Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

In addition to planning your diet carefully to include all the healthy foods you need, you should also be aware of which foods are not considered safe for consumption during pregnancy.

The main reason for a food to be listed as unsafe is bacteria, which could cause serious illness or worse in your baby. Some foods are also linked to birth defects, so make sure these are off your shopping list for the duration of your pregnancy.

Listeria and Salmonella in Foods

One of the most dangerous bacteria for your unborn baby is listeria. This common bacterium is unlikely to harm a grown adult, but for your tiny fetus, it can be lethal. Salmonella is dangerous to both you and the baby, but while you would likely survive a bout with it, your baby might not. Avoid foods that might contain listeria or salmonella, such as:

  • Any food containing unpasteurized milk, such as soft cheeses. Some soft cheeses are made with pasteurized milk – check the label carefully.
  • Any food containing raw eggs, unless the eggs were pasteurized. This can be trickier than you think. Foods that contain raw eggs include some ceasar salad dressings, buttercream frosting and mayonnaise. If the label does not say the eggs were pasteurized, avoid it. Don’t order these foods in restaurants even if the waiter says there are no raw eggs – he could be wrong. If you wish to make these foods yourself, choose pasteurized eggs.
  • Deli meats have been known to be contaminated with listeria. If you wish to consume deli meats, you should heat them until they are steaming to kill off any bacteria. Some doctors now say deli meats, even unheated, are safe as long as they are purchased from a deli with a high turn around so that meat is not sitting long. You should consume deli meats as soon as they are purchased for safety.
  • Pate can also be contaminated with listeria, so avoid it as well.

Fish: What Is Safe and What Is Not

Fish can be an important part of a healthy diet, providing you with a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids as well as many other nutritional benefits. There can be dangers in fish consumption during pregnancy, however, so use caution. Watch out for these dangers when choosing fish:

  • Some fish can be very high in mercury, such as shark and swordfish, and should be avoided. Fish that contain lower levels of mercury, such as tuna, are safe to eat as long as you consume them in moderation.
  • Sushi containing raw fish should be avoided entirely.
  • Smoked seafood options, such as lox, which are purchased from a deli are in danger of listeria contamination, and should be avoided.

Caffeine and Alcohol

While there is some debate as to what is a safe amount of caffeine during pregnancy, there is absolutely no argument that alcohol is unsafe. Currently, there is not considered to be any safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy, especially during the vital first trimester. Some doctors may tell you it’s ok to have a small glass of red wine towards the end of your pregnancy, but you are better off skipping it altogether.

Caffeine in moderate amounts is generally viewed as safe, but new studies have linked caffeine intake during the first trimester with miscarriage. Again, it’s best to err on the side of caution and skip the caffeine altogether. If you really need that boost in the morning, keep it to one cup of coffee, but wait until the second trimester when the risk of miscarriage drops dramatically.

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