Being pregnant

3 holiday foods pregnant women should avoid (and 3 foods you can enjoy)

Here's how pregnant women can eat safely during the holiday party season.

By Rosie Schwartz, RD
pregnant woman during the holidays Photo: iStockphoto

The holidays are finally here, and it’s time for all the season has to offer. While alcohol may not be on the menu, there are many yummy delights to enjoy during the festive feasting. But when you’re pregnant, it’s wise to have a game plan to keep you and your baby safe, as common everyday foods may pose a risk.

Firstly, don’t be shy: if certain offerings appeal, ask how they’re prepared and with what ingredients. It’s key to avoiding any problems.

Steer clear of:

Cheese plates containing soft and unpasteurized cheeses

Soft cheeses such as brie, Camembert, along with blue-veined types, can carry the listeria bacteria. For most healthy adults, the bacteria may not cause any serious problem; this is not the case for pregnant women where listeriosis (the name of the infection) can lead to miscarriage, early delivery or stillbirth. The symptoms are similar to the flu (nausea, vomiting, fever and headache) and may appear anytime between two and 30 days after exposure.

And even if you’re avoiding these particular cheeses on a platter, there can be cross-contamination. So play it safe and skip the hard ones as well if they’re on the same plate and are being cut with the same knife.


Raw and most smoked fish

As raw fish can be the source of parasites and bacteria, avoid raw fish-containing sushi and marinated raw fish dishes such as ceviches. Keep in mind that sushi platters that contain both fish and vegetarians options may lead to cross-contamination.

Smoked fish, unless it’s produced using heat (and is called "hot smoked") can be a source of listeria, so while smoked salmon may not seem to be raw, in most cases it’s not cooked.

Charcuterie, pates and deli meats

Smoked and processed meats and deli options, even plain deli roast turkey, can harbour listeria. Consider that the roast turkey, for example,  may be sliced at the deli counter using the same slicers or knives as the processed meat. If the meat has been heated to safe temperatures, something you can do at home, then it’s a different story.


Be on the lookout for various options such as bite-sized sandwich combos or pinwheels (turkey or smoked salmon with other assorted ingredients wrapped in tortillas or bread).


Hard cheeses

Pasteurized hard cheeses like cheddar, Emmenthal, Gouda, Parmesan and havarti are examples of cheeses you can enjoy along with any condiments such as red pepper jelly or assorted mustards. But again, be aware of any potential sources of cross-contamination in either the cheeses or condiments.

Dips (like hummus and guacamole)


Go for these types of dips: bean, guacamole and spinach and artichoke (to name a few). Load up on vegetable crudités, if they’re available, or some crackers and chips if you like. But try to moderate the fat-laden options as they may fill you up and leave you with little room for other goodies.

Skewers of home-cooked fish, meat or poultry

All manner of satays and dipping sauces are popular party fare these days, and as long as they’re cooked through, they’re a super option to savour.

This article was originally published in November 2011.

This article was originally published on Nov 14, 2016

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