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Pregnancy: 5 Restaurant Foods to Avoid

written by: Ann Olson • edited by: Rhonda Callow • updated: 10/13/2009

Pregnant women need to take caution when eating food--the wrong food could accidentally cause harm to the growing fetus. This need is heightened in restaurants, where dangerous ingredients could be slipped into otherwise safe dishes. Avoid these five entrees to avoid causing any accidental harm.

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    Pregnancy and Restaurants

    Pregnancy can be a wonderful time for women. Eating out and eating more is a commonality, and women may prefer the convenience of eating at a restaurant.

    Some restaurant foods can be potentially dangerous to a woman and her fetus, however. Seafood is an obvious culprit, but other entrees can harbor dangerous bacteria women may not know about. Avoid these five restaurant dishes to prevent transmitting deadly illnesses or infections to the fetus.

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    Restaurant #1: Applebee's Double Crunch Shrimp

    Shrimp isn't prohibited for pregnant women. However, pregnant women can only safely eat 12 ounces of shrimp per week because it still contains traces of mercury, a dangerous chemical that can damage the fetus' nervous system. Applebee's Double Crunch Shrimp contains more a week's serving of shrimp--enough to contain too much mercury for the fetus to handle.

    Solution: If you can't go without this delectable dish, ask your restaurant server for half portions. Although it still contains traces of mercury, it won't be high enough to cause any significant harm to the baby.

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    Restaurant #2: Benihaha's Saba Sashimi

    Saba is Japanese for mackerel, a type of fish used popularly in Japanese cuisine. Saba sashimi is high in mercury, which can damage the fetus. Pregnant women cannot eat any amount of mackerel because the mercury content is too high--even one piece could pose a health risk.

    Solution: Though most restaurant sushi dishes are raw, which raises its harmful effects, not all sushi is off limits. Sushi containing octopus or squid have the lowest amounts of mercury, but make sure to limit your intake to six ounces per week. You can also opt for tempura.

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    Restaurant #3: Red Lobster's Maui Luau Shrimp and Salmon

    It sounds tempting: wood-grilled salmon and shrimp brushed with a tangy, sweet and spicy glaze. But this can be potentially dangerous for pregnant women to consume. The concern here is the shrimp and the salmon, which contains mercury. According to AmericanPregnancy.org, salmon may also contain polychlorinated biphenyls, which can harm the pregnant woman and her fetus. Although Red Lobster's entree sounds delicious, pregnant women should avoid it.

    Solution: Select one of Red Lobster's crab or lobster entrees, and ask for smaller portions to reduce the amount of chemicals you consume. It also compliments an already stretched waistline.

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    Restaurant #4: Subway's Cold Cut Combo

    Pregnant women need meat in their diet--it provides ample amounts of protein--but deli meat can pose a health risk for growing fetuses. Subway's Cold Cut Combo, which is loaded with turkey, ham, and bologna deli meats, is dangerous because it may contain listeria, a bacteria that can cause a life-threatening infection in the fetus. Avoid any deli meats whenever possible, even ones prepared in restaurants--the cold temperature increases the risk of it harboring dangerous bacteria.

    Solution: Can't go without deli meat? Ask your server to cook the meat until it is steaming hot to remove the harmful bacteria. Additionally, Subway's sandwiches are fully customizable and can be made without its deli meat additions.

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    Restaurant #5: Kentucky Fried Chicken's Cole Slaw

    Nothing goes greater with chicken than a side of cole slaw, and the convenience of getting this American favorite from a fast food restaurant is great for tired or stressed pregnant women. But cole slaw contains mayonnaise, an ingredient that could harbor dangerous bacteria. According to the Mayo Clinic, pregnant women should not consume anything containing egg yolks, which is found in mayonnaise, unless it is thoroughly cooked.

    Solution: Skip the cole slaw and have corn on the cob, which is healthier and does not pose a health risk. You can also ask for cole slaw made without mayonnaise, but restaurants may not always fulfill this request.

    Avoiding all five of these dishes is a must for preserving the health of mother and child. Restaurant foods are a great way to relax while pregnant, but some foods are not always safe--especially with the increased rise of restaurant portions.