Can Pregnant Women Eat Chinese Food? Is it Safe?

Chinese food is an awesome culinary treat that’s bound to spice up your dining experience. It’ll be an adventure for your taste palette, but can you eat Chinese food while pregnant? What ingredients, cooking styles or seasoning do you need to be wary of?

Some of the most common ingredients in Chinese food are tofu, soy sauce, and oyster sauce. These three are relatively high in sodium, so be mindful of your intake. Most other common ingredients (ginger, garlic, and bean sprouts) either don’t contribute to high blood pressure or actively reduce it, so you mostly have to consider the first three ingredients.

While you can eat Chinese food while pregnant, try steering towards healthier cooking methods like steaming, grilling, or boiling. Fried and deep-fried food is usually very high in both calories and fat content, and the oil may have been reused from prior cooks.

MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) isn’t actually dangerous – pregnant women eating Chinese food shouldn’t worry about this, as MSG has lower sodium content than table salt. It’s an overall healthier option, but do note that some people may be allergic to this seasoning.   

So yes, you can eat Chinese food while pregnant – just be mindful of the ingredients and how they’re being cooked. Don’t be afraid to ask your server for more information if you’re uncertain.

Common Ingredients in Chinese Cuisine

chinese food

Chinese cuisine is very hard to generalize, but you’ll usually encounter ingredients like tofu, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, green onions, bean sprouts, and oyster sauce in your meals.

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These ingredients are fine for pregnant women, but you do need to be mindful of the sauces – both soy sauce and oyster sauce are high in sodium, which increases blood pressure. High blood pressure places more strain on a pregnant woman’s heart and kidneys, so bear that in mind.

Seafood

Chinese cuisine is also very generous with seafood, which pregnant women ought to avoid. This is because most popular kinds of seafood (i.e. king mackerel, shark) have high Mercury content, which has toxic effects on infant health when ingested – sometimes even inducing birth defects.

However, it’s important to note that some seafood, like crawfish, can be safe for pregnant women to eat in moderation, as long as they are properly cooked and sourced from reliable places.

Common Allergies

Chinese cuisine often makes use of ingredients like sesame, soy, and peanuts. Peanut allergies are especially prevalent, and even using the same oil can provoke an allergic reaction.

Make it a point to let the restaurant know about the food allergies you might have – this is doubly important if you’re requesting a dish that usually uses these ingredients. Even trace allergens from a reused cooking implement could be problematic, so play it safe and warn them beforehand.

Cooking Style and Seasoning Preferences

steamed dumplings

Pregnant women should lean more toward steamed, boiled, or stir-fried dishes. This applies to not only Chinese cuisine but their general diet while pregnant. These methods abstain from adding unwanted components and have a better chance of retaining their ingredient’s nutritional value.

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Fried and deep-fried foods aren’t ideal for pregnant women to snack on, and definitely shouldn’t be eaten as their main course. These cooking methods load their meals with fats, oils, and calories, to the point where the health benefits of their ingredients effectively end up negated.

Additionally, steer clear of cold cuts. Chinese cuisine loves to make use of cold cuts as appetizers, but these may carry unwanted bacteria (i.e. Listeria) that won’t be heat-treated.

That’s not to say pregnant women can’t eat cold cuts – they just need to reheat them first (to 165°F or 74°C) to kill these contaminants. However, doing that defeats the purpose of eating cold cuts in the first place.

What about Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)?

msg

MSG got a bad reputation during the 1960s due to a medical hoax being blown out of proportion by the media, which led to a long-term distrust of Chinese food for decades after. Now that the hysteria has passed though, we now know that MSG is perfectly safe to season food with.

MSG has long been FDA-approved and is actually healthier than salt – boasting a third of its sodium content, making it a better option for pregnant women watching their sodium intake.

While some people do have MSG allergies, these tend to be the exceptions rather than the rule. On a general basis, MSG isn’t dangerous to eat – it’s no more dangerous than salt would be. Don’t buy into the decade-old hysteria and give MSG a fair shake!

Final Thoughts

All in all, you can eat Chinese food while pregnant. Just make sure that they’re using fresh ingredients and preparing the meals properly, and bring up any allergies you may have ASAP.

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Pregnant women need to be mindful of their sodium intake, but that rule applies to most cuisine – not just Chinese food.

That said, we’d still recommend that you consult with your doctor before making this decision – make it a point to mention what Chinese dishes you’d like to eat alongside their key ingredients.

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