What’s off the Table (Literally) for Pregnant Meghan Markle?

Learn why food safety is important during pregnancy and how to remain safe.
November 2, 2018
By Christine Dobbin

If you haven’t already heard, spoiler alert, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are pregnant. While the news has spread much joy across the Commonwealth, some hold concern for the health of Meghan, 37, and the royal baby. 

If being pregnant and royal isn’t reason enough for prying eyes, women over the age of 35, like Markle, face a greater possibility of complications. This is due to a higher probability of an abnormal embryo, a term called “geriatric pregnancy”. A scholarly review of over 15 international studies on geriatric pregnancies revealed that the most serious health risk associated with pregnancy after the age of 35 are diet-related.

Though what someone eats, pregnant or not, is completely their own decision, there’s plenty of food research out there aimed at helping expecting mums navigate which foods to eat and which to avoid. Why? Well, foodborne illnesses are a concern for all of us, and mums-to-be are definitely no exception as high-risk foods can hinder or harm the development of unborn children.

It seems likely that self-proclaimed foodie, Meghan, will have to ditch some of her favourite foods for a while. Here’s a look at how she and other women may want to adjust their diets during pregnancy. 

Sushi (Raw Fish)

As a California native, sushi is a staple in Meghan’s diet. While the FDA recommends pregnant women eat 2-3 servings of fish a week, it shouldn’t be consumed raw as it can contain harmful viruses and bacteria that cause food poisoning. King mackerel, marlin, tuna, and swordfish should be avoided altogether due to high mercury levels. 

Soft Cheeses

The Duchess has been known to regularly eat watermelon and feta salad. However the CDC has recommended that pregnant women avoid soft cheeses as they’re often unpasteurized and can contain Listeria, a harmful bacteria. That means that Markle's favourite, feta, is on the no-no list among others like Brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheeses and Mexican style cheeses such as queso fresco. Hard and semi-soft cheeses are safe to consume as well as pasteurized, processed cheeses.

Raw and Undercooked Eggs

On her now-inactive social media account, Meghan often posted photos of her favourite breakfast, an omelette with fresh herbs, cheese and toast. Though she can still eat eggs, she’ll have to make sure they are fully cooked to avoid exposure to bacteria such as Salmonella. In order to destroy the bacteria, eggs need to be cooked until the yolks and whites are firm. That means no soft-boiled, poached, over-easy, or runny eggs. Also keep an eye out for raw egg in things like Caesar salad dressing, custards, and sauces. 

Unwashed Produce

Speaking of fresh herbs, Meghan will have to be very careful with them on her salads. Any herbs or produce, that haven’t been washed thoroughly are another potential source of bacteria that cause foodborne illness. This is especially true for baby as they are more susceptible to pesticides than Mom at critical times of development. And when it comes to raw sprouts, skip them altogether. Bacteria can get into the sprout seeds before the sprouts are grown and become practically impossible to wash out. 

Cold Cuts and Deli-Style Meats

Despite her mostly vegan diet, Meghan has been known to indulge in the occasional charcuterie board. However, uncooked cold meats like salami, prosciutto and pepperoni can contain parasites that cause infections such as Toxoplasmosis. Freezing these meats at home can make them safe to eat, but typically they're better off avoided. For other meats such as steak, pregnant women should always opt for them cooked well done.

Unpasteurized Juices and Drinks

Meghan is a regular juicer and has advocated for the health benefits of kombucha, a probiotic-rich fermented tea. Similarly to soft cheeses, these juices are dangerous during pregnancy because they’re unpasteurized and can harbour bacteria causing illness for mom and baby. It’s the fermentation process that kills these bacteria so instead, opt for smoothies made with pasteurized juices and whole fruits.

Unfortunately, food poisoning is common and can take up to 48-hours for symptoms to show. If you become sick from Salmonella, Listeria, Toxoplasmosis, or other harmful bacterias, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately, especially while pregnant.

Whether or not Markle alters her diet is ultimately up to her. We have a feeling she will though, because as the saying goes, “Mum knows best”.