Food plays a crucial role during pregnancy. Eating a healthy, balanced, and nutrient-rich diet helps ensure a healthy pregnancy and reduces the risk of birth defects. A well-balanced pregnancy diet is also linked to a newborn baby’s brain development and healthy birth weight.
But you should avoid some foods that contain bacteria and parasites including listeria, salmonella, E. coli, and toxoplasma gondii during pregnancy. These bacteria may cause foodborne illness, stillbirth, and premature birth and also increase the risk of pregnancy loss.
Here are 10 foods that you should avoid during pregnancy.
10 Food To Avoid When Pregnant
#1. Avoid High-Mercury Fish
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advise pregnant women not to eat high-mercury fish.
Fish are a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for a baby’s growth and development. However, some fish contain high levels of mercury, a toxic metal that can cause serious damage to the developing brain and nervous system of a fetus. It’s also important for breastfeeding to avoid eating high-mercury fish.
Avoid eating high-mercury fish includes
- King mackerel
- Tilefish (Gulf of Mexico)
- Orange roughy
- Bigeye tuna
You can eat two or three servings of low mercury fish a week during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
For a safe and healthy pregnancy, low mercury fish includes.
- Pacific oysters
- Trout (freshwater)
- Light canned tuna
#2. Raw Eggs
Raw eggs may contain a harmful bacteria called salmonella that can cause food poisoning. Salmonella can cause a range of symptoms, from mild to severe, including nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea.
In rare cases, salmonella can result in very serious problems such as uterus cramps leading to premature birth and even miscarriage.
Raw eggs food includes
- Caesar salads
- Poached eggs
- Hollandaise sauce
- Homemade ice cream
- Homemade mayonnaise
- Homemade cake icing
However, completely cooked or pasteurized eggs are safe to eat for pregnant women.
#3. Raw, Undercooked and Processed Meats
Meat is a good source of protein, iron, and other nutrients, but pregnant women should avoid eating raw, undercooked, or processed meats, especially poultry, pork, sausages and burgers.
Raw, undercooked and processed meats contain harmful bacteria as well as parasites, including Listeria, Toxoplasmosis, Salmonella, and E. coli that can cause food poisoning, stillbirth and neurological illnesses, including intellectual disability and blindness.
Pregnant women should also avoid eating deli meat, lunch meat and hot dogs, which may contain harmful preservatives.
#4. Avoid Unpasteurized Dairy Products and Juices
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that pregnant women avoid eating unpasteurized milk, cheese, and juice.
Unpasteurized milk, cheese, and soft-ripened cheeses may contain the bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, and Campylobacter which cause foodborne illnesses, called “food poisoning.” Listeria monocytogenes is a serious infection that can cause miscarriages, stillbirths, preterm labor, and even death of newborns.
Also, unpasteurized juices like fresh squeezed orange juice and apple cider contain E. coli which can cause serious health complications and even life-threatening.
To avoid these illnesses, it is advised to only eat pasteurized dairy products and fruit juices during pregnancy. Pasteurization is the process of heating a liquid to a specific temperature to kill harmful bacteria. Make sure that all the dairy products have a labeled “Made with pasteurized milk.”
#5. Raw or Lightly Cooked Sprouts
According to the FDA, eating raw or lightly cooked sprouts including onion, alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts are not safe for pregnant women.
Sprouts are generally grown in a warm and humid environment. This environment is conducive to the development of bacteria, including Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli which can cause foodborne illnesses.
Make sure raw or lightly cooked sprouts have not been added to before ordering a sandwich, wraps, or salad at a restaurant
#6. Unwashed or Unpeeled Fruits and Vegetables
Unwashed or unpeeled fruits and vegetables contaminated with several bacteria and parasites such as Salmonella, Toxoplasma gondii, E. coli, and Listeria. These parasites can cause miscarriage, preterm birth or stillbirth.
Pregnant women should always wash, peel, or cook fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating them. It helps to reduce the risk of food poisoning and other illnesses.
Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, cola drinks, and chocolate. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that pregnant women limit their caffeine intake to less than 200 mg per day.
However, too much consumption of caffeine during pregnancy restricts fetal growth and reduces the blood supply to the fetus. Caffeine can cross the placenta and enter the baby’s bloodstream, which can lead to problems such as low birth weight and miscarriage.
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause birth defects and developmental problems in the baby. When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, the alcohol passes from the mother’s bloodstream through the placenta to the baby. This can cause increase the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, and low birth weight.
Additionally, drinking alcohol while pregnant can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). FAS is a group of birth defects that can affect the baby’s brain and development. It can also cause physical problems, such as heart defects, facial abnormalities and intellectual disability.
#9. Avoid Fruits During Pregnancy
Fruits are a healthy part of a pregnant woman’s diet, but there are some fruits that should be avoided.
- Papaya – Unripe papaya contains latex which can cause uterine contractions, leading to a premature delivery.
- Pineapple – Bromelain is an enzyme found in pineapple that can soften the cervix and lead to early labor. It can also cause uterine contractions and increase the risk of miscarriage.
- Grapes – Avoid consuming too much grapes during the third trimester (7 to 9 months). Because grape skins contain a compound called resveratrol that can cross the placental barrier and potentially harm the baby.
However, you can consume some fruits in the pregnancy diet.
- Apples – Rich in fibre, vitamins and potassium
- Watermelon – Helps in maintaining electrolyte balance.
- Bananas – Rich in carbohydrates, prevents anemia and helps maintain colon health.
- Oranges – Rich in Vitamin C and keeps hydrated
- Avocados – Rich in healthy fats, vitamin K, B, and folate that helps in the development of a healthy newborn baby brain in the fetus.
#10. Processed Junk Foods
Processed junk foods are unhealthy for everyone, especially harmful to pregnant women and their developing baby. Processed junk foods are high in unhealthy fats, sugars, high calories, and also contain harmful chemicals, additives, artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. Junk foods are also low in nutrients.
Pregnant women should avoid processed junk foods as much as possible to reduce the risk of developing health problems, including obesity and gestational diabetes.
To ensure a healthy pregnancy and baby, you’ll need to increase the amounts of essential nutrients, including protein, folate, choline, and iron.
Pregnant women should always cook food thoroughly and avoid cross-contamination. An iron-rich diet during pregnancy is healthy for both mother and baby.
However, it’s important to consult your doctor before making any dietary changes while pregnant. You can also make a diet chart that will help you keep track of what you’re eating. This will help reduce the risk of foodborne illness and ensure a healthy pregnancy.