When you’re a pregnant woman, you’re eating for two. That doesn’t just refer to the amount of food you eat. You do, of course, need to take in some extra calories while you’re pregnant. You also have to be especially careful about what you eat.Dr. Cal Says:A pregnant woman should take a vitamin supplement of 1 mg folic acid daily to prevent spinal cord abnormalities. In addition, there are foods that a pregnant woman should limit or avoided completely, such as certain cheeses, seafood and deli meat.
An unborn baby has different nutritional needs than an adult, so a pregnant woman has to be sure to eat what the baby needs as well as what the pregnant woman needs. In addition, an unborn baby is vulnerable to certain types of foods that don’t bother adults. That means you may have a list of foods to avoid while pregnant.
Harboring a new little one is a big responsibility and you want to give your unborn baby the healthiest possible start. So, let’s take a look at what foods to avoid during pregnancy.
What Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy?
Although poor dietary decisions are unlikely to cause a serious birth injury like cerebral palsy, the food that you eat while pregnant can put the unborn baby at risk in two ways.
First, some foods are more likely to carry certain kinds of infections that could be dangerous during pregnancy. Those infections aren’t usually dangerous to adults but can cause serious health problems for a baby and by extension the pregnant woman. Second, some foods have high levels of certain toxins. Those toxins don’t cause a problem for adults, but an unborn baby have less ability to process them and so you are likely to suffer harmful effects during the pregnancy.
Common Questions About What Foods to Avoid
Foods with Infection Risk
Uncooked Seafood / Sushi
This is tough news for sushi lovers but uncooked fish is at the top of our list for foods to avoid while pregnant. Sushi is not safe for pregnancy and should be avoided until the birth of your baby. Although some foods may only carry a risk for some of the pregnancy, Sushi during pregnancy is not one to be messed around with during any trimester. Sushi may carry coliform bacteria, salmonella, toxoplasmosis, and other dangerous bacteria. A unborn baby’s immune system isn’t fully formed and these serious infections can be deadly. If you have consumed sushi during your pregnancy you should reach out to your doctor immediately to determine if sushi put your pregnancy at risk. There are some safe alternatives out there for sushi that do not contain and seafood at all. A lot of the ingredients that go in to sushi can be very beneficial but be sure that the sushi you buy does not contain or came into contact with uncooked seafood.
It may seem safe to eat smoked fish if you are avoiding fish with high mercury levels like tuna. But even though it’s healthy for an adult body, does not mean you should eat fish while pregnant. It seems surprising to see fish as foods to avoid while pregnant but even under the safest conditions, fish during pregnancy can take a nasty turn. Smoked seafood, including lox, nova, kippers, and more, can carry listeria. Listeria can cause life-threatening infection in both mother and child. In addition, listeria infection may cause a miscarriage. This is why most doctors recommend avoiding smoked fish during pregnancy for the most part. If you are really craving smoked seafood however, contacting your doctor and working up a plan might be a safe course of action. Finding a safe way to prepare fish in your home or having fish prepared in a certain way at restaurants may make fish safer during pregnancy but only your doctor will know if fish should be avoided completely or if you can eat seafood during pregnancy.
Seafood in cans or in shelf-stable packaging is typically safe to eat but asking a doctor first is always the best course of action.
Although you may know that you should not eat shellfish during pregnancy, you might not realize what fish these include. We most often see shrimp battered and fried and far removed from the idea of a shellfish but it is just as dangerous as it’s other shellfish cousins. “Shellfish” is a blanket term for a large variety of seafood. This category includes oysters, mussels, clams, abalone, and scallops. It also includes crabs, lobsters, shrimp, and crawfish. Raw shellfish is particularly dangerous during pregnancy. Raw shellfish carry a wide variety of bacteria that can be life-threatening to a fetus. Cooking the shellfish may kill some of the dangerous bacteria but not all of it. Shrimp is most often overlooked in this category but is just as dangerous as other varieties of shellfish. Unfortunatly, there are no ways of consuming shellfish such as shrimp in a healthy as cooking does not reduce the risk.
Even cooked shellfish, however, is not safe for pregnancy. Shellfish feed mostly on algae, which sometimes produces toxic byproducts. Algae isn’t removed by cooking and can be harmful or even fatal to the baby. The Shellfish catagory in foods to avoid during pregnancy is as follows:
For a pregnant woman, the biggest question is, “Is steak safe to eat during pregnancy?”. Well we can give you the go ahead on eating as much steak as you like but you might not be able to enjoy them the way you like. If you like your steak medium rare it’s safer to dial up the temperature on that steak during pregnancy. Like uncooked seafood, undercooked meats, such as steak, can carry bacteria like salmonella and toxoplasmosis. So if you can’t bare a well done steak it’s best to add it to your list of foods to avoid for the next few months of your pregnancy. A steak for the most part though are safe to eat while pregnant and most pregnant women will consume at least some steak over the course of their pregnancy.
Although steak stands out the most as a meat often undercooked, remember that poultry and pork should always be cooked all the way through — those types of meat can carry infections serious enough to make even healthy adults very ill. All undercooked meats, including steak, are foods to avoid for pregnant women.
Deli Meats and Meat Spreads
Are deli meats safe during pregnancy? Surprisingly, deli meats are not as safe as you might think. Since deli meats spend a lot of time sitting around and are not eaten immediately after being cooked, they can become just as dangerous as an uncooked meat for a pregnant woman. Deli meats can carry listeria, a serious infection that can pass through the placenta to the unborn baby. Pate and other meat-based spreads run the same risk as deli meats. Listeria may cause blood poisoning in the unborn baby, which can be fatal. In addition, a listeria infection from deli meats and spreads can cause a pregnant woman to miscarry.
However, you don’t have to give up on your favorite deli meats and pates entirely. You can reheat deli meats until it’s steaming, which will kill any listeria present. Pates and other meat spreads that are shelf-stable or canned are also safe. So even though deli meats and spreads could be a risk you do not need to add them to your list of foods to avoid.
We all know we shouldn’t eat raw eggs, but sometimes we can’t help but sneak a bite of raw cookie dough (the raw flour in cookie dough is also not such a great idea). Raw eggs can carry salmonella, which is a serious infection in adults. In a pregnant woman, salmonella can be fatal to the baby.
Remember that cookie dough isn’t the only place you might run into raw eggs. Many homemade recipes call for raw eggs, including Hollandaise sauce, mayonnaise, and Caesar salad dressing. If you’re making a recipe that calls for raw eggs, be sure to use pasteurized eggs — those are safe for pregnancy. Restaurants typically use pasteurized eggs instead of raw eggs for these types of recipes, but it’s worth asking to be sure. Eggs don’t need to be added to your list of foods to avoid but should be treated with caution, especially when you are unsure if a recipe used raw eggs or pasteurized eggs.
When cooking eggs, be sure to cook the yolk all the way through. The yolk of the egg must be fully cooked to kill any lurking salmonella.
Most milk that you buy at a grocery store is pasteurized. It’s unlikely that most people will run into unpasteurized milk in their day to day lives. However, there has been a trend in recent years toward unpasteurized milk. Unpasteurized milk can carry listeria. As mentioned above, listeria can be fatal to the unborn baby. This is why we recommend making sure that unpasteurized milk is on everyone’s list of foods to avoid.
Although, encountering unpasteurized milk is rare it is not rare to encounter it being used in very common soft cheeses.
Like unpasteurized milk and raw eggs, soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk can carry listeria. Soft cheeses include brie, camembert, bleu cheese, feta, gorgonzola, and more. If a soft cheese is made with pasteurized milk, it will be clearly indicated on the label. If there is no indication on the label, the soft cheese is not safe to eat.
Pregnancy doesn’t get you out of eating your vegetables, but you do need to be careful about how you handle your fresh vegetables. Fresh vegetables must be very carefully washed to ensure that all pesticide and soil residue is removed from the vegetable. Soil left on vegetables may carry toxoplasmosis, a dangerous parasite. Healthy adults typically don’t have any trouble clearing out toxoplasmosis on their own. Unborn babies, however, are incapable of fighting off the parasite and may suffer lifelong symptoms, including blindness and mental disability.
See also: Is a Vegan Diet Safe During Pregnancy?
Like unwashed vegetables, unpasteurized juice can harbor salmonella and E. coli bacteria. That means it’s best to put your home juicer away during pregnancy and stick to store-bought, pasteurized juices. Don’t drink juice unless it is clearly marked as pasteurized.
Foods with Toxin Risk
Fish and Mercury
Fish that are high in the food chain contain high levels of mercury. Healthy adults won’t have a problem filtering out the mercury, but an unborn baby don’t have the ability to clear mercury out of their systems. In addition, developing brains are believed to be particularly vulnerable to mercury. Consuming mercury during pregnancy may cause brain damage and developmental delays.
Fish high in mercury include tilefish, swordfish, king mackerel, and shark.
Those four types of fish tend to have the highest levels of mercury, but doctors typically recommend that a pregnant woman eat other types of fish several times a week while pregnant. Fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids and other important nutrients that foster healthy development in the womb.
Fish and Environmental Toxins
In addition to potential mercury content, some types of fish may contain dangerous environmental toxins such as polychlorinated biphenyls. In general, this risk is greatest for fish caught in local streams and lakes, including trout, bass, pike, walleye, and bluefish.
If you’re a fishing enthusiast, don’t despair. Contact your local health department or the Environmental Protection Agency to learn if there are dangerous levels of toxins in your local fishing spots.
If you have a serious caffeine habit, you’re not alone. The average American adult drinks more than 2 cups of coffee every day, and that doesn’t even account for soda and other sources of caffeine. There has been a lot of hype in recent years over drinking caffeine while pregnant. A number of studies suggest that high caffeine intake is linked to an increased risk of miscarriage. Some studies have shown links between caffeine intake and low birth weight, while others have shown no connection between the two.
So, is it safe to drink caffeine? Current consensus among experts suggests that moderate caffeine intake during pregnancy is OK. The March of Dimes recommends keeping your daily caffeine intake under 200 milligrams, which is about the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee.
In addition to the potentially increased risk of miscarriage, caffeine can cause other minor problems. Pregnancy often makes it harder for you to sleep and causes heartburn — caffeine makes those issues worse. Caffeine also makes it harder for your body to absorb iron, which is a crucial nutrient for both you and the baby during your pregnancy.
Finally, caffeine can pass through the placenta to the unborn baby. The baby can’t process caffeine as well as an adult can, so even small amounts may affect your unborn baby’s natural sleep cycles in the womb.
Caffeine is obviously present in coffee, many sodas, and many teas. It is also present in chocolate, so check the caffeine levels on the label to keep your daily intake at safe levels.
As with caffeine, there has been a lot of hype over drinking alcohol while pregnant. In general, experts recommend abstaining from alcohol while pregnant. Alcohol passes through the placenta to the unborn baby — everything you drink ends up there. Alcohol can have serious detrimental effects on a developing baby, including birth defects, intellectual disabilities, developmental delays, and other problems.
Drinking while pregnant may cause your baby to develop a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is the most serious and most widely known of the fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. It causes facial deformities and a wide range of developmental disabilities.
There is no amount of alcohol that has been proven to be safe for a pregnant woman. The safest option is to avoid alcohol if you’re pregnant or think you may become pregnant. If you didn’t know you were pregnant, it’s safest to stop drinking as soon as you find out.
So, what can you eat while pregnant?
Other than what’s listed here, you should stick to your regular, balanced diet. That means eating plenty of fruits and vegetables (thoroughly washed, of course!), whole grains, and lean proteins. Basically, a pregnant diet is just an extra-safe version of a regular healthy diet.
You should also talk to your doctor about any special dietary requirements or supplements. Your doctor can help you put together a regimen of vitamins and supplements to support your health and the healthy development of your unborn baby.