Is It Safe to Eat Chinese Food during Pregnancy?

Can You Eat Chinese Food While Pregnant?

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Sabiha Anjum (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/Obstetrician Our Panel of Experts

Eating outside food has become a part of the way we socialise today – be it having a good time with family, enjoying one-on-one time with one’s partner at the movies, or even colleagues getting together after work. Being pregnant comes with more intense food cravings than ever, so there’s more of a chance of eating outside food. Though Chinese food rates amongst the most popular cuisines in the world, if you are pregnant, take a pause and contemplate. While you may crave Chinese food during pregnancy, what to avoid something you should know.

Glutamate occurs in natural forms and is present in many fruits and vegetables. It is also present in breast milk. However, MSG (monosodium glutamate) is artificially made – it is said to be excitotoxic, which means that it stimulates the growing brain and nerves when consumed during pregnancy and can lead to the development of autism, schizophrenia, etc. in the baby, as the body cannot distinguish between natural glutamate and MSG and metabolises both.

Is Chinese Food Safe During Pregnancy?

Craving some Chinese takeout during your pregnancy? You might be wondering if it’s safe to chow down on your favorite General Tso’s chicken. Well, good news – you don’t have to give up your go-to Chinese joint just yet! As long as you make some smart menu choices and avoid certain dishes (sorry, raw egg drop soup), you and your little one are safe to enjoy some tasty Chinese cuisine without any worries. So go ahead, order that kung pao shrimp and dig in!

Reasons Pregnant Women Should Avoid Chinese Food

During pregnancy, one should follow a healthy diet as the baby’s health is dependent on the mother’s. You will feel cravings for tasty (and not necessarily healthy) food and snacks, but cravings for Chinese food, especially in the first trimester of pregnancy can have adverse effects on your and your baby’s health. Chinese food should be avoided, especially if it is made at street stalls because the freshness of the ingredients is questionable. This can prove harmful to you and your baby.

Here are the reasons to keep Chinese food off your dining table:

  • Chinese cuisine that is available in India is known to contain MSG – monosodium glutamate. If you are pregnant, it is best to avoid it since it could cause allergic reactions, headaches, and even hot flashes.
  • MSG is used in Chinese food to enhance its taste. The consumption of Chinese food during pregnancy can make your morning sickness worse. It can also cause heart palpitations and numbness around the face and neck area (in extreme allergic reaction cases).
  • The glutamate in MSG can travel through the placenta and can have a telling impact on the brain and nervous system of the baby. The placental barrier protects the baby from acidic food, and MSG can break this barrier and expose your baby to germs and harmful bacteria.
  • MSG contains sodium, which can lead to dehydration, bloating and high blood pressure, especially when consumed regularly. During pregnancy, it causes water retention which can be harmful to the body. It can further complicate things by causing oedema and can enhance pregnancy complications like preeclampsia.
  • If you have been allergic to MSG prior to pregnancy, it is best to stay away from Chinese food. Sleep disturbances, vomiting, nausea and headaches are common reactions; so avoid Chinese food during pregnancy.
  • Non-essential amino acids in MSG can lead to developmental disorders, thus arresting the baby’s growth in the womb.
  • Although our body produces glutamate naturally and it is found in fruits and vegetables, artificial MSG is made by fermenting sugar which is harmful to the health of mother and child. Hence it is best avoided during pregnancy.
  • Seafood can contain high levels of mercury which can damage your baby’s health, and hence should be avoided completely or consumed in limited quantities.

Is It Safe To Eat Chinese Food In Early Pregnancy (The First Trimester)?

If you’re in the early stages of pregnancy, you might be feeling extra cautious about everything you put in your mouth (no judgement, we’ve all been there). So, is it safe to indulge in some yummy Chinese food? Well, as long as you stick to cooked dishes and steer clear of any raw or under cooked ingredients (looking at you, rare beef), you should be good to go. And hey, if you’re still feeling unsure, just remember that fortune cookies always bring good news – so order up!

Chinese Foods That Are Said to Be Helpful During Pregnancy

It is a known fact that due to the presence of excessive amounts of MSG in Chinese food, pregnancy can be affected. However, certain Chinese foods and their ingredients can prove to be beneficial during pregnancy:

1. Chinese/Green Tea

Antioxidants that are present in green tea can prove to be beneficial for your health and your baby’s too. However, check the caffeine content before you consume it.

Chinese/Green Tea

2. Chinese Ginger

This food is well-known for its anti-microbial and anti-viral properties. When included in your diet during pregnancy, it revitalises the body and helps relieve nausea.

Chinese Ginger

3. Congee

Congee is a popular rice porridge that is often eaten as breakfast in China and several other Asian countries. It has a bland taste, but it full of nutrients and very filling. It also helps control nausea during pregnancy.


4. Bean Sprouts

This wonder food contains proteins, phytonutrients and vitamins. It can prove to be beneficial for your baby’s health and brain development.

5. Fresh Tofu

A kind of paneer made out of soy milk, tofu contains many proteins and antioxidants that help in maintaining your health during pregnancy.

6. Coconut Milk

The presence of potassium, magnesium, sugar and protein in coconut milk can boost foetal development to a great extent.

7. Bok Choy

This leafy green veggie is a staple in many Chinese dishes, and it’s loaded with vitamins and minerals that are important for a healthy pregnancy. Plus, its mild flavor makes it an easy addition to stir-fries and soups.

8. Red Dates

These little fruits (also known as jujubes) are often used in traditional Chinese medicine to promote overall health and wellness. During pregnancy, they’re said to help strengthen the uterus and prepare the body for labor. Plus, they’re sweet and chewy, making them a tasty snack on their own or in desserts.

9. Black Sesame Seeds

These tiny seeds are a powerhouse of nutrients, including calcium, iron, and vitamin E. In Chinese culture, they’re often used in sweet treats like sesame seed balls or sprinkled on top of congee for added flavor and nutrition.

10. Shiitake Mushrooms

These flavorful mushrooms are a staple in Chinese cuisine, and they’re also packed with nutrients that are great for pregnant women, like vitamin D and iron. Plus, they add a savory umami flavor to soups, stir-fries, and other dishes.

Chinese Foods To Avoid During Pregnancy

Now that we’ve covered the delicious Chinese foods that are safe and even helpful during pregnancy, let’s talk about the ones you might want to avoid. While it’s tempting to indulge in all your favorite dishes, there are a few that could potentially harm your growing baby. For example, you’ll want to steer clear of any raw or undercooked meats (sorry, beef carpaccio fans), as well as dishes that are high in sodium (hello, soy sauce overload). It’s also best to avoid any dishes made with unpasteurized dairy or raw eggs (so long, runny egg drop soup). By being mindful of what you’re eating, you can still enjoy all the delicious flavors of Chinese cuisine without any worries.

Does Craving Chinese Food Indicate Gender Of Baby?

If you’re pregnant and craving Chinese food, you might be wondering if there’s any truth to the old wives’ tale that certain cravings can predict the gender of your baby. While there’s no scientific evidence to support this claim (sorry, no insider info on your baby’s gender), it’s always a good idea to listen to your body and indulge in the foods that you’re craving (within reason, of course). As long as you’re making smart choices and sticking to safe, cooked dishes, you can enjoy all the flavors of Chinese cuisine without any worries. So go ahead and treat yourself to some General Tso’s chicken or veggie lo mein – your baby will thank you for it!

Homemade Chinese Food Vs Chinese Restaurant Food

Ah, the age-old question: is homemade Chinese food just as good as the stuff you get at your favorite restaurant? Well, the answer is…it depends. While making Chinese food at home can be a fun and rewarding experience, there are some dishes that just taste better when you order them from your go-to takeout joint (we’re looking at you, fried wontons). On the other hand, cooking at home allows you to control the ingredients and customize the flavors to your liking (extra spicy, anyone?). Plus, it can be a great way to save money and eat healthier. So, whether you’re craving some sesame chicken or fried rice, it’s up to you to decide whether to whip it up in your own kitchen or place an order for delivery. Either way, you’re in for a delicious meal!


1. What Does Chinese Restaurant Syndrome Mean?

Chinese Restaurant Syndrome might sound like the name of a terrible kung fu movie, but it’s actually a term used to describe a set of symptoms that some people experience after eating Chinese food. These symptoms can include headaches, dizziness, and sweating, and were originally thought to be caused by the flavor enhancer MSG (monosodium glutamate) that’s commonly used in Chinese cooking. However, scientific research has failed to find a direct link between MSG and these symptoms, and many people can enjoy Chinese food without any issues. So, while the name might be a bit misleading, there’s no need to avoid your favourite Chinese dishes out of fear of the dreaded Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.

2. Can You Eat Chinese Fried Rice And Spring Rolls In Pregnancy?

Good news, pregnant mamas – you can definitely enjoy Chinese fried rice and spring rolls without any worries! As long as the ingredients are cooked thoroughly and the food is handled safely, there’s no reason to avoid these tasty treats. Just be sure to choose veggie or seafood versions of spring rolls (as opposed to raw meat), and keep an eye on your sodium intake if you’re prone to swelling. And if you’re making fried rice at home, try swapping out white rice for brown or cauliflower rice for an extra dose of fiber and nutrients. So go ahead and indulge in all your favorite Chinese dishes – your taste buds (and your baby) will thank you!

3. Is It Safe To Eat Chinese While Breastfeeding?

If you’re a breastfeeding mom who’s craving some General Tso’s chicken, you might be wondering if it’s safe to indulge in Chinese food while nursing. The good news is that as long as you’re making smart choices and sticking to cooked dishes, there’s no reason to avoid Chinese food altogether. Just be mindful of the sodium content (hello, bloating), and steer clear of any raw or undercooked meats or fish. And if you’re worried about potential food allergies or sensitivities in your baby, you can always introduce new foods slowly and watch for any reactions. So go ahead and satisfy those Chinese food cravings – your taste buds (and your baby) will thank you for it!

4. Is It Safe To Eat Soya Sauce And Chinese Buffet While Pregnant?

If you’re pregnant and experiencing some serious Chinese food cravings, you might be wondering if it’s safe to indulge in soya sauce and hit up your favorite Chinese buffet. The good news is that, in moderation, both of these are generally considered safe during pregnancy. Just be sure to choose cooked dishes instead of raw or undercooked options, and watch out for any potential allergens (like peanuts or shellfish) that may be present in certain dishes. And while soya sauce is a tasty addition to many Chinese dishes, it’s also high in sodium, so be mindful of your intake if you’re prone to swelling or high blood pressure. So go ahead and enjoy your Chinese food – just be sure to make smart choices and indulge in moderation.

In conclusion, it’s perfectly safe to enjoy Chinese food when pregnant and satisfying those Chinese food cravings during pregnancy can be a delicious way to spice up your diet. Just remember to make smart choices, opt for cooked dishes, and listen to your body’s cravings in moderation. So go ahead and dig into those dumplings – your taste buds (and your baby) will thank you!

Resources and References: Being the Parent

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