Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

May 6, 2019

Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy
What's off-limits during pregnancy and what's a-OK?Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

You want to eat right when you’re pregnant, but it can be confusing to know just what that means.

In addition to getting extra calories, taking your prenatal vitamins to get nutrients like folic acid and iron and eating a well-balanced diet, there’s also the subject of what not to eat when pregnant.

Why Should You Avoid Certain Foods During Pregnancy?

Your immune system is weakened during pregnancy, so you’re more susceptible to bacteria, viruses and other things that can cause foodborne illness—think E. coli, salmonella and toxoplasmosis. Not only can these make you sick, but severe cases can cause preterm labor or miscarriage.

Also, since you’re passing along most everything to your growing baby, what you eat—from the mercury in fish to caffeine in coffee—affects them too.

What about Listeria and Pregnancy?

There’s also listeria, a food-borne illness that’s riskier for pregnant women. You are more likely to get it when you are pregnant, and you are more likely to have complications from it.

It is very rare, but there are still instances of it every year.

So how do you avoid it? Take extra food safety measures to keep yourself safe regardless of which foods you decide to eat:

  • Practice safe food handling (wash food, and your hands, often)
  • Clean your fridge and kitchen regularly
  • Cook things until well-done

What Not to Eat When Pregnant

The TLDR: Avoid raw foods, like fish, shellfish, meat and eggs. Stay away from fish high in mercury, such as tuna and shark. Don’t eat unpasteurized cheeses, milk or juices, or cold deli meats or lox. Some caffeine is OK, but you should probably avoid drinking alcohol while pregnant.

Want more detail? Here you go:

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Caffeine and Pregnancy

Can pregnant women have caffeine? The most conservative recommendations are 200 milligrams of caffeine a day. That’s about one 12-ounce cup of coffee or two and half shots of espresso, and there’s evidence that even more than that doesn’t increase the risk of miscarriage. So don’t hold back on that latte—you’ll get some extra calcium too.

The same rules apply for caffeinated sodas and teas. As for herbal teas, check with your doctor to make the specific herbs are safe for baby.

Raw Fish and Shellfish

  • Sushi: The common advice from doctors is to not eat sushi while you’re pregnant, as raw fish can contain parasites and bacteria that can make you sick. However, if you regularly go to a sushi place and haven’t gotten sick there, you’re probably good to keep eating there during your pregnancy.
  • Raw shellfish: You should avoid eating things like like raw oysters while you’re pregnant—those parasites and bacteria again.

And don’t forget: fish that’s low in mercury is good for you—those omega 3 fatty acids can help baby’s brain and visual development. So don’t shy away from eating cooked fish like salmon or tempura rolls.

Fish High in Mercury

Some fish have mercury, which is a dangerous heavy metal. Here’s a convenient wallet card about which fish to avoid. It’s useful for pregnancy and early childhood, too, as it can affect your child’s developing brain and other organs.

Fish to avoid: Large fish like tuna, shark and swordfish or limit your consumption to once a week.

Fish that’s OK: Stick to cooked salmon, shrimp and domestic crab.

Raw, Undercooked or Deli Meats

Raw or undercooked meats can carry harmful things like toxoplasmosis and salmonella, while other foods can have listeria. These include:

To be extra safe, cook meat well and either avoid cold cuts while you’re pregnant or heat them thoroughly. And be sure to wash your hands really well after handling raw meat such as chicken and pork.

Unpasteurized Cheeses, Milk and Juice

Soft cheeses like brie, gorgonzola and camembert that are imported or made from unpasteurized milk can carry listeria. Same goes for unpasteurized milk and juices.

Raw Eggs

Raw and unpasteurized eggs can carry salmonella, so be sure to cook your eggs. Sorry raw cookie dough.

Unwashed Fruits and Veggies

Take a little extra time and scrub the dirt off of those fruits and veggies. And while you want to eats of lots of vegetables and fruit while you’re pregnant, you should probably leave sprouts—like alfalfa and bean—out of your salads, as they can have bacteria. Same with salad bars and prepackaged salads.

Alcohol and Pregnancy

Excessive drinking during pregnancy causes fetal alcohol syndrome, and your OB or midwife will almost definitely tell you absolutely no alcohol. That said: there are no studies that say an occasional glass of wine (actually one glass, like 4 oz) has negative effects on babies.

As with most things related to pregnancy, if you’re unsure about what’s safe to eat or drink and what’s not, be sure to talk with your healthcare provider.

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