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Foods to Avoid While Pregnant

Pregnancy is one of the most sensitive stages of a women’s life. Proper care and a healthy diet are the most basic things that you look after during this time. Though a balanced diet is a basic need, it’s importance multiplies twice in case pregnant ladies.

What foods are important for the proper growth and development of a baby?

Or What food should be avoided during pregnancy?

– These are some common confusions prevailing among many people till today.

During this stage, women face many physiological, as well as hormonal changes. So, a change in taste of food may also be noticed. Even many weird food cravings are also noticed. But now that you are pregnant, all types of food might not be safe for your baby. Therefore, it is recommended to consult a doctor just after confirming pregnancy and get a perfect food chart. Remember, safety first! So, it must be followed by the very first.

Food to Eat While pregnant

Image Credit: istockphoto.com

Foods That Should be Avoided

Meats that should be avoided:

Raw and Undercooked Meat

Raw meat indicates meat with a trace of pink or blood. For example, Pepperoni, salami, chorizo, and Parma ham are considered as raw meat. Sausage, minced meat, game meats (goose, patridge, or pheasant) should also be avoided as they are undercooked.

Raw and undercooked meat

Image Credit: istockphoto.com

But why should you avoid these tasty foods? Because in raw meat there might be a presence of parasite named toxoplasmosis, salmonella, and coliform bacteria. This may result in miscarriage. Moreover, the lead shot may be found in-game meats.

Organ Meat

Organ meat is a great source of vitamin A & B12, iron, and copper which are obviously considered good for a pregnant mother. But intake of too much vitamin A is beyond the safety limits as it can cause vitamin A toxicity.

Moreover high levels of copper can also be the cause of liver toxicity and birth defects.

Deli Meat

This meat is said to be contaminated with listeria which bears the ability to cross the placenta may also infect the baby. Ultimately this infection can lead to blood poisoning resulting in miscarriage. It is better to avoid them but in case you consider having them make sure to heat them until it is steaming.

Meats safe for intake:

  • Well cooked chicken and beef.
  • Pre-packed meats – Corned beef, ham
  • Properly cooked pork, sausages, and burgers

Fish That Should be Avoided:

Fish is undoubtedly one of the most important sources of nutrients. They contain a high amount of omega 3 oils and unsaturated fat and low levels of saturated fat. Omega 3 specifically helps with your baby’s visual and brain development. Again they are rich in iodine. Therefore, everyone should definitely include fish in their daily diet in order to keep it balanced.   But during pregnancy, you need to be specific about it. Not all fish are safe during this period, especially undercooked or raw ones. So, this calls for limitations. Even you might need to curtail some of them. I will mention some of them:

Raw and Undercooked Fish

  • Raw shellfish like oysters should be avoided. This may cause food poisoning.
  • Oily fish like mackerel, trout, sardines, pilchards should be taken in a limited amount. Maximum two portions can be consumed a week as they may contain pollutants.

High Mercury Fish

As mercury is a highly toxic material, no safe level of exposure is known for it. Higher exposure can damage your kidneys, nervous system, and immune system and also cause developmental problems in the case of children. So high mercury fishes should be avoided which includes:

  • Marlin, shark, swordfish – these can affect the nervous system of your baby.
  • Tuna fish also falls in this category. So should be limited to four medium cans of tinned tuna or two fresh steaks in a week.
  • Sushi might also contain any of these fishes. So it is better to avoid it as we may not know which fish is used inside.

Smoked Seafood

Smoked seafood generally marked as jerky, nova style, lox, or kippered might be contaminated with listeria and thus should be avoided. However, shelf-safe smoked seafood is safe.

Industrial Pollutants exposed fish

This type of fish is generally not found in the stores. This caution is for those who go fishing locally without knowing about the water condition of that lake or stream. You may find pike, trout, bluefish, striped bass, walleye and salmon in local lakes. But consult with the local health department to know if they are safely edible or not because sometimes, the lakes might be exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls which is highly harmful to your health. So, if you lack in details about the local lake, it’s better to avoid fishing there.

Some people may wonder if cooked salmon, shrimp, domestic crab are okay to eat or not. They are absolutely safe.

Undercooked or Raw Eggs

Eggs may contain Salmonella which serves as a cause of food poisoning and may also harm your baby. Fever, stomach cramps, Diarrhoea, nausea, and vomiting can give you a hard time if you take raw eggs.

Sometimes uterine cramps may occur due to infection leading to stillbirth or premature birth. But don’t panic, it’s rare!

It is a must to cook eggs until the whites and yolk are solid in all aspects. Lightly scrambled & poached eggs, homemade mousse or mayonnaise, and hollandaise sauce may contain raw eggs, so should be avoided. But generally pasteurized eggs are used in eggnog, ice cream and dressings manufactured commercially. So they are free from the risk of salmonella.

Interestingly in the case of eggs, there is an exception – British lion eggs.

Why these eggs are the exception?

Because they are produced maintaining the British Lion Code of Practice which is a food safety standard. Here there is a low risk of Salmonella and so can be taken raw or partially cooked.

How will you differentiate it from other eggs?

  • Has a logo (Red lion) stamped on each egg’s shell?
  • Cartoons carrying it have the quality mark.
  • Only applicable in case of hen eggs.

So, as they meet the safety standard, pregnant women are also allowed to have it.

Specific Cheeses

Hearing the name of the cheese it’s tough to compromise the temptation for it. But unfortunately, pregnancy calls for avoidance of certain cheeses. Why? Cheese may contain bacteria named listeria which can cause an infection called listeriosis. This infection is likely to make your baby unhealthy and can also lead to stillbirth or miscarriage.

Certain cheeses that you should avoid:

  1. Blue veined cheeses (Roquefort, gorgonzola, Danish blue)
  2. Mould – ripened soft cheeses (Goats’ cheese, camembert, chevre, brie)

Now, here’s good news! I will let you know the list of the cheeses you can have in spite of being pregnant:

  1. Cheddar, Parmesan, Stilton – all hard cheeses
  2. Processed cheese spreads, cream cheese, paneer, feta, mozzarella, halloumi, ricotta – soft pasteurized cheeses
  3. Unpasteurized and soft cheeses by cooking thoroughly, until steaming hot.

Liver

Vitamins are unquestionably positive for your health. But too much of vitamin-A can prove to be harmful to your baby.

Generally liver and products (Liver sausage and liver pate) contain high levels of vitamin A which is might have a negative impact during your during pregnancy.  Cod liver oil should also be avoided along with multivitamins containing vitamin A.

High level of vitamin A content in the liver can prove to be harmful to your baby.

Processed Junk Foods

Pregnancy is a time when you need to think of another life beside yours. The growing fetus inside your womb is your main concern. During this period getting proper nutrition is your main aim rather than having tasty fast foods every day. Essential nutrients along with iron, folate, and protein should be taken in a proportionate amount.

You may think pregnancy calls for double calorie intake but that’s not the case essentially. During the 2nd and 3rd trimester an extra amount of 350-500 calories should be enough. But you should not choose junk foods as a source of calories because they are high in calories and fats but low in nutrients which may make you overweight.

Why is overweight a matter of concern during pregnancy?

Weight gain is normal during pregnancy, but excess weight might be dangerous. This leads to many diseases like gestational and types 2 diabetes, heart diseases including many complications during pregnancy and also during the birth of the baby. In fact, your baby might also be overweight during birth which may affect his long term health condition.

Pate

Both meat and vegetable-based pate bear a risk of listeria infection. It should be avoided unanimously.

Empty Calorie Foods

Biscuits, cakes, candy, chips, and cookies are regarded as empty calorie foods. They are rich in fats and sugar with little nutritional value. Like junk foods, they can also make you obese and hinder your efforts at maintaining good health.

Raw Sprouts

Alfalfa, radish, mung bean sprouts, clover are considered as raw sprouts. They may contain Salmonella which is harmful and impossible to wash off. So, expecting mothers should restrain from having those.

Pre-Packaged Salads

There is a risk of listeria contamination from pre-prepared vegetable or fruit salads of salad bars or buffets.

Unwashed fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables brought from the market may have different bacteria attached to them. Some extra cautiousness is required before preparing any food for the expectant mother. So, to be on the safe side it is better to invest some more time in washing the vegetables.

Beverages

Here’s the list of drinks you should refrain from during pregnancy:

Unpasteurized milk, dairy products, and fruit juice

Almost all the milk found in supermarkets is pasteurized and so you don’t have restrictions here. But if you are used to having unpasteurized milk, then you should immediately stop it or boil the milk before drinking.

Unpasteurized milk increases the risk of listeriosis, Campylobacter, and toxoplasmosis. These 3 bacteria are said to be fatal for your unborn baby.

Caffeine

Caffeine is a psychoactive substance and also acts as a diuretic. A pregnant woman has got restriction with caffeine intake as eliminates fluid from the body resulting in calcium and water loss. 200mg per day caffeine is allowed during this period.

Why? It passes quickly through the placenta and goes to the fetus. And they don’t have the enzyme which metabolizes caffeine. So, high levels of caffeine may accumulate in the fetus’s body. This restricts fetal growth increases the risk of delivery of a low birth weight baby (<5lbs or 2.5kg) which may result in infant death along with the increased risk of diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes in adulthood. Even there is a chance of miscarriage. Therefore, to be mothers should be careful regarding this issue and give up their habit of high caffeine intake if present.

Here are some drinks with their caffeine level:

Name of drinkAmount of caffeine
Filter coffee140mg in a mug
Tea or green tea(sometimes)75mg in a mug
Instant coffee100mg in a mug
Can of cola40mg
Plain milk chocolate<10mg in a 50g bar
Plain dark chocolate<25mg in a 50g bar
Energy drink80mg in a 250ml can

Other than this some flu and cold medicines also have caffeine in it. So a doctor must be consulted even before taking any flu remedy.

Alcohol

Drinking alcohol is strictly prohibited during pregnancy. Fetus’ liver does not bear the ability to process alcohol like adults. So, this can cause long term trauma to your baby like fetal alcohol syndrome involving intellectual disability, heart defects, and facial deformities. However, from the time you are planning to get pregnant, you should get rid of alcohol completely. And you should refrain from it till the end of breastfeeding.

Herbal teas

They are safe to drink but not more than 4 cups a day.

Fruits To Avoid:

Pineapple

More or less everyone knows that pineapple is restricted during pregnancy. But many do not know why. I will tell you the reason.

Unfortunately, Pineapple may become your reason behind miscarriage by initiating sharp uterine contractions. Moreover, it can cause early labor by softening the cervix. It is also said to be associated with protein breakdown due to the presence of an enzyme named bromelain. So, consider avoiding Pineapple during 9-10 months of your pregnancy.

Tamarind

During pregnancy, women crave tangy foods and it is quite natural. You may consider tamarind as a good option. But it’s not!

Tamarind contains high levels of vitamin C. Though vitamin C is undoubtedly helpful for your health, in case of pregnancy it might be harmful. Vitamin C is contradictory to progesterone, I,e it suppresses the production of progesterone. Pre-term birth, miscarriage along with the cell damage of your fetus might be the result of low progesterone level.

If you are fond of it and cannot avoid it totally, then consume it in a very low amount especially during the first trimester.

Papaya

Papaya is a very healthy fruit and extremely good for your health. But it is not recommended in the case of expectant mothers. You may ask – why?

They contain latex at quite a high level which can result in bleeding, uterine contractions, and in severe cases can cause miscarriage. Again, a rise in temperature is considered unpleasant during pregnancy but papaya can be the reason for it. So, it is better to avoid both unripe and ripe papayas.

Bitter melon

Bitter melon contains quinine, saponic glycosides, and morodicine which are highly toxic and can cause rash, nausea, diarrhoea and abdominal pain when absorbed. It is considered irritant to the uterus and can result in premature birth or miscarriage.

Bitter Melon, Droop, Under The Shed

Frozen berries

Fresh fruits should be the most preferred ones during a pregnancy instead of frozen or dried fruits. Generally, frozen fruits don’t bear the same nutritional value as the fresh ones. Rather they might be toxic to you and your baby. So, it is advisable to choose fresh berries over frozen berries during this tenure.

Canned tomatoes

Canned items always contain a high amount of preservatives. These are harmful even in normal times, so think how much it can harm you during pregnancy. It can lead to many complications due to its effect on you and your baby.

Fruits To Consume Safe and Healthy During Pregnancy

Here, I will give you a brief on the nutrients these fruits contain and why they are beneficial during your pregnancy tenure:

Guava

  • Carotenoids
  • Polyphenols
  • Isoflavonoids
  • Vitamins C & E
  • Folate

It helps in reducing constipation, relaxing muscles, and aids indigestion. It is considered ideal for pregnant women.

Pear

  • Potassium: Beneficial for your and your baby’s heart health. Also works as a stimulant for cell regeneration.
  • Fiber: Prevents constipation which is commonly seen in pregnancy.
  • Folate

Apples

  • Potassium
  • Fiber
  • Vitamin A & C

It prevents developing allergies and asthma in the baby over time.

Avocado

  • Monounsaturated fatty acids: Helps in boosting the cells working to build the brain tissues and skin of the fetus. And also helps in preventing neural tube defects.
  • Potassium: Another common symptom during the third trimester of pregnancy is leg cramps which are relieved by potassium.
  • Vitamin B, C, E & K
  • Copper
  • Fiber

Pomegranates

  • Vitamin K: Helps in maintaining healthy bones.
  • Iron: Prevents iron deficiency.
  • Calcium
  • Protein
  • Fiber
  • Folate

Other than the above fruits Cherries, Mango, Kiwi, Strawberries, and Oranges are also safe for consumption at the time of pregnancy.

Diet Chart For Pregnant Women

Before concluding today’s article, I will just give you a small hint about your everyday diet. When you are going through the most challenging time of your life, I,e pregnancy period, you must include the following foods in your daily diet:

  • Whole grain bread and cereals – Six servings
  • Low-fat or non-fat milk or milk products – Three servings
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables – Five servings (At least two servings of dark green leafy vegetables)
  • Fish, chicken without skin, extra-lean meats – Two to three servings
  • Water – 8 glasses

Conclusion

Being the most sensitive situation of your life, pregnancy calls for some sacrifices including certain foods. But remember, all of those are definitely worth it! A healthy baby is the greatest gift of your life.

It is highly recommended to get a diet chart at the very beginning of pregnancy in order to prepare oneself mentally to start e new lifestyle. Keep it in mind that proper nutrients are important for the proper physical and mental growth of your baby.  On the other hand, some foods may also harm your baby. You must be very cautious about this matter starting from the first otherwise it might prove fatal for your baby.

So, I hope this article will enlighten you with enough information regarding the avoidance of certain foods during pregnancy and help you to pass this period with proper guidance and recommendations.

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Hey! My name is Shaila. I am a fourth-year medical student all the way from Malaysia. Apart from meeting the patients in the ward, I would love to engage with the readers by writing out articles during my leisure time. Content writing has always had a soft spot in me, as I love spilling out my thoughts that I could actually put into words. I also keep up with my blog on the medical school lifestyle. In fact, writing isn't a hobby, it is a blessing.