Don’t Eat That! Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

By Colleen McTiernan and Lizzie Vasquez

You just found out you are pregnant! Congratulations! But put down that celebratory glass of champagne, and stow away the sushi. For the next nine months, there are some food restrictions you need to be aware of to maintain a healthy pregnancy.

What should I stay away from?

Raw meat and fish

Undercooked or rare beef and poultry should be avoided due to risk of salmonella, toxoplasmosis and coliform bacteria. Sushi containing raw fish should also be avoided. However, you can still satisfy your sushi craving with a veggie roll, and tempura rolls are also safer because they are cooked said Dr. Nicole Scogin of All About Women Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Deli meat

According to the American Pregnancy Association, deli meats have been known to be contaminated with listeria, which can cause miscarriage. Listeria can penetrate the placenta and infect the baby, possibly leading to blood-poisoning, and it may be life-threatening. “It’s also oftentimes a difficult diagnosis to make because it’s not something we see very often,” said Dr. Scogin.

Fish containing mercury

Pregnant women should avoid fish with high levels of mercury. This can cause developmental delays and brain damage. Fish at the top of the food chain such as shark, swordfish and mackerel should not be consumed during pregnancy. However, you do not need to avoid all fish. “There’s good oils and fats in those that can be good for baby’s developing brain,” said Dr. Scogin. She recommends eating moderate amounts of shrimp, tilapia, salmon, freshwater trout, cod, crab, or canned light tuna.

Raw shellfish

Many seafood-borne illness is caused by undercooked shellfish, which includes oysters, clams and mussels. These foods are potentially dangerous for everyone, and should definitely be avoided during pregnancy.

Raw eggs

Raw eggs and foods containing raw eggs should be avoided due to the risk of salmonella. Some homemade recipes for Caesar dressings, mayonnaise, homemade ice cream and Hollandaise sauces may be made with raw eggs. If the recipe is cooked at some point or made with pasteurized eggs, risk of salmonella is reduced.

Unpasteurized foods

Unpasteurized milk and cheeses may contain listeria. Ensure all dairy products and juices you consume are pasteurized.

Soft cheeses

Soft cheese may need to be avoided for the risk of listeria. Cheeses such as brie, Camembert, Roquefort, feta, Gorganzola and Mexican style cheeses (including queso blanco and queso fresco) should not be consumed during pregnancy unless they clearly state they are made from pasteurized milk.

Caffeine

We know all you future mommies need your morning coffee, but it is important to resist this temptation. Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it helps eliminate fluids from the body. It should be avoided during the first trimester to reduce the likelihood of a miscarriage. After that, caffeine intake should be limited to fewer than 200 mg per day, but is best if not consumed at all.

Alcohol

This should go without saying — do not consume alcohol during pregnancy. Alcohol consumption can lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and many other developmental disorders.

What can I eat?

Dr. Scogin encourages her patients to eat a generally well-rounded and healthy diet. “I tell them to usually focus on vegetables over fruits, lean meats, low-fat dairy and limit their sugar, especially processed sugar,” she said. If you experience nausea early in your pregnancy, be sure to stay hydrated. Dr. Scogin also recommends that any woman who could become pregnant take a prenatal vitamin to decrease neural tube defects. “Maintaining those good health habits and teaching them to your new little ones will help them to grow healthy and strong,” she said.

*This article is for informational purposes only and does not replace medical advice from a physician. Please consult your doctor with any and all questions regarding your pregnancy.