Foods to avoid during pregnancy – Comprehensive Guide
First of all, congratulations you on the fantastic news!
In nine months, you will experience a life-changing event that will move and turn your life most beautifully. Yes, the beauty of parenting is something that can't be matched with anything that exists in our universe, and the best thing of all is – you are in the epicenter.
Besides the euphoria and the constant preparations for the arrival of the little one, you must take care of your physical and mental health during the pregnancy. For me, the most challenging task was the choice of food that I can or can’t eat. I will be honest; sometimes you will have hard time because you will have to give up on some types of goodies that you REALLY like to eat.
After first consultations with your doctor and friends which have already been through pregnancy – soon, you will realize that advices are different from one person to another. As an individual who was already pregnant and gave birth to a baby, I’ve started to gather and note information related to this issue, which I can now share with you.
Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy
When you start researching about what types of food you can or must not eat, you will see that all warning lists share the same foundation. The inner structure is identical, and it consists of info that is related to a variety of the food, nutrient charts, benefits from eating, effects to you and your baby, and the health problems and troubles which may occur from a particular type of food.
From the first day until the last, you and your baby are one being, and you are taking care of each other. Believe me; this is an amazing feeling! But, as the development of the little one is progressing on a daily and monthly basis through pregnancy, everything that you eat and drink is affecting your baby equally.
Therefore, you must get informed in a proper way about what food you are allowed to eat, and what food you must avoid during pregnancy. Together, we will enter a network of information, and at the end, your knowledge will be practical and easy to apply.
Fasten your seatbelt, and get ready, there is so much to tell.
Do you have to avoid fish?
We all know by now that fish is rich in nutrients that every person needs, let alone fetus or child in development. Of course, Omega-3 fatty acids are what makes fish so great. They support brain, nervous system and eyes development and boost immune function at the same time. Also, fish is usually full of zinc, iron, and protein which aid the general development of your baby.
This is why you shouldn’t stop eating fish while you are pregnant. It is recommended to eat at least 8 to 12 ounces (340 grams) of seafood lower in mercury a week during your pregnancy. But, what does low in mercury mean? Mercury is a metal that can be found in our environment. When people burn coal, use it in manufacturing or engage in farming, mercury levels in water, air and soil rise.
When this metal comes in contact with water, it becomes methylmercury. Fishes absorb this form of mercury, and when we eat them, our bodies become contaminated. If you are pregnant, this can be an issue. Studies have shown that methylmercury exposure during pregnancy can affect the development of baby’s brain and nervous system. Motor skills, cognitive skills, language, and vision suffer the most.
I will provide you with the list of fish high and low in mercury, so you can plan your meals easier. As you can see, the list contains much more things that you can eat in comparison to the ones you cannot.
Mercury level in fish
Tuna (all varieties except skipjack)
Weakfish (sea trout)
Striped Bass or Rockfish
Canned light tuna (skipjack)
Boston or Chub Mackerel
Flounder, fluke, plaice, sand dabs
Another topic that needs to be discussed is smoked fish. Although the risk is low, pregnant women should avoid it because of the potential bacteria called Listeria. People who ingest it can get listeriosis which leads to vomiting, diarrhea and flu-like symptoms. It rarely happens, but pregnant women who catch listeriosis are in the risk of having a miscarriage, stillbirth or their baby suffering from severe illness.
Raw shellfish poses a threat to anyone, not only pregnant ladies. You may like oysters, clams, and mussels but it is best to stay away from them during those nine months. The biggest problem is vibrio infections, caused by bacteria from Vibrio family. Cooking might help prevent some of the infections, but it doesn’t protect you from algae-related ones associated with red tides.
When it comes to eating sushi during your pregnancy, there are still some speculations. In Japan, eating sushi is recommended, because of the health benefits, but only as long as the fish has low mercury levels. In fact, there is no scientific evidence which supports the theory that sushi should be avoided.
- However, every raw seafood brings a certain risk from bacteria or parasites, like tapeworm or anisakid. For the reasons listed above, avoid eating sushi made of smoked fish or raw shellfish. When you eat sushi, make sure that the fish was previously frozen. That way most parasites and bacteria will be killed, and therefore you will be able to eat without worry.
Other than mercury, fish can be polluted with PCBs and pesticides. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins tend to accumulate in the fish’s fatty tissue. This change hits oily fish because of the higher proportion of fat in their organism.
Consuming contaminated fish can result in low birth weight, impaired motor skills, and reproductive system. However, there is no way to completely avoid these pollutants in your nutrition, because they can be found in meat, eggs, and dairy too. At last, the benefits of oily fish consumption are much more significant than the possible health side effects. You should still consume oily fish, just not in large amounts. Two standard portions of this fish per week would suffice.
The fact is, you will have to eat fish and other seafood during your pregnancy if you want to assure optimal health for your baby. When you decide to eat fish, make sure you are safe, by implementing these tips:
Which meat goes with pregnancy?
During the pregnancy, your body becomes more sensitive. Chances of bacterial food poisoning that can happen while eating meat and poultry increase while reactions of your body become much more dramatic than usual. This doesn’t mean you have to avoid meat during your pregnancy strictly, just to cook it well and reheat properly.
However, to protect your own and your baby’s health, you should avoid eating raw and undercooked meat. This goes especially for the following:
Many bacteria that cause illness can be found in raw beef, such as Salmonella, Escherichia coli, Campylobacter jejune, Listeria monocytogenes and Staphylococcus aureus. The biggest concern is E.coli which can lead to miscarriage and premature delivery in case of severe infection.
Pork is a source of thiamine, which is great. However, it can carry few types of worms like hookworm, round worm pinworm, and Taenia Solium. You can also get a parasitic disease called Trichinosis which is caused by larvae of the Trichinella Spiralis.
Hot dogs are not the healthiest option even when you are not pregnant. They can be contaminated with bacteria during the packaging. Listeria is a problem with hot dogs as well. But as long as the hot dogs are thoroughly cooked, you should be safe.
Deli ham products
Although the prevalence is low; deli meat can also contain Listeria. You shouldn’t be too scared of this, but if you want to be safe, you should reheat the meat until it starts steaming. That way, all of the bacteria will be destroyed.
I’ve already mentioned which type of meat comes with the risk of which bacteria, but here comes a thorough explanation on the most common ones.
E. coli naturally resides in the bowels and the vagina. It can be harmless, but it can make you sick too. When you cook meat, E. coli is destroyed, but raw or undercooked meat is not exposed to temperatures that can kill the bacteria.
E. coli comes with stomach fever and diarrhea, cramps and sometimes bloody urine. The problem is, it can be passed to your baby. It increases the risk for dehydration, miscarriage and premature delivery.
Raw meat can bring you toxoplasmosis infection which can also be passed to your baby. Cooking your meat properly will prevent an infection. Symptoms may not be visible at birth, but toxoplasmosis can cause blindness and mental disabilities.
There is also a danger of salmonella infection. Its symptoms can be uncomfortable whether you are pregnant or not, but the problem is it can pose a life threat to both you and your baby.
I’ve already told a lot about Listeria. It may be rare, but The American Pregnancy Association says that expecting mothers are 20 times more likely to become infected. Besides miscarriage and premature delivery, it can also cause infection in your newborn. Stillbirth or neonatal death occurs in about 22 percent of cases.
If you are wondering how to cook meat safely for pregnant women, you should know that is not that much different from regular cooking. You just have to make sure that meat is not raw or undercooked. Follow these tips:
Here are five of my favorite meat recipes for pregnant ladies. They are healthy, safe and delicious the same time:
EGGS – The nutrient bomb
As the saying goes, every morning one egg gives the strength to organism – and this is true! Eggs are super-powerful food which comes with a variety of nutrients. So, the punch line is affirmative, and you can eat eggs during pregnancy, but with some limitations of which you should be aware.
Firstly, I am going to talk about benefits of consuming eggs during pregnancy, and you will see what amazing attributes the regular egg has.
- Proteins – There are 6,3 grams of protein in one whole egg, and the experts are saying that pregnant women should consume between 90 and 110 grams of protein on a daily basis. Protein is crucial because every single cell of developing fetus depends on proteins. For example, proteins are essential for the developing process of the placenta.
- Calories – The egg is rich in nutrients, but it has the lesser amount of calories. In the egg, you will find vitamin A, vitamin D, calcium, potassium and iron and that comes in 70 grams. In addition to this, you should consume an additional amount of calories which will be between 200 and 300 grams.
- Choline – Together with omega three fatty acid, the choline is helping the brain development of your baby from the first day. If you eat two eggs a day, you are securing the half of choline amount that is normal on a daily basis. Besides eggs, the chicken or beef liver is also rich in choline.
Now, after the summary of benefits, you will learn in what way the eggs can be harmful to you and your baby.
- Cholesterol – The amount of 185 milligrams is in the eggs yolk, and you should not consume over the 300 milligrams of cholesterol on a daily basis. So, if you eat one or two eggs per day, it is considered to be safe.
- Salmonella – To prevent the salmonella poisoning, you are advised to avoid any raw eggs strictly! Therefore - no semi-raw eggs, homemade mayonnaise, eggnog and salad based on raw eggs. The signs of salmonella poisoning are a headache, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Although this kind of poisoning can’t do harm to the baby, it can cause preterm labor, uterine contractions and stress the baby with dehydration because of severe vomiting.
- So, the best solution for eating eggs during pregnancy is to cook the medium sized egg for 7 minutes in boiled water, until the white becomes opaque, and the yolk firm.
- If you fry the egg, you must fry both sides.
- Finally, you can discover some excellent egg-related dishes here.
Milk during pregnancy
In a nutshell – yes, you can (and you should) drink milk during pregnancy. The milk is rich in vital nutrients which are suitable for pregnant women, and although you can get these nutrients from other sources, it is recommended by the doctors and experts that you should drink three cups of milk or any other dairy products on a daily basis.
The milk represents a major source of dietary calcium which is important because if you don’t consume milk during pregnancy, you will lose the calcium from your bones to answer your baby development needs.
A cup of low-fat milk contains the amount of 8,3 grams of proteins. Milk is also an excellent source of proteins which are necessary for building up the uterus, breasts, blood supply and the baby tissues. If you don’t consume enough proteins, your baby could have insufficient birth weight and other health issues.
You probably don’t know that the milk is one of the rarest sources for vitamin D which your baby needs to avoid low birth weight and neonatal rickets. So, one cup of low-fat milk provides 117 IU (international units) of the 600 IU which you need per day. Also, vitamin D prevents the risk of allergies, as we can see from this study.
But, what types of milk you shouldn’t drink during pregnancy?
During pregnancy you must avoid any kind of raw or unpasteurized milk. During pasteurization, the process kills microbes with high temperatures. The final result is lowering the risk of being infected with the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes, which can lead to listeriotic infection.
Further, if you want to avoid gathering additional calories during the pregnancy, then full cream milk isn’t the choice for you because it contains 3,5% fat content. Instead, you can consume skimmed cow’s milk.
Surviving the pregnancy without the cheese
If you are, like me, a milk-based food person, you don’t have to give up on all the cheese during pregnancy. However, there are some useful things to know when it comes down to cheese.
The cheese itself is a potent source of calcium, but not all cheese is considered to be safe for eating while you are expecting a baby. The most dangerous type of cheese is the soft cheese because it can grow bacteria like listeria, and further can cause a disease called listeriosis, which is a kind of food poisoning.
The symptoms of the listeriosis are flu-like and can develop after several weeks you have been exposed to listeria. Although you probably won’t experience some significant difficulties, your baby can have serious health problems. The listeriosis can cause miscarriage and even the loss of the baby at birth. So, what is the solution?
The best way to stay safe is to avoid all types of soft cheese, including the mould-ripened cheese (brie, chevre, camembert), further – blue veined cheese, and semi-soft cheese. On the other hand, almost all cheese in the States (and this includes the soft cheese), is made out of pasteurized milk, and it is considered to be safe for eating. However, you are advised to avoid the raw and unpasteurized milk cheese strictly, such as the Mexican-style cheese.
So, the choice of cheese should be limited only to hard cheese during pregnancy, which is gouda, cheddar, hard pecorino or parmesan. Also, pasteurized yogurts and probiotic drinks are safe for consummation during pregnancy.
Probably, you will hear that the goats’ cheese is healthy and safe for use during pregnancy. However, this is only a half of the truth. The chevre cheese, which is soft cheese, is made out of goats’ milk, and you can find it on the restaurant menu, but you should avoid it because of the risk of being exposed to listeria. On the other hand, if the goats’ cheese is made out from cooked goats’ milk than it is safe to eat. The thoroughly cooking at high temperatures will kill all the bacteria, making the goats’ cheese safe to eat.
Finally, I have to mention that sheep cheese, such as feta and halloumi are considered to be safe for consummation during pregnancy.
Discover more – here you can find some excellent ideas for meals and snacks.
Drinking coffee during pregnancy – with caution
Like Garfield the Cat, I’m struggling with Mondays, but not empty handed. There is always a warm cup of coffee and a morning silence. After that little ritual, my day starts. But when I was pregnant, I’ve wondered should I stop drinking coffee or not. The research gave me different opinions, and we need to look into them.
After decades of tests, there is no 100% accurate answer to the question is it safe to drink coffee during pregnancy, and how much. One thing is for sure, the consummation of this beverage without moderation can cause severe damage to your baby. The intake of caffeine is coming through the placenta and into the baby bloodstream. Your body immediately starts to process the amount of caffeine, but the baby will struggle with it for much longer.
Also, when you drink coffee, the stimulative feature of caffeine is increasing your blood pressure and heart beat rate. Further, the caffeine is growing the need for urination, which means that your body fluid levels will go lower than normal, and can cause dehydration. And as you progress with pregnancy, the time needed to process the caffeine is only getting longer, for example – in the third trimester, it takes almost three times as long.
So, the consequences of drinking the coffee without moderation are mainly related to (early) miscarriage, as we can see that from the tests.
Finally, we can talk about what amount of coffee is considered to be safe during pregnancy. Although the opinions are contrary, there is a middle ground which states that your daily caffeine intake should not pass the 200 mg, or – no caffeine at all.
But, caffeine is not found only in coffee drinks. There is caffeine in teas, soft drinks, energy drinks, etc. This chart can help you to discover how much caffeine comes in a variety of drinks.
We all know there are many health benefits of drinking fruit juices on a regular matter, such as overall health boost, lowered risk of diseases, skin, eye, and hair health as well. The women’s body goes through a tremendous change during pregnancy and requires different nutrients throughout this period. That brings us to the questions:
- Which juices are safe to drink while pregnant?
- Which juices should pregnant women avoid during pregnancy?
The answers to these questions are related and based on the assumption that you’re getting all the necessary nutrients your body needs, based on you trimesters. We know that there are several nutrients that induce bad reactions throughout the body and impact the unborn’s health, but when we talk about juices, there are two basic rules to follow:
- Go for 100% juice
- Go for pasteurized juice
Following these two rules will ensure you’re getting real, nutrient-dense beverages that will help both you and the growing baby. 100% juice is essential because products with less juice percentage usually contain a lot of added sugar which can affect your weight gain and produce unnecessary fat in your body. There is a lot of product labeled as healthy which contain added sugars.
Second, the pasteurization of the juice is important for pregnant women due to the bacteria that can get into your bloodstream. The immune system is suppressed during pregnancy significantly, which means pregnant women are prone to get a cold or flu easier. To prevent this unwanted situation, avoid unpasteurized juices and opt for the ones that have been heat-treated.
Juices that are particularly healthy and recommended for pregnancy are apple, orange, prune (drink those moderately), mulberry, tangerine, and lemon juice (drink these occasionally), and one of the best ones is carrot juice (which you can drink often).
Regarding the second question mentioned above, pregnant women should avoid all artificially flavored juices, and be moderate in drinking 100%, pasteurized juices.
Fruits and Vegetables
Balanced and healthy nutrition of a healthy person should contain a lot of vegetables and fruit, depending on the one’s diet plan. The variety of seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables brings a plethora of nutrients to the body, providing almost 50% of daily recommended values. But what happens when we talk about pregnant women? Are there any fruit or vegetables that should be avoided, and what’s the optimal intake of fruits and veggies during pregnancy?
Vegetables and fruit provide vital nutrients to the developing baby inside the mother’s belly, such as folate acid, calcium, protein, and iron. These are the most recommended nutrients for a pregnant woman. With this info on hand, it’s quite simple to design and follow the healthy diet that will enhance both mom-to-be and child’s health.
Now, I can share with you some excellent sites which can provide you good info about why the vegetables and fruits are good for eating during pregnancy.
Some basic and general information related to this subject can be found here.
Good vegie related info can be found here.
As you can see, eating vegetables and fruit is recommended during pregnancy, not forbidden. But, there is one significant and important rule to follow when fruits and veggies are on the menu: do not eat any unwashed fruit or vegetable.
Always make sure to peel and wash your fruit and vegetables thoroughly before use, and keep a record on how long they have been stored. That way you’ll stay on the safe side, and avoid toxoplasmosis, and potential traces of pesticides that have been applied on them to stay safe from germs and pests.
When taking care of your vegetables, you should know that there are different levels of exposure to pesticides and reactions to them as well, which leads us to the information that different fruit and vegetables should be washed more or less thoroughly.
To be absolutely sure, follow these tips:
Finally, you may be wondering if you could eat sprouts during pregnancy. The sprouts are healthy and rich with nutrients - this is the fact. But, recently it is recommended that pregnant women should avoid raw sprouts because they can cause serious infections with various bacteria that can be very harmful to you baby.
For example, consuming raw beans, radish and clover can lead to salmonella. Further, it is known that recent salmonella outbreak was caused by raw alfalfa sprouts, and there are also reports from e-coli infection by this vegetable. It is highly recommended that you avoid this kind of sprouts.
- Take notice - if you wash the sprouts, you won’t kill the bacteria residing on it. The homegrown sprouts are considered to be more harmful because the owners usually don’t disinfect it. If you want to be sure and safe, the best way to prepare the sprout is to completely cook it.
- Tip – if you visit the restaurants, ask for meals without raw sprouts.
ALCOHOLIC DRINKS – The more you drink, the worse it gets
Info related to this subject is confusing because the experts are divided on this matter. On one side you will hear or read that the consummation of alcoholic drinks is not safe and even dangerous during pregnancy. On the other hand – well, you can have a glass or two on some special occasion. Not clear, right?
Take caution; the following is very important!
You must know that when you drink alcohol during pregnancy, alcohol goes through your blood, placenta and to your baby. The baby liver is the last organ to develop so it can’t process alcohol as you can. Further, drinking alcohol during the first three months of pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, and at the final stage – low birth weight. These facts are screaming DANGER!
If this somehow doesn’t affect you, you must be aware that the more you drink the risks and consequences can or will be worse. Heavy alcohol drinking can cause something that is called Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) in the UK, or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) in the States. These conditions are dangerous, and they should not be taken lightly, because the baby may have some of the following health problems.
Besides all the tests and experiments on how much amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy, there is no reliable conclusion to this matter. We can freely say that there is no time or amount of alcohol that is considered to be safe. Some women just stop drinking alcohol when they become aware that they are pregnant; some women don’t know and discover it later, and then they stop consuming alcohol. But, if you still want to drink alcohol on some occasions, you must know what amount is considered to be “safe.”
Firstly, you must know how much of alcohol by volume (ABV) the drink contains, and you will find this info on the label of the bottle.
So, play it safe and don’t expose your little one to danger, with no matter what label, doctor or friends say. Your baby is also what you drink!
NO PATE, NO CRY – Really, don’t eat pate during pregnancy
The general opinion is that no pate is safe for eating during pregnancy, because the natural defense of your body is weaker during pregnancy, and the body is not entirely firm to fight the listeria bacteria that is in pate. In short, no matter if the pate meat, vegetables or fish based, it contains high levels of this dangerous bacteria.
On the other side, you will probably read that you can eat pate which comes in cans, but you must be aware of the following:
STREET or JUNK FOOD – Move along, this is not the food you are looking for
When we walk on the streets, the spicy smells are pulling us towards the roadside stalls, even if we know that street food is not healthy and hygienic. But you are pregnant now, and hormones are telling you to run through the roadside eateries like a tornado.At this point of your life, you must ignore the food craving need, and avoid the street food. Always have in mind the following facts:
Furthermore, additional health troubles which may occur from consuming street food can be an upset stomach, food poisoning, bacterial infection, etc.
Finally, if there is no way that you can say no to junk food, the solution must be finding the recipes on the web and prepare the dish at home. Simple as it sounds!
In addition to what has been said above, discover more useful tips related to street food.
As you can see, listing all the food you should avoid during pregnancy might seem like a daunting task, but when you observe it from the broader angle, you’ll notice there are several basic rules that you should follow, and you’ll know you’ll be fine.
There is abundance of healthy food out there, and you have to be organized and strict; following your pregnancy diet plan will ensure the optimal health of both your baby and yourself, resulting in a safe birth, and a healthy baby. I wish you a good luck, and happy times munching on delicious, healthy food!
We would really love to hear your thoughts on this article! Would you add or remove some food? Add something more in it? Let us know!
If you feel you’ve learned some good info today, would you share it with your friends who are expecting a baby? It would mean a lot to us!