Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

When pregnant, it’s important to consume foods high in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that you and your baby require. Just as important is avoiding foods that pose threats to prenatal health. Although most foods and beverages in the U.S. are safe for pregnant women, here are some that should not be consumed.

Raw and Undercooked Meats

Raw and undercooked beef and poultry carry risks of contamination from toxoplasmosis, coliform bacteria, and salmonella. Some delicatessen meats have been contaminated with listeria, which can trigger a miscarriage. If you’re using deli meats, heat them to steaming.

Raw Shellfish and Smoked Seafood

Undercooked clams, oysters, mussels, and raw shellfish are forbidden. Smoked seafood labeled as lox, nova style, kippered, or jerky carries the threat of listeria. However, it is suitable to eat canned or shelf-safe smoked seafood without the fear of contamination.

Fish Containing Mercury

Mercury consumed during pregnancy has been linked to brain damage and developmental delays in the fetus. Sound prenatal care forbids the consumption of mercury-bearing fish such as swordfish, king mackerel, shark, tilefish, and certain types of fish used in sushi. Although chunk light tuna in cans contains lesser amounts of mercury than other tunas, it should be eaten in moderation (once a week).

Unwashed Vegetables

Fresh vegetables are important to the health of the mother and baby. It’s essential to be sure that you wash them thoroughly to eliminate any threat of toxoplasmosis that may have been drawn from the soil in which the vegetables were grown.

Soft Cheeses and Unpasteurized Milk

Carefully check the labels of all imported cheeses for unpasteurized milk, which increases the possibilities of contamination by listeria. Unless pasteurized milk has been used in the product, avoid such cheeses as feta, Roquefort, Brie, Camembert, Gorgonzola, and Mexican cheeses including queso fresco and queso Blanco. All U.S. cheeses manufactured made with pasteurized milk are safe to eat.

Raw Eggs and Salmonella

Raw eggs and foods containing raw eggs increase the chances of salmonella. Consequently, you should avoid any homemade mayonnaise and Caesar dressings, as well as homemade custards, ice cream, and Hollandaise sauces made with raw eggs. Commercially-produced dressings, ice cream and eggnog made with pasteurized eggs pose no threats to prenatal health.

Caffeine or Not?

The jury is still out on caffeine and its potential link to miscarriages. Caffeine should be avoided during the first trimester of pregnancy, and as a general rule, limited afterward to fewer than 200 mg per day.

No Alcohol, Period

Alcohol in any form is a threat to prenatal health. Exposure to alcohol can interfere with the baby’s development and, depending on the amount and pattern of use, may lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, among other disorders. Alcohol continues to pose risks to the baby during breastfeeding.

As a pregnant woman, it is vital that you take extreme care in the handling and preparation of your food to ensure both your and your baby’s health.

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