If you find yourself pregnant during warmer months, there is probably a backyard barbecue (or three!) on the calendar. But before you fire up that grill or fill up your plate, remember that some of your favorite dishes may be risky for moms-to-be. “Certain foods can harbor bacteria that are particularly dangerous during pregnancy,” explains Mary Lynn, D.O., an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois.
But that doesn’t mean that you have to pass up on the fun and watch wistfully as your friends chow down. With the right precautions, you can enjoy yourself while still staying safe. Read on to learn what foods to watch out for, plus the smart precautions that can protect your pregnancy.
1. Hot Dogs and Deli Meats
The risk factor: These processed meats can harbor Listeria, a type of bacteria that can cause a rare but dangerous infection. “Listeriosis has been associated with miscarriages, stillborn births and birth defects,” warns Lynn.
Play it safe: Since heat can destroy the bacteria, cook hot dogs and deli meats to at least 165°F. If you don’t have a thermometer on hand, make sure that your hot dog is cooked through. “When you slice it open, it should be steaming,” explains Lynn. Steer clear of that tray of cooked frankfurters, since you can’t guarantee that they were heated to the proper temperature (or zap it in the microwave first).
The risk factor: Even if you always order your burgers medium-rare, now’s the time to be wary of undercooked patties. “Pregnancy weakens your immune system, which can leave you more vulnerable to food poisoning,” explains Lynn. Besides Listeria, raw meat can also contain illness-causing E. coli, Staphylococcus, Salmonella and Camplobacter. “Getting sick can bring on dehydration, which may lead to contractions,” says Lynn.
Play it safe: Request a well-done burger, and use a thermometer to make sure the temperature reaches 160°F—the color isn’t a reliable measure of its doneness. And double-check that the chef places finished burgers onto a clean plate, so there’s no cross-contamination.