You’re pregnant and the only thing that you’re really after is some good Chinese food. But is it safe to eat Chinese food when you are pregnant?
Are there any ingredients that you should be aware of that might be best to avoid? What dishes can you eat safely?
To be honest most Chinese food is perfectly fine to eat when pregnant as long as it is served hot. But that said there are some ingredients that are safer than others for pregnant women.
Chinese food can have a lot more sugar and salt in certain dishes that you may not be aware of. What about MSG? We are going to answer all these questions and more for you below.
In this article
- Is Chinese Food Bad During Pregnancy?
- Common Chinese Pregnancy Food Folk Law
- Risky Chinese Food For Pregnant Women
- Chinese Foods That Are Safe To Eat While Pregnant
- Is MSG In Chinese Food Safe When Pregnant?
- Is Soy Sauce Safe When Pregnant?
- Homemade vs Takeout vs Chinese Restaurant Food
- The Final Thought
Is Chinese Food Bad During Pregnancy?
When we refer to Chinese food we mean the Chinese-American food that you get from restaurants and takeaways.
A lot of the food that is found outside of China has been adjusted to suit a Western palate. If you are eating authentic Chinese food then some of these principles and concerns may not apply.
Chinese food is not particularly bad for you, but it is not the healthiest choice to make during pregnancy or at any other time. Many Chinese dishes contain a tremendous amount of sugar and salt.
Many dishes are also deep-fried which means they are super high in fat and calories.
The other reason that many people may think that Chinese food is not safe to consume while pregnant is to do with the reactions from MSG rather than the actual Chinese food.
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But if you know what ingredients to avoid then you can still enjoy Chinese food safely.
Chinese food is very often high in salt, some dishes have five times more salt content that a McDonald’s Big Mac.
There appears to be no significant difference between Chinese food bought from a supermarket or from restaurants and many dishes contain 3 g of salt per dish.
This is over half the recommended daily intake of salt recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) which recommends 5g of salt maximum per day.
While pregnant your salt requirements are the same as when you are not pregnant. But too much salt in your diet can affect your blood pressure, and lead to swelling during pregnancy.
Chinese dishes can be super high in sugar. But it does depend on what sauce is used. Staples of any Chinese restaurant or takeaway such as orange chicken, and sweet and sour dishes, and Tso’s chicken all have very high sugar content.
For example, one serving of sweet and sour pork in a restaurant can have 62.9g of sugar. That is nearly three times the daily recommended sugar intake for women.
Consuming too much sugar when you are pregnant can increase your chances of developing gestational diabetes and it can also have a negative impact on your unborn baby’s brain development.
Calories and Fat
Many deep-fried dishes are high in fat. In exactly the same way as any other cuisine that deep-fries food, they are best eaten in moderation as they very quickly add unnecessary calories and saturated fat.
Some examples of Chinese food that is deep-fried and should be consumed in moderation are won tons, prawn crackers, spring rolls, and banana or apple fritters.
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Common Chinese Pregnancy Food Folk Law
We may laugh at these Chinese folk laws but they are no different from any other culture. Every culture has its own folk laws, especially around pregnancy and birth.
These are some of the common Chinese beliefs, eating a dish of crabs will grant your child an extra toe or finger and also make them mischievous. Drinking milk will lighten the baby’s skin. Squid will make your womb sticky.
This kind of folk law is lost more and more with every generation as the modern mother stops believing these old customs.
But even in our modern society with all its technology and scientific breakthroughs pregnancy and childbirth seem to be an area where remnants of these often forgotten folk laws remain.
Risky Chinese Food For Pregnant Women
Here are a few dishes that you should really try to avoid for various reasons when you are pregnant.
Chinese Cheese Lobster with noodles, Yunnan Rushan Sticks
If you are opting for any dishes that contain cheese, make sure that the cheese is well cooked and has been heated to extreme heat levels. This will ensure that any bacteria is killed off.
These dishes often contain mold-ripened cheeses or soft blue vein cheeses which are full of moisture and are a great breeding place for bacteria. If you eat infected cheese it could make you very ill and put your unborn baby at severe risk.
Chinese Liver and Onions, Stir-Fried Liver or Liver Sausages
Liver is one to avoid when you are pregnant as it contains too much vitamin A which can be harmful when pregnant.
You can have raw or partially cooked fish in the form of Sushi if they have been frozen first.
Chinese Foods That Are Safe To Eat While Pregnant
Here are some common Chinese food dishes that are safe to eat while pregnant but they may not be the healthiest choice.
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These are safe to eat while you are pregnant but you may want to take note that they are fried meaning that they are high in fat. They are around 223 calories per egg roll and 96 of which come from fat alone.
Again another popular Chinese food that is safe to eat while pregnant but again it is fried so will be high in fat.
This is a delicious and healthy option. Wonton wrappers are filled with ground pork or chicken and are served in a broth. As the wontons contain meat you want to ensure that the soup is served to you piping hot.
Steamed dumplings are one of the healthiest options you can choose when eating in a Chinese restaurant. They are filled with meat, vegetables, or fish. Again make sure that they are piping hot when they arrive at your table and you eat them freshly made.
Sweet and Sour Dishes
Chinese sweet and sour dishes contain high amounts of sugar and salt this is what gives them their salty-sweet flavor. And in addition to this, the meat used is often deep-fried.
So while these dishes may be safe to eat they are not really the healthiest choice and should be eaten in moderation.
This is a stir-fried noodle dish and can be relatively healthy if it is stir-fried in light oil and contains lots of fresh vegetables and lean protein.
General Tso’s Chicken
While one of the most popular Chinese main dishes it is also one of the unhealthiest. Chicken is breaded, deep-fried, and served in a sugary sauce.
One order has around 1578 calories. Again although this dish is safe to eat while pregnant it is best to eat in moderation.
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Is MSG In Chinese Food Safe When Pregnant?
MSG is also known as Ajinomoto or monosodium glutamate occurs naturally in a lot of foods such s cheese and tomatoes. It is the sodium salt of glutamic acid which is a common amino acid.
In fact, we carry this acid in our bodies. But sometimes it is added to food as a flavor enhancer and is particularly common in Chinese food.
Generally, MSG is safe to be added to food according to the FDA and this does include its use in Chinese food. With this in mind, MSG is also considered safe to consume during pregnancy and as long as you do not have a strong sensitivity to it you shouldn’t really need to avoid it.
Some people do react to MSG and there is no scientific reason as of yet. But some symptoms such as headaches, palpitations, numbness, flushing or tingling were experienced when consuming more than 3 grams of MSG.
Is Soy Sauce Safe When Pregnant?
Soy sauce is safe to enjoy whilst you are pregnant as long as it is being consumed as part of a balanced and healthy diet.
Soy sauce has a very high sodium content and contains 879mg of sodium per tablespoon which is 37% of your daily intake. But it is very low in calories at just 8.5 calories per tablespoon.
Homemade vs Takeout vs Chinese Restaurant Food
Rice and Chinese noodles are high on the list of the most craved foods by pregnant women. Many people think that it is the MSG content that causes the cravings, yet scientists still have no idea of the true cause.
But there is always good news, as with any other type of cuisines you can make it at home in a much healthier way.
Some ways to make healthier Chinese dishes
- Use oyster sauce or chili sauce as a flavoring or dip rather than soy sauce.
- Use light oils for stir-frying and avoid deep-fried food.
- Choose steamed brown rice that is low in fat and full of nutrients.
- For fried dishes such as wontons, dumplings, and egg rolls make your own baked versions.
- Add lots of Chinese vegetables to your dishes
The Final Thought
Now that we have covered the reasons why Chinese food is safe to eat while pregnant and also any folk law that accompanies it. You can go and enjoy your favorite meal risk-free.
But what you do still need to consider is the amount of salt, sodium, fat, and sugar that is in some dishes and that there may be a healthier and just as delicious alternative.