Congratulations! You’re expecting a bouncing bundle of joy! Maybe it was easy for you or maybe you’ve been trying for a very long time. No matter what your pregnancy story is- it’s finally happened.
Now, you should be aware that what you eat and/or drink does have an influence on your new baby’s health- possibly even into the future.
Things that you never thought twice about could pose a problem to your baby as he/she develops and must be avoided- or at least limited.
The basis of your diet while you are pregnant should consist of things such as lean meats, legumes, low-fat dairy, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables.
Here, we will talk about some things that should be avoided while you are growing a new life within you.
Raw/Undercooked Foods from Animals
This includes foods such as raw oysters, unpasteurized eggs, rare meat, clams, raw cookie/cake dough, sushi, and even homemade eggnog. This is because these foods can contain a variety of parasites, bacteria, and viruses.
In order to lower your chances of being exposed to a foodborne illness, you will want to make sure you test fish, meat, and poultry with a food thermometer to ensure that they are done, cook your eggs until they are no longer runny, and carefully follow all baking instructions.
Also, when making cakes and cookies- never eat the raw dough. The CDC states that approximately one in 20,000 eggs contain salmonella- and that’s not a risk you want to take when you’re carrying a new life.
So, try to avoid popping a bite of that homemade cookie dough in your mouth while baking. On the other hand, store-bought cookie dough ice cream is perfectly fine.
You should also be aware that raw eggs are often also used in homemade dressings and sauces such as: béarnaise sauce, mayonnaise, Caesar salad dressing, and hollandaise sauces. Instead, choose the store-bought versions, which have been made with eggs that are pasteurized.
There are lots of homemade desserts that contain raw eggs such as homemade meringue, tiramisu, and mousse.
If you don’t think that the store-bought versions are acceptable substitutes, you can find pasteurized eggs at your local grocery store, which are fine to eat raw- just be sure that the label on the eggs specifically indicates that they have been pasteurized.
When you are dining out, you should request that your meat be thoroughly cooked. It should be steaming hot and cooked all the way through.
When you’re cooking at home, you should make sure that the temperature of your meat is cooked to at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit for whole cuts, 165 degrees Fahrenheit for chicken breasts, and 160 degrees Fahrenheit for hamburger meats.
Unpasteurized Dairy Foods, Lunch Meats, and Hot Dogs
These foods often contain a bacteria known as Listeria monocytogenes. This bacteria leads to a condition known as listerosis, which can result in stillbirth, miscarriage, and other dangerous health issues.
In addition to lunch meats and hot dogs, including deli ham/turkey, salami, bologna, other seafood and processed meats that could contain this bacteria are meat spreads, refrigerated pates, and even smoked, refrigerated seafood such as mackerel, cod, trout, salmon, tuna, and whitefish. In many cases, these will be labeled as: “jerky”, “lox”, “nova-style”, “smoked”, or “kippered.”
On the other hand, smoked refrigerated seafood is safe if it is in a cooked dish, such as a casserole. Lunch meats and hot dogs are fine to eat if you reheat them until they are hot.
In addition, women who are pregnant should avoid getting the fluid from the packaging on other foods, food preparation surfaces, and utensils- as well as thoroughly wash their hands after handling lunch meats and hot dogs.
This will help to further decrease the chances of coming into contact with this bacteria.
In addition to these meats, dairy foods that are unpasteurized are prone to containing listeria.
Therefore, women who are pregnant should avoid dairy and raw milk products such as feta, blue-veined, brie, camembert, queso blanco, queso panela, queso fresco, and Roquefort cheeses.
Of course, having a little bit of Parmesan on your pasta is perfectly fine. If you’re dining out and you’re not sure about the cheeses that are used in dishes, you should ask.
Specific Fish and other Seafood
Large fish, such as king mackerel, shark, swordfish, and tilefish have much higher concentrations of mercury when compared to other types of fish.
Mercury is produced by the coal-burning plants and when it gets into the water, it gets into the fish. When a pregnant woman consumes these fish, she’s at risk for interfering with the typical development of her baby’s nervous system and brain.
The FDA has approved pregnant and nursing women to consume up to 12 ounces each week of seafood that is low in mercury levels such as salmon (both wild and farmed), canned light tuna, tilapia, shrimp, Pollock, catfish, and even sardines.
However, since albacore tuna contains higher levels of mercury than canned light tuna, the FDA has stated that women who are pregnant or nursing should limit their consumption of albacore to 6 ounces or less per week and that amount should be included in the 12 ounces overall for the week.
In addition, be aware that fish that are caught for sport in streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes could also contain pollution from local industries that can cause issues with the developing nervous system of your baby.
Before fishing, recreational anglers should get in touch with the local health department to find out about the waterway safety.
Raw Vegetable Sprouts
The FDA has actually advised that everyone- whether pregnant or not- should avoid consuming raw sprouts such as clover, mung bean sprouts, alfalfa, and radish.
The reason for this is that bacteria can get into the seeds and it’s almost impossible to wash out. The FDA recommends that pregnant women request that these sprouts not be added to their foods when eating out.
However, it is perfectly fine to consume sprouts that have been thoroughly cooked.
Unwashed Fruits and Vegetables
So, now that you’ve got a baby in your womb, it’s time to start loading up on the fresh fruits and vegetables, right?
However, you must make sure that you wash them thoroughly under running water. There is a bacteria that can survive on unwashed fruits and vegetables that is known as toxoplasma.
This can lead to a condition that is known as toxoplasmosis, which can be extremely dangerous for the baby. You should never use soap to wash your produce, just scrub the surface of them with a vegetable brush.
Make sure that you carefully cut away any bruised/damaged areas because they may harbor some bacteria. In addition, to avoid listeria on fresh fruits and vegetables, you should scrub and then dry your cantaloupe before you slice it.
Sure, you don’t want to offend your friends and family members by avoiding their food at potluck meals, but you should be aware that there is a major reasons for concern if the food is left at room temperature for too long.
Typically, the rule is that you should not eat food that has been left out for more than 2 hours. However, if the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, you should not eat it after being left out for 1 hour.
Drinks that Should be Limited or Avoided
Alcohol robs your baby’s developing cells of vital nutrients and oxygen. This means that normal fetal development is prevented.
Effects of exposure to alcohol in the womb on the baby’s physical growth/development and intellectual growth/development are irreversible.
At this time, the CDC states that there is no level of consumption of alcohol that is safe during pregnancy.
Juices that have not been pasteurized such as ciders purchased at farms, in stores, or from roadside stands are prone to containing germs such as E. coli bacteria and salmonella.
Check all labels to be sure that your juice has been pasteurized. In addition, you should avoid fresh squeezed juices in restaurants and juice bars.
The juices that are on the shelves in your local grocery store are safe- but those that are refrigerated may not be. Always check labels before consuming juices of any kind and if there is a warning on the bottle, you should avoid it.
If you have an older home that has lead pipes, the lead can get into your tap water. Even a good home filtration system may not keep it from getting into your water.
Lead is known to result in low birth weight, developmental delays, and preterm delivery. If you’re not sure about your tap water, make sure to take it and have it tested.
Be aware that even bottled water may not be pure- many times it’s actually municipal water that has been repurposed.
At this time, the research is conflicting- but it’s possible that caffeine from soft drinks, energy drinks, tea, coffee, and other beverages could increase the risk of suffering miscarriage or stillbirth, and low birth weights.
The March of Dimes has recommended that you limit your consumption of caffeine to 200 milligrams or less per day- this is approximately the amount that is found in a 12 ounce cup of coffee.
Bisphenol-A, or BPA
Bisphenol-A, better known as BPA, is an industrial chemical that is used to make hard plastics as well as the liners for most canned food.
When ingested, it causes a disruption in endocrine functioning, which can cause a disturbance in development of your baby.
The FDA is currently studying this and while it has not yet recommended that women who are pregnant avoid it, they have stated that there are reasons for concern about the potential effects it can have on a baby in the womb.
It can cause problems with behavior, the prostate gland, and the brain of developing babies, infants, and children.
However, most of this testing has been done on animals, and there are some serious uncertainties of the safety of BPA for humans. On the other hand, the plastics industry states that low levels of exposure to BPA are safe.
If you do choose to completely avoid BPA while you are pregnant, there are a wide range of glass containers and BPA-free plastics available to you.
Herbal Supplements and Teas
While it is true that herbal teas are caffeine free, their safety while you are expecting is unclear. At this time, there are no reliable human studies on the safety of herbal preparations including supplements such as St. John’s Wort and Echinacea.
You should also be aware that the FDA actually does not routinely monitor the quality of these supplements.
Truly, it’s probably safe to drink herbal teas that you find on the shelves at the grocery stores, pregnant women should probably avoid drinking large quantities of these teas, as well as completely avoid the herbal supplements.
There are a few herbs and supplements that can safely be used during pregnancy to ensure a healthy pregnancy, but you will need to discuss them with your physician or midwife before taking anything.
However, there are definitely some common supplements and herbs that you should avoid while pregnancy. These are as follows:
- Herbs containing caffeine or other stimulants, especially those that promote weight loss such as Garcinia Cambogia, kola nut, yohimbe, guarana, citrum aurantium, theobromine, and betel.
- Other botanicals that should be avoided during pregnancy include: black walnut, senna, pao d’arco, cascara sagrada, golden seal, pennyroyal, wormwood, and saw palmetto.
It is recommended that women who are pregnant or could become pregnant should not take more than 10,000 IU or more per day of Vitamin A due to the fact that it could lead to some birth defects.
Additionally, many of the newer and specialty supplements have not been proven to be safe for consumption during pregnancy and therefore, should be avoided.
The bottom line is this: before taking any vitamins or herbal supplements, you should speak with your physician or midwife about their safety.
Foods that May Lead to Food Allergies
If you, your baby’s father, or your baby’s siblings have food allergies, the chances for your baby developing food allergies will increase.
The American Academy of Pediatrics does state that avoiding specific food allergens such as peanuts/peanut products while pregnant and/or breastfeeding could reduce the risk of developing an allergy in children who are prone to developing one.
On the other hand, there is very little- if any- benefit in avoiding allergens while pregnant and/or breastfeeding.
Therefore, before you make any changes to your diet, you should speak with your physician or midwife about your family history of asthma and allergies.
In addition, you may wish to speak with a registered dietician who understands food allergies.
Sure, you’re eating for two (or more, if you’re carrying multiples). However, that does not mean that you need to be consuming more calories.
Excess calories leads to gaining too much weight- which will threaten your overall health. In addition, it increases the risk that your child will be overweight or obese in the future.
In the second trimester of your pregnancy, it is fine to increase your caloric consumption by 340 calories from your pre-pregnancy consumption.
In the third trimester, it’s fine to add 450 more calories to your pre-pregnancy caloric intake. However, if you’re overweight when you become pregnant or if your level of physical activity decreases you will most likely need to be consuming less calories while pregnant.
On the other hand, keep in mind that it is not safe to lose weight while pregnant either. If you’re struggling with questions regarding caloric consumption, speak with your physician, midwife, or a dietician what level of calorie consumption is best for you.
Of course, there is plenty of room for special treats such as cookies, chips, and even ice cream while you’re pregnant.
However, it’s very critical that you choose foods that will give you the calories you need as well as the nutrients that your baby needs for healthy development.
Avoid Doggie Bags
When you go out to eat, unless you’re heading straight home, you should avoid asking for a to-go box. Be aware that the inside of your vehicle can become warm quite quickly, which can cause the bacteria to multiply.
However, if you do choose to take home your leftovers, they must be put in the refrigerator within two hours of when the meal was served originally.
When you’re pregnant, it’s no longer just your health you must be concerned about- but the health and development of your baby.
You want to be sure that you only do the best for your bundle of joy. Of course, after the baby is born, if you don’t plan to breastfeed, you can go back to eating your favorite sushi- or cheating and tasting the cookie dough when you’re baking.
However, keep in mind that some of these foods must also be avoided when you are breastfeeding.