Making safe food choices during pregnancy

March 19, 2019

By Chrystal Okonta, USDA

Happy National Nutrition Month! Every mom wants to make healthy food choices for themselves and their children. But are you also making safe food choices? Choose these foods to help keep you and your baby safe during pregnancy.

Choose This ⇒ Fully cooked fish and seafood | Not That ⊗ Raw fish and seafood

You may love sushi, but don’t eat it when you are pregnant. Raw fish and seafood can have harmful germs that can cause you to be sick. The good news is that cooking kills those germs. Choose seafood that’s fully cooked to 145°F. Check the temperature with a food thermometer. When seafood is fully cooked, it should be white, opaque, flaky and cut easily with a fork.

Choose This  Pasteurized milk, juice, cider and cheese | Not That ⊗  Unpasteurized products

Have you heard of raw milk? Raw milk isn’t safe during pregnancy because it’s not pasteurized. If a food is pasteurized, it’s heated to kill harmful germs. Unpasteurized foods are not safe for pregnant women. Make sure your milk, juice, cider and cheese are pasteurized. You can find them in the refrigerated section of your grocery store. Check product labels to make sure the food is pasteurized. Pick cheese made with pasteurized milk or hard cheeses like cheddar, instead of soft ones, like feta or brie.

Choose This  Eggs with firm yolks | Not That ⊗ Raw or runny eggs

Sunnyside up, soft boiled, or poached? Just say NO to undercooked eggs during your pregnancy! Eggs should be cooked until the yolks are firm. Cook quiches or egg casseroles to 165°F.

Choose This   Homemade deli salads, reheated deli meats and hot dogs | Not That ⊗ Premade or cold deli products

Premade or cold deli products, including deli salads and hot dogs, can cause trouble during pregnancy. They may be contaminated with bacteria called Listeria, which can be harmful for pregnant women and their children. Instead, make your own deli salads at home, and when you’re done, get them in the fridge within 2 hours. Don’t eat cold deli meats or hot dogs. Reheat them until they are steaming hot just before serving. Don’t keep leftovers for more than 3-4 days

Choose This  Cooked sprouts | Not That ⊗ Raw sprouts

Many people eat raw sprouts, like alfalfa or mung bean, to be healthy. But this isn’t safe during pregnancy. Cook your sprouts thoroughly – boiling works well. Before you eat other raw fruits and veggies, rinse them well.

Choose This  Fully cooked meat and poultry | Not That ⊗ Undercooked or raw meat and poultry

Are you craving meat during your pregnancy? Make sure it’s fully cooked! Don’t use color, touch or time to tell if your food is done. The only safe way to know if meat and poultry are fully cooked is to make sure they reach a safe internal temperature. Cook whole cuts of meat to 145°F, ground meat to 160°F and chicken and poultry to 165°F. Check the temperature with a food thermometer.

With these safer food choices, you can have a healthy and happy National Nutrition Month!

Do you have food safety questions? Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or email or chat via Ask Karen (English/Inglés) or Pregúntele a Karen (Spanish/Español).

Chrystal Okonta works with Food Safety Education at the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. She is a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, pursuing a Master’s degree in Health Education and Health Communication.