Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

We all know how precious are these 9 months to you. You take utmost care of yourself and your baby growing inside you, don’t you? Your elders might be giving you multiple tips, do’s and don’t and various kinds of foods which are healthy for you. Still, you might be very careful before you eat anything especially if it is your first pregnancy. You should check the diet plans given by us for these trimesters so that you get all the required nutrients. But what about the foods which can prove dangerous to your baby? Are there such foods to be avoided? Yes, there are certain foods which you should not eat during pregnancy. Here is a big list of such foods which can be helpful to you.

Foods To Avoid During Pregnancy

1. Mercury Rich Fish

Do you know that certain fish contain mercury at high levels which is not good for you during pregnancy? Shark, king mackerel, tilefish, and swordfish are such among them. Mercury is usually found in oceans, lakes, streams, etc. which gets converted into methylmercury in the human body.

This is a neurotoxin which causes brain damage and developmental problems in babies. If you want to eat fish then choose salmon, cod, canned light tuna, and catfish instead, as they are low in mercury and are safe. As per the US FDA, you can take 8 to 12 ounces of fish a week which means just 2 to 3 servings. White tuna-like albacore should not be taken more than 6 ounces per week. Always choose fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids and low in mercury.

These are usually rich in proteins, low in saturated fats and the essential nutrients present in them help improving child’s heart and brain resulting in proper overall growth. However, it is recommended to consult a dietitian before you choose.

2. Industrial Pollutants Exposed Fish

Fish from lakes, rivers and local streams are usually exposed to industrial pollutants and so contain high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). This may result in low birth weight, learning disabilities, memory issues, smaller head size, etc. Thus avoid locally caught pike, salmon, walleye, bluefish, striped bass, trout, etc. Always find for fish caught in freshwater.

When you pick some fish from local stream then check for advisories related to the water body and get some information from fish regulations website or from local health department. This is just for the fish caught from local waters but not store bought.

3. Smoked & Refrigerated Seafood

Smoked and refrigerated seafood usually consist of Listeria monocytogene bacteria and so, are labeled as lox, kippered and nova style. Monocytogene bacteria is known to cause listeriosis which results in symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting. This in return can result in illness in the babies and even miscarriage to stillbirth like problems.

In addition to the processed seafood contains a lot of salt which can result in increased blood pressure and edema of body parts. You can include canned and cooked varieties instead of these.

4. Raw Shellfish

It is recommended to avoid raw fish especially raw shellfish like clams, mussels and oysters as they can result in foodborne diseases like food poisoning. They usually consist of harmful viruses, toxins and bacteria which can result in illness in you and your baby. Prefer cooked shellfish with their shells open.

5. Undercooked and Raw Eggs

Avoid raw eggs and even undercooked eggs as they contain salmonella bacteria which causes food poisoning. This may result in diarrhea, abdominal pain, high temperature, severe vomiting, headache, etc. Though these symptoms don’t harm your baby, your immunity may go down which again impacts on your baby’s development.

Foods like homemade caesar dressings, ice creams, hollandaise sauces, aioli sauce, custard, mayonnaise and desserts like mousse, meringue and tiramisu should be avoided. Instead prefer pasteurized egg products and commercially manufactured ice creams, eggnog, dressings and mousse. Eggs should have firm yolk and the omelets should be well-cooked.

6. Raw Meat

Like a raw egg, you cannot eat raw meat as well. Avoid pink or raw meat and poultry which is bloody as this can result in toxoplasmosis due to the presence of Toxoplasma parasite in them. This also results in flu-like symptoms which usually develops after few weeks of consumption. The dark side of it is miscarriages and stillbirths.

Not only that but raw meat consists of salmonella bacteria which can cause food poisoning just like an egg does. Prefer well-cooked meat and poultry and eat it when it’s still hot. Prefer homemade varieties with the temperature around 160 degrees F for ground meat, 165 degrees F for chicken breasts and 145 degrees F for whole cuts.

7. Deli Meats

These are ready to eat meats like sandwich meat, lunch meat, sliced meats, cold cuts, hot dogs, etc. They contain listeria bacteria which can move to placenta resulting in serious complications to the fetus and thereby its death. Prefer pasteurized and cooked at high temperature as it kills listeria. It means if you want to eat deli fish then you need to reheat it.

Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

8. Soft Cheese

Avoid soft cheese like camembert, gorgonzola, feta, queso fresco, panela, roquefort, brie, blue cheese, queso blanco, etc. unless pasteurized. Unpasteurized soft cheeses contain listeria. Prefer hard cheese like cheddar or swiss cheese since they don’t contain water like soft cheese and so do not contain any bacteria. Prefer non-imported soft cheese which are pasteurized.

9. Unpasteurized Milk

It’s not at all recommended to have unpasteurized milk or raw milk during pregnancy as it can give foodborne diseases. It doesn’t has any nutritional benefits; further, it consists of salmonella, E.coli, cryptosporidium, listeria bacteria which can be dangerous as discussed before. Prefer pasteurized milk and its products only as it is subjected to high temperature which kills these microbes. You can prefer other types of milk like soy milk, almond milk, oat milk and rice milk.

10. Unwashed Veggies and Fruits

These contain toxoplasma parasite which can be harmful to the development of the baby. This parasite contaminates the soil where these vegetables and fruits are grown. Thus, rinse them well under running water. Peel or scrub the surfaces and cut off the bruised areas since these bruises are usually prone to bacteria. Cook all the veggies especially leafy vegetables.

11. Few Veggies and Fruits

Avoid papaya as it is rich in latex which can cause uterine contractions, black grapes as they produce heat which can be harmful to the baby, and pineapple as it is rich in bromelain which can soften the cervix causing early labour. Also avoid cabbage and lettuce as they can give foodborne diseases, and eggplant as it can stimulate menses resulting in miscarriage.

12. Raw Sprouts

Raw sprouts like alfalfa, radish, broccoli, onion, snow pea, mung beans, sunflower, soybean, etc. as they contain listeria, E.coli and salmonella. You already know all the negative sides of these bacteria. So, always prefer cooked sprouts.

13. Allergic Foods

Consume foods only if you are not allergic to them. Few foods like soy, cow’s milk, peanuts, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, eggs, etc. are usually allergic. However studies suggest that these foods if consumed in the early stages of pregnancy can reduce the risk of allergies in the babies and asthma in the future but we are not sure about this yet. So, it’s suggested to check with your dietitian and doctor.

14. Unpasteurized Juices

Unpasteurized vegetable and fruit juices contain E.coli and salmonella bacteria; packaged juices also contain these microbes. It is important to wash the vegetables and fruits before preparing their juice; otherwise, even a glass of freshly prepared juice can cause health problems. Always prepare them at home or choose pasteurized juices.

15. Restaurant Salads

Restaurant made salads especially caesar salad dressing, seafood salads, pre-made meats like ham and chicken salads carry harmful microbes. As said before raw eggs, leaves and veggies used in these salads contain salmonella and listeria bacteria which can cause serious problems to the baby. Prefer homemade salads with few precautions by cooking the ingredients well.

16. Herbal Teas & Supplements

Herbs used in seasoning, teas and other recipes or as supplements can harm you and the baby. Few herbs like ephedra, kava kava, black and blue cohosh, borage oil, mugwort, angelica, yohimbe, dong quai, pennyroyal, etc. are uterus stimulants and so should be avoided during pregnancy. Herbs like comfrey, cascara sagrada, echinacea, horsetail, saw palmetto, motherwort, shepherd’s purse, tansy, uva ursi, black walnut, fenugreek, goldenseal, licorice root, senna, St.John’s wort, wormwood, etc cause miscarriage. Are aloe, evening primrose, ginseng also not safe for you? Avoid green tea and wheatgrass juice. Never take too much of nettles, chamomile and dandelion teas. Prefer regular tea over herbal teas in these days.

17. Caffeine

If taken in excess amounts, caffeine can result in miscarriage and low birth weight in the babies and so you should limit its intake to 200mg per day. Drinks and foods that contain caffeine are tea, chocolate and many drinks. Caffeine is also linked to premature birth and withdrawal symptoms among infants as per few studies. Also avoid soft drinks, alcohol, iced tea and diet soda. Prefer decaffeinated beverages in your first trimester since that is the time when the chances of miscarriage are high.

18. Canned Foods

Canned foods like vegetables and fruits, and sodas are very harmful. The lining of these cans contain Bisphenol A (BPA) which is toxic and can cause fetal endocrine problems leading to fertility issues, liver ailments, heart diseases, cancer, etc. The tinned foods might be too oily and so can carry bacteria. Canned pasta, infant formulas, soups, etc. contain high BPA levels too. Canned tuna, tuna salads, etc. are high in mercury which can cause serious problems as discussed before. Prefer fresh veggies, fruits, fish always. Even if you are taking canned food, then wash those veggies and fruits before you eat.

19. Sugar Rich Foods

Avoid sugar-rich foods like candies, ice creams, chocolates, sweetened beverages, desserts, cakes, biscuits, etc. as they can worsen the conditions like nausea, constipation, vomiting, and heartburn. It also increases weight, causes gestational diabetes, increases the risk of developing preterm labor, metabolic syndrome, preeclampsia, etc. in the baby. Prefer healthier sugars like pears, dates, apricots, grapefruits, etc.

20. Nitrate Rich Foods

Avoid bacon, sausages, hot dogs, sandwich meats, deli meats, salami, etc. as they are high in nitrates which get converted to nitrosamines in the body thereby increasing the chance of cancer in the mother and abnormalities in the baby. These nitrate-rich foods are also high in sodium and saturated fats which is not good for pregnancy.

The same way also avoid street foods, fatty foods, artificial sweeteners, excess vitamin supplements, homemade cookies and ice creams, licorice and leftovers. These were few of those but still, the list may go on due to many reasons. You need to consult your doctor and dietitian to confirm the list based on your body and health conditions.


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