Foods to avoid during pregnancy

Eating a balanced diet is extremely important during pregnancy, to ensure that developing baby obtain essential nutrition. Most foods are safe to eat, but there are exceptions.

Here are some foods that you should avoid during pregnancy:

  • Raw meat or seafood

Undercooked or raw meat and seafood have risk of contamination with listeria, toxoplasmosis and salmonella. Listeria infection can cause miscarriage. Raw or undercooked shellfish to avoid are mussels, clams and oysters. They may contain vibrio bacteria.

  • Deli meat

Deli meat carries risk of contamination with Listeria. If you wanted to eat deli meat, including hot dog during pregnancy, make sure you heat the meat thoroughly until you can see the steam.

  • Fish with high mercury

Fish are a good source of protein and healthy Omega-3 fatty acid, but certain type of fish has high level of mercury. Mercury has been known to cause developmental delay and brain damage. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that pregnant women and nursing mother eat no more than 12 ounces (340 grams) of fish per week and limit consumption of albacore tuna to 6 ounces per week.

Fish to avoid during pregnancy are those bigger fish which sit at the top of the food chain. The bigger and the older the fish, the higher mercury level it may contain. These include shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish (golden or white snapper), tuna (fresh or frozen), spanish mackerel, marlin, grouper, large seabass, walleye, bluefish, pickerel, northern pike, lake whitefish, salmon from the Great Lakes, bowfin, gar, pufferfish (fugue), blowfish and sea squab. Canned or chunk light tuna may have lower amount of mercury than other tuna (e.g. tuna steak), but this should be eaten only in moderation.

Here are list of fish and seafood which is safer to eat (make sure that these are cooked thoroughly):

o   Shrimp

o   Salmon, except those from the Great Lakes

o   Farmed trout

o   Sardines

o   Herrings

o   Pilchards

o   Flounder

o   Sole

o   Farmed catfish

o   Striped bass

o   Tilapia

o   Haddock

o   Mahi mahi

o   Cod

o   Perch

o   Crab

o   Scallops

o   Clams

o   Oysters

o   Mussels

o   Crawfish

  • Raw sushi

Raw sushi may contain parasites or bacteria. It is recommended to cook fish and shellfish to 145 F.

  • Smoked seafood

Refrigerated and smoked seafood could be contaminated with Listeria. These include those labeled as lox, nova style and jerkies. Cooked smoked seafood generally are safe to eat, except those made from the list of fishes to avoid due to high level of mercury.

  • Raw eggs

Raw eggs or any kind of food that contain raw eggs may be contaminated with salmonella. This includes home-made mayonnaise, Hollandaise sauces, Caesar dressings, ice cream and custards. Avoid half-cooked egg as well such as poached eggs or sunny-side eggs.

  • Eggnog

Homemade eggnog may contain undercooked egg, which may contain Salmonella. Pasteurized eggnog or eggnog made of pasteurized egg is safe to consume.

  • Soft cheeses

Soft cheeses may contain Listeria and E. coli. Those should be avoided include: Brie, Camembert, Roquefort, Feta, Gorgonzola, Mexican style cheese (queso blanco and queso fresco). Most of these cheeses are made from unpasteurized milk. Those made from pasteurized milk are safe to eat, make sure that you check the label. Otherwise eat hard cheese instead, such as cheddar or Swiss cheese.

  • Unpasteurized milk

Unpasteurized milk may contain Listeria, Campylobacter, E coli and Salmonella.

  • Unpasteurized juice or cider

This may contain E. coli. Drink pasteurized juice or boil juice and cider to a rolling boil at least for 1 minute before drinking.

  • Raw cookie dough or cake batter

Raw cookie dough or cake batter may contain Salmonella. Do not lick the spoon you are using on making cake or cookies. Bake the cookies and cake thoroughly.

  • Store-made salad

Store-made salad such as ham, chicken and seafood salad may contain listeria. Avoid eating these or make them on your own home. Follow safety guidelines such as clean, separate, cook and chill.

  • Raw vegetables

Raw vegetables especially sprouts such as alfalfa, clover, mung bean and radish may contain E.coli, Salmonella and Toxoplasmosis. Wash and cook thoroughly before consumption. Other kind of vegetables than sprouts can be consumed after washing thoroughly.

  • Pate or meat spreads

Refrigerated pate may contain listeria. Canned pate is safe to eat.

  • Caffeine

Caffeine intake in moderation during pregnancy is still allowed. Some studies linked increased likelihood of miscarriage with caffeine intake during first trimester. It is also linked to higher incidence of premature birth, low birth weight and withdrawal symptoms in infants if taken in large amounts. Limit intake to less than 300 mg per day during pregnancy. Ensure that you take enough water due to diuresis effect of caffeine.

  • Alcohol

Not a single drop of alcoholic drink is safe during pregnancy. Alcohol consumption can lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and other developmental disorders. This also applies during breastfeeding.

  • Liver and fish liver oil

Liver is a good source of iron and vitamin A. During pregnancy, avoid consumption of liver and fish liver oil due to causing fetal malformations.

Source: FDA,