Foods You Can't Eat When Pregnant
It's a cliché to say that pregnant women eat for two. To help make sure you deliver a healthy and happy baby, you need to know which foods to add and which foods to eliminate from your diet. In addition to avoiding foods that might add empty calories without being nutritious, you should have a pregnancy diet plan ready so that you can make sure your little one is getting all the necessary nutrients.
This list is compiled from advice I got from doctors, elders, and my own research. I avoided these foods during my pregnancy and my son was thriving when he was born. Please use this list as a general guideline and if you have any questions, please consult your doctor.
Women who are pregnant need to take extra measures to avoid three kinds illnesses: listeriosis, toxoplasmosis, and mercury poisoning.
- Listeriosis: caused by a bacteria found in undercooked meat, poultry, and seafood. It can have devastating consequences for the developing child. Listeriosis can often result in miscarriages or stillbirths, and can cause premature labor. Babies that survive will often be born with a number of other ailments including meningitis, blood infections. In addition to causing premature labor, listeria can infect the unborn child, who may be born with a number of ailments including meningitis, blood infections, and difficulty breathing.
- Toxoplasmosis: caused by a parasite found in cat fecal matter. Can be transmitted by eating under-cooked meat from an animal infected by the parasite or by eating uncooked foods that have come into contact with contaminated meat. This parasite can cross the placenta barrier and infect the unborn child, who can be born with brain or nervous system abnormalities resulting in seizures, hearing loss, eye damage, and/or mental retardation.
- Mercury poisoning: While fish provide key nutrients, like protein and zinc, large, predatory species can contain high levels of mercury. Mercury can accumulate in a pregnant woman's bloodstream and, over time, can damage the baby's brain and nervous system.
To avoid these infections and other potential harm to your child, you should avoid the following foods:
1. Raw Meats
Raw meats such as sushi, seafood (especially shellfish), and rare or uncooked beef or poultry, should be avoided during pregnancy due to the risk of coliform bacteria, toxoplasmosis, and salmonella poisoning.
2. Deli Meats (Including Hot Dogs)
These deli meats might be contaminated with listeria bacteria. If you just can't give up your pastrami, heating deli meats until steaming hot will kill of the bacteria and make it safe to eat.
3. Raw Eggs
Raw eggs may contain salmonella. Some Caesar salad dressings, mayonnaise, homemade ice cream, custards, and hollandaise sauces may be made with raw eggs. In addition, unpasteurized eggnog should be avoided during pregnancy.
4. Fish High in Mercury
In many places in the U.S. there are high levels of mercury or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the fish. When you consume large amounts of mercury, your baby may suffer brain damage resulting in developmental delays. Consumption of fish containing high levels of PCBs in their fatty tissues is linked to decreased attention, memory, and IQ in babies. Check with your local health department to determine which fish in your area are safe to eat.
5. Soft Cheeses
Soft cheeses such as blue cheese, feta, goat cheese, brie, camembert, Latin-American soft white cheeses (such as queso blanco and queso fresco), and blue-veined cheeses (such as roquefort) may become contaminated with the listeria bacteria.
6. Over-the-Counter Foods
Avoid canned, tinned, or prepackaged foods. Many of them can be infected with salmonella or other bacteria. Even hotdogs and burgers bought from vendors can cause diseases.
Minimize the amount of liver you eat. Animal liver contains very high levels of vitamin A. While vitamin A is good for you, women who consume too much may risk a higher incidence of birth defects in their babies. Since you're probably already taking prenatal vitamins and eating other foods with vitamin A, it's better to be safe and not consume liver on a regular basis.
8. Artificial Sweeteners
The artificial sweeteners found in diet soda, such as sucralose, aspartame, and saccharine, have been approved by the FDA as safe for the general public and for pregnant women. No studies show conclusively that it's harmful for humans to consume artificial sweeteners during pregnancy. However, there are some studies suggesting otherwise. Saccharin can cross the placenta barrier and be absorbed by the baby and, once there, is slow to leave the system. So, you may want to cut down on that artificial sweetener or substitute fruit juice, milk, or water.
9. Unpasteurized Milk Products
Most of our milk products are made from pasteurized milk. Pasteurization is a special cleaning process that gets rid of any bacteria, especially listeria. So avoid raw milk and cheese made from raw milk. It's illegal in most states to sell unpasteurized dairy, so it shouldn't be too difficult to do.
It is important to try and avoid alcoholic beverages. Though you may be used to having a glass of wine with dinner, alcohol can severely damage your baby and hinder development. Alcohol can pass through your placenta and prevent your baby from getting much-needed oxygen and nutrients. Heavy drinking during pregnancy can also increase your child's risk of developing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, an illness that causes severe mental and physical side effects.