Eating well-balanced meals is crucial to lead a healthy life, especially during pregnancy. That’s because whatever you eat or drink, influences your child’s health, possibly forever. There are essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that you and your developing baby need, such as whole and lightly processed foods, like whole grains, lean meats, fruits and vegetables, legumes, and low-fat dairy. However, everyday foods and beverages take on new meaning when there is a human creature developing inside your body.
Most foods are safe; but there are some foods that may present a danger to your developing baby. So, being one of the most sensitive experiences in a woman’s life, it is very important that during pregnancy, you follow a healthy diet and make sure to avoid or consume rarely certain foods and beverages, which may be harmful to your baby.
See below the list of foods to avoid or minimize during pregnancy:
1. High-Mercury Fish
According to Healthline, Being a highly toxic element, mercury when exposed in high amounts, can be toxic to your nervous system, immune system, and kidneys. It is most commonly found in polluted water, that’s why large marine fish can accumulate high amounts of mercury.
Therefore, pregnant women are recommended to limit their consumption of high-mercury fish to no more than 1-2 servings per month.
High-mercury fish include:
– Tuna (especially albacore tuna)
– King mackerel
However, consuming low-mercury fish during pregnancy is very healthy, and these fish can be eaten up to 2 times per week.
2. Undercooked or Raw Fish
Raw fish, especially shellfish, can cause infections, such as viral, bacterial or parasitic. Some of them include norovirus, Salmonella, Vibrio, and Listeria.
Some of these infections may affect only the mother, leaving her weak and dehydrated. Whereas other infections may affect the baby as well, leading to serious, or even fatal, consequences.
When it comes to Listeria infections, pregnant women are up to 20 times more likely to get infected by it than the general population. This bacteria can be found in soil and contaminated water or plants, so the raw fish can get infected during processing, including smoking or drying.
The pregnant woman can pass Listeria to her unborn baby through the placenta, even if she doesn’t show any signs of illness. This can cause premature delivery, miscarriage, stillbirth, and other serious health problems.
Therefore, make sure to avoid raw fish and shellfish, which may include many sushi dishes.
3. Undercooked, Raw and Processed Meat
Same as raw fish, undercooked or raw meat may increase the risk of infection from several bacteria or parasites, including Toxoplasma, E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella. Such infections may affect the health of your unborn baby, or lead to stillbirth or severe neurological illnesses, including mental retardation, epilepsy, blindness.
Most bacteria are found on the surface of whole pieces of meat, whereas others may be found inside the muscle fibers.
Food that a pregnant woman should avoid is cut undercooked or raw meat, including meat patties, pork, burgers, minced meat, and poultry, hot dogs, lunch meat and deli meat. This is because, during processing or storage, these types of meat may become infected.
However, types of meat that may be safe to eat when not cooked all the way through, are some whole cuts of meat, such as tenderloins, sirloins or ribeye from beef, lamb, and veal. But, this only applies when the meat is whole or uncut, and completely cooked on the outside.
4. Raw Eggs
Raw eggs are also a reason for concern, as they can be contaminated with Salmonella. Symptoms of Salmonella infections usually include fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps, and are usually experienced only by the pregnant mother.
However, in rare cases, Salmonella causes cramps in the uterus, leading to premature birth or stillbirth.
Foods that are common to contain raw eggs include:
– Poached eggs
– Lightly scrambled eggs
– Homemade mayonnaise
– Salad dressings
– Cake icings
– Homemade ice cream
Make sure to always cook eggs thoroughly or use pasteurized eggs.
5. Unpasteurized Milk, Cheese, and Fruit Juice
According to Pregnancy Birth & Baby, raw milk and unpasteurized cheese may contain a group of harmful bacteria, such as Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli, and Campylobacter. The unpasteurized juice is also prone to bacterial contamination.
Such infections can lead to life-threatening consequences for an unborn baby. This is because pasteurization is used as an effective way to kill any harmful bacteria, without changing the nutritional value of the products.
To avoid or reduce the risk of infections, consume only pasteurized milk, cheese, and fruit juice. If only raw (unpasteurized) milk is available, boil it first.
6. Unwashed Produce
Fruits and vegetables are an important part of the perfect pregnancy diet. However, if you consume unwashed fruits or vegetables, you may be exposed to different bacteria and parasites, such as the parasite Toxoplasmosis, Salmonella, E. Coli, and Listeria. All these bacteria and parasites can be found in the soil where these foods are grown.
Bacteria can affect both the mother and her unborn baby. If the baby is infected with Toxoplasmosis while still in the womb, it may have no symptoms at birth. However, symptoms such as blindness or intellectual disabilities may develop later in life.
That’s why we recommend that you wash, peel, or cook all the fruits and vegetables before consuming.
High levels of caffeine can increase the risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, and birth difficulties. Caffeine is most commonly found in coffee, tea, and cocoa, but is also added to some soft drinks, energy drinks, or flu remedies.
Because caffeine is absorbed very quickly and can be passed easily into the placenta and fetus, pregnant women are generally advised to limit their caffeine intake to less than 200 mg per day, or about 2–3 cups of coffee.
High levels of caffeine during pregnancy can restrict fetal growth and increase the risk of low birth weight at delivery.
Low birth weight, defined as less than 5 lbs, 8 oz (or 2.5 kg), has shown to increase the risk of infant death and chronic diseases in adulthood, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Exposing your baby to alcohol in the womb, even at the earliest stages of pregnancy, can affect the growth of the fetus. Except it increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, and baby’s brain development, in extreme cases, it can even lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
Since no level of alcohol has been proven to be safe during pregnancy, it’s advised to avoid it altogether.