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The list of "banned food items" during pregnancy has now grown to the extent where you may start wondering if anything is safe to eat. Are the fears really warranted, or have we gone too far?

So, you're newly pregnant? Congratulations!

My "crunchy granola" midwife used to tell me that pregnancy is about so much more than physically gestating, or "cooking" that baby. Pregnancy, she said, is a unique rite of passage during with mothers-to be get the chance to emotionally prepare themselves for the road ahead, gradually going from "I have no idea what I'm doing", to "yes, I'm ready for that baby!"

She was right. The nature of parenting has sure changed since my midwife, now a grandmother, had her first baby. Increasingly, parenting has been turning into one giant risk-assessment exercise, in which managing or micro-managing your child's safety by removing anything that could possibly be posing a danger is top priority. Today's world isn't the world you grew up in, and pregnancy will absolutely give you a "taste" of that, one that will perfectly prepare you for the remaining 18 years of your unborn child's life.

When your mother was pregnant with you, and mine with me, they knew that they should not be getting drunk and ought to be eating healthy foods, but their pregnancies didn't come with ginormous lists of banned food items like yours now does.

What do people think you should be staying away from now, and have we gone a little over-board with pregnancy food restrictions as a society?

Welcome To Pregnancy 'Law School': Here Are Your Food Rules

First off, pathogens. Listeria monocytogenes and Toxoplasma gondii are the major ones, because they could, together, potentially lead to miscarriage, preterm birth, blindness, hearing loss, intellectual disabilities, and even the death of your baby. Pregnant women, the Food and Drug Administration warns, should avoid raw or undercooked meat, poultry, and shellfish, pate, and smoked meats, along with unpasteurized milk and cheeses. Due to numerous other pathogens, you also need to make very sure you wash your fresh vegetables very carefully, avoid leaving foods out at room temperature for any length of time, avoid unpasteurized fruit juices, raw eggs, and even, according to some, any store-bought fresh foods such as sandwiches. 

Next up, well, let's delve into the complicated world of fish. Eating fish during pregnancy is incredibly healthy and may even, new research suggests, decrease the risk that your child will have autism. However, you know all about the risks of mercury-laden fish, so stay away from shark, swordfish, or marlin, and limit your consumption of tuna and tilefish, among others, to just twice a week. Some oily fish, like mackerel, contain rather high levels of vitamin A, too much of which can be detrimental as well. Again, guidelines say, stick to just twice a week. Some pregnant women, having heard that fish can pose risks, simply avoid it altogether.

There's more, of course. We could write a book entirely devoted to foods to stay away from during pregnancy and related advice, but because the FDA has already basically done just that (see links box below), we don't need to.

Caffeine may increase your miscarriage risk, no amount of alcohol has been deemed safe for consumption during pregnancy and your child may just get Fetal Alcohol Syndrome from that one glass of wine you once had, eating peanuts may (or may not) boost your child's risk of serious food allergies, and by the way, you better eat all-organic if you really want your baby to have the best start in life. Too much sugar is bad, too much salt is bad, too much processed food is bad.

Bad, bad, bad.

Do you really need to feel like you're walking in a food minefield during your pregnancy, though?
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