Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

Maintaining a healthy pregnancy diet is a great way to ensure that both you and your baby stay in good health. It is a good idea to add certain things to your daily diet to ensure that your baby gets enough vitamins and nutrients, and to help your retain your strength and stay energized. However, it is also important to avoid certain foods during your pregnancy. Particular foods are associated with certain risks during pregnancy. Keep an eye out for these "food dangers" in order to keep you and your little one as healthy as possible.

During your pregnancy, it is important that you try to avoid alcoholic beverages. Though you may be used to having a glass of wine with dinner, alcohol can severely damage your baby and hinder her 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.

Undercooked Meats
Though you may enjoy the occasional steak tartar, pregnancy is not a time to eat undercooked meats. Undercooked meats can carry salmonella, e.coli, and toxoplasmosis bacteria. These can cause uncomfortable symptoms like nausea and diarrhea, but, more worryingly, they are also associated with miscarriage and preterm birth.

To avoid these infections, make sure that your meats are well-cooked: heat red meats to a temperature of 170°F and pork to 160°F. Hot dogs should also be well-cooked, to the point of steaming. To be on the safe side avoid:

  • undercooked chicken, pork, or red meat
  • pates (including chicken and veal)
  • deli meats
  • smoked meats
  • sushi
  • raw seafood, especially shellfish

Raw Eggs
Raw eggs are always a no-no, even though we all like to indulge in a little bit of uncooked cookie dough for time to time! During pregnancy it is important to be especially vigilant about raw eggs. Raw eggs carry salmonella, which can cause food poisoning. The severe diarrhea and vomiting caused by the salmonella bacteria could stress your baby and cause preterm labor. To prevent salmonella poisoning, avoid foods containing raw eggs including:

  • ceasar salad dressing
  • eggnog
  • cookie batter
  • homemade ice cream
  • hollandaise sauce

Unpasteurized Food and Beverages
Most of our milk products are made from pasteurized milk. Pasteurized milk has gone through a special cleaning process to rid it of any bacteria, especially listeria. However, certain foods are now made with unpasteurized milk and may contain listeria in small quantities. Listeria is a real problem, causing up to 2,500 illnesses every year. As many as 30% of listeria bacteria deaths involve pregnant women and their fetuses. So to avoid listeria stay away from:

  • soft cheeses, like goat cheese, brie, and camembert
  • Mexican-style cheeses, including queso fresco and queso blanco
  • unpasteurized juice
  • raw milk

Fish High in Mercury
Fish is an important part of a healthy pregnancy diet. Fish provide omega-3 fatty acids, which can help build your baby's retinas, brain, and nervous system. Omega-3s also reduce your chances for developing preeclampsia. However, certain fish have very high levels of methyl mercury. Methyl mercury can cause severe neurological damage and developmental problems in your baby, so it is important to avoid fish that are high in methyl mercury. Try limiting your intake of fish to about 12 ounces a week to maintain a healthy diet during pregnancy. Also avoid fish that are especially high in mercury, including:

  • tilefish
  • shark
  • swordfish
  • king mackerel

Fish High in PCBs
Farm raised fish can also be dangerous during pregnancy. A large percentage of farm-raised fish contain polycarbonated biphenyls (PCBs), environmental toxins that can cause neurological disorders and fetal development problems. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find out what fish are highly contaminated with PCBs. PCB levels range according to the country or state in which you live. Be sure to ask your health care provider about farm-raised fish, or contact your local environmental protection agency for more information.

Aspartame is a calorie-free sweetener used in a wide variety of soft drinks, candies, and food products. Long-term use of the chemical food aspartame has been linked with cancer and immunotoxicity, so the use of aspartame during pregnancy is advised against. A new sweetener called neotame is now available amidst concerns about aspartame, however, no conclusive studies have been conducted on neotame's side effects. During pregnancy, check the labels on your food products for artificial sweeteners. Try using natural sweeteners, like honey, in your foods, instead of aspartame.

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