunch.

Instead of: Unpasteurized soft cheese, like feta, queso fresco, Brie, Camembert, and Gorgonzola
Choose instead: Any pasteurized cheese
Good news: you can feel safe in choosing soft cheeses as long as it says “made with pasteurized milk” on the label. For the same reason as deli meats, raw and unpasteurized cheeses may carry listeria. However almost all cheese that is sold in major grocery stores in the United States is pasteurized. It still might be a good idea to check the label, though, and ask your waiter if the cheese is pasteurized when dining out at a restaurant.

Instead of: Alcoholic beverages
Choose: Mocktails
You may miss that glass of wine, but a fun part of not drinking alcohol is you can experiment with different types of faux cocktails! A quick Google search will result in thousands of recipes, such as Non-Alcoholic Sangria or Virgin Grapefruit Mojito. When at a restaurant, ask the bartender for their most creative non-alcoholic beverages and you might even start a trend at your table!

Instead of: Caffeinated beverages
Choose: Less caffeine
Too much caffeine during pregnancy is associated with risk of low-birth weight and can increase risk of pregnancy loss. Thankfully, we now know that drinking less than 200 mg per day can be safe, so you can feel comfortable enjoying a small coffee or “half-caff” the next time you visit your local java shop. However, take note that not all caffeinated beverages are created equal. For instance, at Starbucks a Tall Dark Roast coffee has 193 mg caffeine, while a Tall Blonde Roast coffee will have 270 mg caffeine. Other favorites like tea, soda and energy drinks also have caffeine, so check the label. You can go to Caffeine Informer for the estimated caffeine content of different drinks.

Instead of: Homemade foods made with raw eggs
Choose: Store-bought sauces, dressings and desserts
Yummy foods like raw cookie dough, hollandaise sauce, fresh Caesar dressing or desserts like custards and meringue pie are usually made with raw eggs. So this may be the one time where processed foods are safer for you than fresh. If you’re really missing out on your favorite foods made with raw egg, you can cheat and choose commercially prepared options, such as powdered hollandaise, bottled Caesar dressing and pre-packaged custards. These have a much lower risk of carrying Salmonella!

As you can see there are many ways to enjoy the foods you want without risk to your baby, so relax and enjoy your meals without fear!

About the author:

Jennifer is a dietitian passionate about connecting good nutrition with tasty food. She runs a private practice, Nourish for Life, where she works with new moms and parents of young children to help them eat well and have a healthy relationship with food. She is a mom of one tiny human and two fur-babies, and loves creating yummy new recipes in her free time.

  • “Food Safety for Moms-To-Be: While You’re Pregnant – Listeria.” FDA. US Food and Drug Administration, Mar 2016. Web.
  • Kaiser LL, Campbell CG. “Practice Paper of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Abstract: Nutrition and Lifestyle for a Healthy Pregnancy Outcome.” J. Acad. Nutr. Diet. 7:1099-1103. Web. 2014.
  • “Starbucks Nutrition Data.” Starbucks. Starbucks Corporation, 2017. Web.
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