The list of foods to avoid when pregnant can be quite long when you don’t want to take the slightest risk with the health of your baby. It is essential to understand the importance of a healthy diet, as well as the risks associated with certain foods and drinks.
What are the common foods to avoid during pregnancy
Unpasteurized milk: Although milk and milk products are an important source of various essential nutrients necessary for proper fetal growth, make sure the milk is pasteurized. Unpasteurized dairy may contain a number of harmful bacteria, including the ones responsible for listeriosis, a condition directly harmful to your baby.
Cheese: Soft cheeses, like Camembert, feta, Brie, blue cheese, and soft goat cheese are considered unsafe as they are mould-ripened and often prepared from unpasteurized milk, thus may carry the same Listeria bacteria.
Deli meat: It is recommended to avoid deli meats like ham, salami, and bologna, as they carry a small chance of listeriosis. However, you may continue to have your lunch meat sandwiches as long as you heat them in the microwave at 165°F. Make sure the meat is steaming hot before you consume it, as heat kills any pathogens. It is also safest to avoid hot dogs and bacon unless they are steaming hot.
Undercooked meat: In addition to Listeria bacteria, raw or undercooked meat may also (though rarely) contain an infectious parasite called Toxoplasma. So, it is recommended to avoid microwave-ready meat dishes and eating meat outside. Make sure to cook your meat properly – to medium/medium low – to reach a safe internal temperature, and so there are no pink parts in it.
Stuffing cooked inside poultry should also be avoided unless it is heated to a temperature of 165°F.
Liver: Vitamin A is essential for both the mother and baby throughout these nine months; but, like all other nutrients, too much of it can actually be harmful to your baby. One serving of cow liver contains around three times the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin A (retinol).
Pâté: Apart from the fact that the most common variety of pâté is prepared from geese liver, there are other risks that make it advisable to avoid it during this period. All pâtés, whether it is made of meat, fish, or vegetable, are likely to contain listeriosis bacteria.
Fish and seafood
High mercury fishes: Fishes, in general, are considered safe enough, being a good source of omega-3 fatty acids; but, high mercury fishes, such as swordfish, shark, tilefish, king mackerel, and marlin, should be avoided. Mercury has a tendency to accumulate in your bloodstream, which may, in turn, hamper the growth of the fetal brain and nervous system . That being said, an occasional serving is not likely to cause any harm. Tuna, salmon, and trout are some of the safe choices, but it is better to take them in moderate amounts as the mercury levels may vary in canned tuna.
Sushi: Raw sushi should be avoided throughout all the three trimesters as the raw fish may contain certain harmful parasites. Although according to some experts, it is okay to eat raw fish as long as it has been frozen properly to kill any parasites, others recommend avoiding it altogether for these nine months.
Raw shellfish: Raw oysters, scallops, and clams are not safe for the same reasons as raw fish. Also, make sure your shrimps and lobsters are cooked properly.
Anything containing raw eggs, such as cookie dough and cake batter, may contain salmonella bacteria. So, make sure not to taste the cookie dough before your cookies are baked. Boil or fry your eggs well to make them firm, as undercooked, runny eggs also carry the same risk. Avoid any sauces and desserts with raw eggs, like mayonnaise, Caesar salad dressing, and mousse. Going for pasteurized eggs may be a safer option.
Caffeinated beverages: Your daily caffeine intake should be limited to 200mg, as too much caffeine may increase the chances of miscarriage or your baby having a low birth weight. So, limit your coffee, tea, chocolate, and caffeinated cold drink intake. You may have two standard mugs of instant coffee (100mg caffeine/cup) or one mug of filter coffee (140mg) in a day.
Alcohol: Make sure to stay away from even a drop of any type of alcoholic beverage, at least during the first trimester. Some experts recommend avoiding alcohol throughout pregnancy, but according to many, an occasional glass of wine in the second and third trimesters does not hurt. However, it should never surpass 3-4 units in a week; also, never drink more than 1-2 units at a time. Drinking too much while pregnant may lead to fetal alcohol syndrome in your baby, in addition to increasing the risks of premature birth and low birth weight.
Herbal teas: Certain herbal teas, including sage, alfalfa, dandelion, and cohosh (black/blue) are not safe for pregnant women. Popular teas, like chamomile and peppermint, should also be limited to a cup a day. Consult your doctor to find out about the safe and unsafe teas.
Food-related tips and precautions
The two-hour rule: Do not eat at a buffet where the food has been set out for over two hours (one hour during hot summers). Avoid carrying your leftovers home from the restaurant unless you can store it in your refrigerator within two hours of the time when the food was first served to you. Foods that stay inside a doggy bag for too long get warm, letting bacteria grow faster. Make sure to heat up the refrigerated food properly before consuming.
Separate your groceries: Pack the raw meat, seafood, and poultry separately from your fresh fruits, vegetables and the ready-to-eat items. Make sure to wash your hands with soap every time after handling raw meats to avoid spreading any bacteria. Wash the utensils used for storing raw meat with soap and warm water after use. Also, use separate cutting boards for meats/fishes and vegetables if possible.
Limit spicy foods: Spicy foods are not considered harmful to the baby, but it may trigger or worsen heartburn in some women. So, keep track of your diet to see if spicy foods are bothering you in any way, avoiding hot Indian curries, spicy Mexican and other dishes containing too much chili if necessary.
Go for pasteurized farm products: Always check the label of any farm product, whether it is honey  or fruit juices, to make sure it is pasteurized. Even freshly made juices in farm stands and juice bars may carry diseases like salmonella, listeriosis, and E. coli, as they are not pasteurized.[1, 25]
Caution about vegetables and pulses: Avoid items like coleslaw and fruit salads from salad bars, as well as pre-cut vegetables as they may have been handled inappropriately at the store, allowing bacteria and other harmful pathogens to grow in them. According to FDA guidelines, raw sprouts should be avoided by all, as they may carry bacteria that cannot be washed off in any way; however, cooking the sprouts kills the bacteria.
In addition to all the foods mentioned above, you should also avoid any foods that seem to make you uncomfortable, worsening problems like nausea, acid reflux, indigestion, and constipation. Your body knows best what your baby needs to grow properly.
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