Now that you are pregnant, you are probably focused on consuming wholesome foods that will help you feel your best and support the development of your growing baby. But what not to eat or drink during pregnancy is equally as important, in order to maintain your and your little one’s health.
While your munchkin can benefit from all the healthy nutrients you are nibbling on, they can also be affected by illness-causing bacteria, lurking in certain foods. So it’s best to err on the side of caution and strictly avoid any menu items that could make either of you sick or affect your little one’s growth and development.
When you are pregnant, your body has a harder time fighting off germs due to low immunity. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep certain foods off the limits during this time. Don’t worry, you can go back to enjoying them once your munchkin is born.
Fish such as king mackerel, tilefish, swordfish, and shark contain high levels of mercury and must be shunned. This is because mercury is linked to brain damage and developmental delays in babies. You can instead consume salmon, cod, catfish, and canned light tuna, which have low mercury levels and contain many essential nutrients such as Omega-3 fatty acids and DHA which contribute to your baby’s heart and brain development.
You should avoid eating raw, undercooked, or soft-boiled eggs as they contain harmful salmonella bacteria which cause food poisoning. You may experience severe vomiting, headache, diarrhoea, and high temperature. These symptoms are unlikely to harm your baby, but it makes your immune system weaker, which in turn may impact your baby’s development.
Foods that contain raw eggs and must be avoided are salad dressings, mayonnaise, and desserts like mousse, tiramisu, and meringue. Instead, you can eat commercially manufactured mousse, and dressings. Also eat eggs that contain a form of yolk, or a well-cooked omelette.
You should avoid deli meats, aka, ready-to-eat meats, such as cold cuts, sandwich meat, hotdogs, and sliced meat. They contain a bacteria called listeria, which can readily move to the placenta, causing serious complications. You should cook the deli meats at a high temperature to kill the bacteria and then consume them.
Consuming uncooked/raw meat can be harmful during pregnancy as they contain toxoplasma parasites and salmonella bacteria. While salmonella causes food poisoning, toxoplasma causes flu-like symptoms which affect foetal health, and in some cases, cause miscarriage. You must consume well-cooked and steaming hot meat and poultry. Eat home-cooked varieties where the temperature should be around 145°F for whole cuts, 165°F for chicken breasts, and 160°F for ground meats.
Raw or unpasteurised milk is considered unsafe to drink during pregnancy. It has no nutritional value and raw milk and its products account for a higher proportion of food-borne diseases. They contain harmful bacteria such as listeria, salmonella, and E.coli, that can be dangerous to the mum and baby. You should choose pasteurised milk only, as, in this process, the milk is subjected to high temperatures which kill the disease-causing microbes.
Raw sprouts such as clover, mung bean, alfalfa, and snow pea sprouts should be avoided as well. They are highly prone to bacteria like salmonella and listeria, which can affect the health of the mum and the baby. Instead of consuming raw sprouts, cook them at a high temperature and eat them when they’re steaming hot.
High amounts of caffeine can increase the risk of a miscarriage and low birth weight babies. You should limit your caffeine intake to 200 mg per day. Instead of caffeine, opt for decaffeinated beverages, especially in your first trimester as the risk of miscarriage is high.
Avoid eating raw shellfish such as clams, mussels, and oysters to stay away from food poisoning and seafood-borne illnesses. They contain harmful viruses, toxins, and bacteria that can make you ill, and affect your baby’s health. Instead, you should eat cooked shellfish and ensure they are prepared with their shells open.
You should cut down on sugar-rich foods such as deserts, chocolates, candies, ice creams, cakes, and sweetened beverages. These foods can worsen your pregnancy discomforts such as nausea and vomiting, increase weight, increase the risk of preterm labour, and preeclampsia, and increase the risk of metabolic syndrome in babies. While you do not have to avoid sweetened foods completely, make sure to have them just occasionally and in limited quantities. Choose healthier sugar substitutes such as strawberries, pears, dates, and apricots.
Alcohol should be strictly avoided throughout pregnancy, as it increases the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. Even small amounts of alcohol can negatively impact your baby’s brain development. Opt for mocktails or fruit juice spritzers for the next 40-odd weeks.
You should say no to restaurant-made salads such as caesar salad and seafood salads as they contain harmful microbes. The raw eggs and veggies used in salads harbour listeria and salmonella bacteria which could lead to food poisoning. Instead, make salads at home by following food safety basics. Make sure to wash the fruits and veggies first and then chop them, and cook the meat and eggs properly.
A proper diet is crucial during pregnancy as it forms the source of nutrition for the mother and the baby. Understanding the foods and beverages to avoid during this time can ensure your baby’s optimal growth and development, and also help maintain your wellbeing. Make sure to eat fully-cooked meals and steer clear of raw and unpasteurised foods as they contain harmful bacteria.