One way to ensure a healthy pregnancy is by being mindful of what you eat. But while most foods are safe for pregnancy, there are some foods to avoid during pregnancy because of the dangers they pose to your unborn baby.
It’s not easy being pregnant. From steering clear of harmful chemicals to making sure you take your prenatal vitamins, pregnancy entails a small level of sacrifice and discipline. One area that requires pregnant Mamas to pay close attention to is the food they eat. Not only does a healthy diet contribute to healthy weight gain, but it can also help alleviate pregnancy symptoms such as nausea and constipation.
Although John Hopkins Medicine states that an extra 300 calories are needed daily to maintain a healthy pregnancy, that doesn’t mean you can gorge on every single item on a buffet spread, Mamas. In a nutshell, these extra calories should come from nutritional foods that pack a punch. Think fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins.
Now, help yourself with our roundup of foods to avoid during pregnancy and why you should avoid them first!
Top Foods To Avoid During Pregnancy
1. Fish High in Mercury
Highly toxic and dubbed a global pollutant, studies have revealed that a developing baby inside the womb is at risk when exposed to mercury as it can cause developmental problems. Typically, larger fishes have higher mercury content in their systems. As such, it’s highly recommended that you remove these fishes from your diet when you’re pregnant, planning to get pregnant or breastfeeding:
- King Mackerel
- Bigeye Tuna
- Tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico
- Orange Roughy
Tip: Fish can still be a part of any pregnant woman’s healthy diet! Some of the best and safest fish for pregnancy consumption include tilapia, herring, salmon, trout, anchovy, cod and flounder.
2. Raw Eggs
It’s time to put your love for poached eggs on the back burner if you’re pregnant. This is because raw eggs can be contaminated with Salmonella bacteria, which can cause food poisoning.
An infection from Salmonella can turn for the worse for pregnant Mamas and cause preterm labour or stillbirth. Remember that it isn’t just over easy or lightly scrambled eggs that you should be wary of, but also foods such as hollandaise sauce, salad dressings, or homemade mayonnaise.
Tip: Stay on the safe side and cook your eggs well or use pasteurized eggs.
3. Raw Seafood
You may have to wait until you give birth before enjoying sushi again, Mamas. This is because consuming undercooked or raw fish renders pregnant women vulnerable to infections caused by bacteria and parasites like E.coli, Listeria and Salmonella.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that pregnant women are up to “10 times more likely” to get infected by Listeria, which can cause miscarriages, stillbirths, and even death in newborns.
Tip: You can still enjoy your sushi, Mamas! Just make sure they’re using cooked seafood.
4. Unpasteurised Dairy Products
You will be up against Listeria and other bacteria when you consume unpasteurised dairy products. And as mentioned above, listeriosis can cause miscarriage or stillbirth. So, what dairy products should you avoid? Soft cheeses such as brie, camembert, and gorgonzola should be avoided. Unpasteurised cow’s milk or goat’s milk are beverages you should avoid.
Tip: Eat and drink only pasteurised dairy products. Make sure you check the label.
5. Excessive Caffeine
Caffeine is okay during pregnancy but always in moderation, as too much caffeine may impede fetal development. Most experts suggest that caffeine intake should not exceed 200 mg daily, which is about a cup and a half of coffee. It’s important to remember that we’re not just talking about coffee but other caffeinated beverages.
Tip: Use a smaller cup every time you feel like having a cup of coffee so you’re immediately cutting back on your caffeine intake. Another way to dial down the caffeine in your coffee is to add milk, which is also great for adding calcium into your diet!
A big no-no during pregnancy, alcohol should not be consumed at all while pregnant. According to the CDC, alcohol intake during the first three months of pregnancy “can cause the baby to have abnormal facial features.”
Outside these crucial months, alcohol can still negatively impact pregnancy and cause low birth weight, behaviour problems in children, increased risk of miscarriage and stillbirth, and sudden infant death syndrome.
Tip: All types of alcohol is dangerous during pregnancy. If you hadn’t been trying to get pregnant but found out you are, stop drinking alcohol immediately.
7. Raw & Undercooked Meats
Now’s not the time to order your preferred medium-rare steak, Mamas, with the risk of harmful bacteria and parasite infections such as E.coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Toxoplasma Gondii. The latter is particularly dangerous because it can cause hearing loss, blindness, intellectual disability, and brain or eye problems in your baby–even if you don’t feel sick!
Tip: Make sure you request your meats to be cooked through when dining out. When preparing meats at home, wash them thoroughly and cook them to the proper internal temperature.
8. Deli Meats
Listeria also lurks in hot dogs, deli meats, and other processed meats. In deli meats, contamination is possible during processing or storage.
Tip: It’s still fine to indulge in your favourite salami sandwich every once in a while, Mamas. But when you do, make sure that you reheat it until it’s steaming hot to ensure any bacteria on the meat is killed.
9. Too Much Sugar
Who doesn’t love sweets? However, too much sugar in your diet is never a good thing. There are several reasons why too much sugar should be avoided while pregnant. Excessive sugar consumption is linked to higher weight gain, increased risk of gestational diabetes, low birth weight, and many more.
Tip: To fight sugar cravings, eat small snacks in between meals. Eat more fibre to help you feel full or munch on fruits instead. Then again, you can enjoy a small portion of chocolate every once in a while. One or two tiny squares of a chocolate bar, for instance, should be sufficient to curb the cravings.
10. Raw Sprouts
Salads are usually safe to eat (it’s super healthy, in the first place), but raw sprouts while pregnant? Not so much. You see, sprouts grow from seeds under humid conditions – the perfect environment for bacteria such as Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli to grow. According to the FDA, children, older adults, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems should avoid raw sprouts.
Tip: Simply washing raw sprouts is not enough to get rid of bacteria. If you want to eat it, make sure it’s not just washed well but also cooked thoroughly.
While there are certain foods to avoid during pregnancy (and only a few are entirely off-limits while pregnant), the majority can be safely enjoyed as long as you ensure it is prepared in a clean environment and cooked thoroughly.
Kidding aside, Mamas, when you’re struggling to rein in your love for caffeine or sushi, remember that you’re doing it for the sake of your little one. Have a worry-free pregnancy!
Save this infographic to serve as your guide, mama!
Mama's Choice Team
A team of passionate writers, young mamas, and creative superheroes who help mamas face motherhood one educational article at a time!