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What Not to Eat During Pregnancy: Food to Avoid During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a beautiful time and one of the first things that you need to understand about having a safe pregnancy is the types of foods and beverages that you should look to avoid during this time. Not everything that you are used to normally consuming would be good for you and your baby. Though some of the foods and beverages on this list can be a total bummer, it is best that you inform yourself and look to avoid these foods as much as possible to prevent complications. 

 


Though there is a wide list of things you cannot eat during pregnancy, there is an even longer list of foods and beverages that you can eat and drink. You just have to learn to adapt to the varied set of circumstances. After all, it is only for a few months and you can go back to your normal eating habits once your child is born; unless of course, you are breastfeeding, but that is substance for another article. 

 


While some of these foods on this list can be enjoyed on a rare basis, others have to be completely avoided. 

 


Hence, without further adieu, let’s dive into the good stuff. First on the list is a popular favourite, so don’t hate us for bringing this to your attention. 

 

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1. Junk Food (Processed)


Pregnancy is a time when your body needs nutrients. You should be looking to eat nutrient-dense food that will help both you and your baby. The nutrients in the food that you eat no longer only serve you, they also work to help the growth and nurture of the little one inside of you.

 


You would need increased amounts of certain nutrients in your diet, such as protein, folate, iron and choline. You need extra protein and iron because your blood has to be rich to provide the baby with sufficient oxygen for proper growth. 

 


Many women use the excuse that they are eating for two to consume all the junk food available. In actuality, however, you can eat the normal number of calories during your first semester and slowly increase your calorie intake by 350 calories in your second semester and 450 calories in your third semester. The calories that you consume should be from nutrient-rich foods and not junk food.

 


Junk food is an easy way to add unwanted calories to your diet. They carry almost no nutrient value, hence given the name ‘junk’ and are highly processed. You should look to include as many whole foods as you can in your diet to ensure that you derive all the necessary nutrients that you and your baby need. 

 


Processed junk food is high in calories, sugar and has added fats. They can lead to unnecessary weight gain and excess weight gain is linked to various complications such as gestational diabetes. It can also lead to pregnancy and birth complications hence look for the means to keep your weight at healthy levels. 

 


Instead of filling up on junk food, look to replace them with healthy snacks which include protein, vegetables, fruits, healthy fats and fibre-rich carbohydrates. Fruits and nuts can be great snacks for when you are craving something sweet.

 


All in all, you want to steer clear of processed junk food as much as possible and avoid them when possible. They simply do not provide any value to you and your baby. If you are used to eating a bag of potato chips every day, you may want to address this during pregnancy. The more junk you eat, the less room you have for nutritious meals. 

 

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2. Alcohol

The second on our list is an obvious no-no. Many women and expecting mothers know of the dangers of alcohol during pregnancy. It is advised that you completely avoid drinking alcohol during pregnancy for it can increase the chances of stillbirth or even a miscarriage. 

 


You may be inclined to think that one glass of wine won’t hurt. However, you couldn’t be more wrong. Even a small amount of alcohol consumed during pregnancy could negatively impact the development of your baby’s brain. 

 


Alcohol during pregnancy brings with it a host of complications and can cause fetal alcohol syndrome. This syndrome could result in facial deformities, intellectual disability and heart defects in your baby.

 


No amount of alcohol is considered safe during pregnancy, which is why so many of us know to avoid alcohol during pregnancy. For the safety of the child that you are carrying and to avoid unnecessary upsets, look to avoid all amounts of alcohol during pregnancy.

 

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3. Unpasteurized Milk, Cheese and Fruit Juice

Unpasteurized milk and cheese including many soft-ripened kinds of cheese contain a host of harmful bacteria including Campylobacter, E.Coli, Salmonella and Listeria. It is also true for unpasteurized juices which are also prone to bacterial contamination. 

 


Infection by any of these bacteria could have life-threatening consequences for your unborn baby. 

 


The bacteria can naturally grow in the milk, cheese or juice and can even be contaminated during storage. Pasteurization works to kill these harmful bacteria without changing the nutritional value, which is why is it considered the better option.

 


Don’t get us wrong, we aren’t telling you that you cannot enjoy milk, cheese or juice. We are only saying that you should opt for pasteurized versions and steer clear of unpasteurized products. 

 


You want to ensure the minimum risk of infections, which is why it is best to avoid unpasteurized milk, cheese and juices. After all, you are caring for a baby and you don’t want to consume anything that could be life-threatening for them. 

 

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4. Unclean Fruits and Vegetables

Regardless of whether you are pregnant or not, you shouldn’t really be eating unclean produce. This means unwashed produce, which carries plenty of bacteria and parasites which can be very harmful to you. 

 


When pregnant, you have to be extra careful about the food that you eat and ensure everything that you eat is clean and healthy. Unpeeled fruits and vegetables can also contain several types of bacteria, hence it is a good idea to peel the fruit or vegetable before you consume it. 

 


Bacteria such as Listeria, Salmonella, E.Coli and Toxoplasma are acquired through the soil and in the process of handling produce. Contamination of fruits and vegetables can occur at any time during harvest, production, transportation, storage or even at retail outlets. 

 


One of the most dangerous parasites that can be found in unclean produce is Toxoplasma. It is very important that you properly wash fruits and vegetables before consuming them and peel them when possible. 

 


Though the majority of people who get toxoplasmosis have no symptoms, others may notice flu like symptoms that goes away after a month or more. Though infants that are infected by Toxoplasma do not show signs of complications during birth, complications could arise in later stages of life including intellectual disabilities and blindness. 

 


The health and safety of your child are in your hands. It is very important that you minimise the risk of infections by properly cleaning fruits and vegetables. This means washing them well with water, peeling them when possible and even cooking them to destroy any bacteria and parasites that may be present. 

 


It is a good idea to keep these habits even after the birth of your baby. You shouldn’t eat unclean produce even if you are not pregnant. Further to this, it is important that you make a good practice of this so as to ensure that you are feeding your child clean fruits and vegetables, even after they are born. 

 

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5.  Raw Sprouts

Though salads are considered a healthy choice, they may not be free of harmful ingredients that could risk the safety of you and your child. Raw sprouts including bean sprouts, radish, clover and alfalfa all may be contaminated with Salmonella. 

 


These raw sprouts require humid environments for their seeds to start sprouting. These environmental conditions are perfect for these kinds of bacteria and it is very difficult to get rid of them by washing them. This means, simply washing these raw sprouts isn’t enough.

 


As a result, it is best to avoid consuming raw sprouts altogether. Though this may come as a shock to you and though you may not have known of this prior, not all vegetables are good for you when eaten raw. Though raw sprouts are considered unsafe for consumption during pregnancy, cooked spouts can be safe. 

 

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6. Caffeine

Whether it is a bottle of cola or a cup of coffee, caffeine during pregnancy is another thing that you should look to limit. Millions of people around the world love their caffeine. Be it through coffee, tea, soft drinks or cocoa, you are not alone when it comes to caffeine. 

 


Pregnant women should look to limit their caffeine intake to less than 200 milligrams (mg) per day. This is as per the direction of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

 


Babies in your womb do not have the main enzyme that is needed to metabolise caffeine. As a result, caffeine that is very quickly absorbed and passed through the placenta will build up to high levels in the womb. 

 


High caffeine intake can lead to restricted fetal growth and can also increase the risk of low birth weight during delivery. Low birth weight is defined as less than 5 lbs and is associated with a higher risk of infant death and chronic diseases at later stages of life. 

 


You don’t need to avoid caffeine completely, but limit the intake to ensure that there isn’t caffeine buildup. When it comes to caffeine, you don’t want your unborn baby exposed to too much of this stuff, so limit your intake to ensure the safety and wellbeing of your baby. 

 

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7. Liver and Other Organ Meats

Organ meat can be a great source of a variety of nutrients. It includes copper, selenium, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin B12 and iron all of which can be good for your baby. However, when it comes to eating too much animal-based vitamin A, it is not recommended during pregnancy. 

 


Animal-based vitamin A is also known as formed vitamin A and consuming too much of it in the first trimester of pregnancy can lead to congenital malformation and even miscarriage. 

 


Though the greatest risk of formed vitamin A comes through vitamin A supplements, it is best to limit your organ mean consumption. This means you should not look to consume liver for instance more than a few ounces per week. 

 

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8. Raw Eggs

Raw eggs can contain Salmonella, a bacteria that contaminates the eggs and causes complications if consumed. Symptoms of salmonella infections will include diarrhoea, stomach cramps, vomiting, nausea and fever.

 


In certain rare cases, the bacteria can also cause cramps in the uterus which can lead to premature birth or even stillbirth.

 


Certain foods contain raw eggs, which include lightly scrambled eggs, poached eggs, homemade cake icing, homemade ice cream, homemade salad dressing, homemade mayonnaise and hollandaise sauce. 

 


Most commercial products that use raw eggs as an ingredient use pasteurized eggs which can be safe to consume. However, it is important that you carefully read the label to ensure that the eggs used are pasteurized. Otherwise, you are placing your child’s health at risk. 

 


To be on the safer side, you should ensure that you cook your eggs thoroughly and use pasteurized eggs. You can save poached eggs and homemade mayo for when you have had your baby. 

 

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9. Undercooked and Processed Meat

Though you need a good amount of protein when you are pregnant, you don’t want to source these proteins from processed meats. This goes the same for undercooked meats. Undercooked meats may contain a host of bacteria including Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli and Toxoplasma. Hence, you run the risk of catching a bacterial infection. 

 


These bacteria in undercooked meats can threaten the health of your unborn baby and can lead to stillbirth, severe neurological illnesses such as epilepsy, blindness and even intellectual disability. 

 


Though most bacteria is found on the surface of the meat and is often killed in the process of cooking, some bacteria can linger inside the muscle fibre, which is why it is unsafe to eat undercooked meats. 

 


Cut meat should not be consumed raw or undercooked. Hence, when it comes to meat patties, burgers, minced meat, pork and poultry, make sure to keep them on the grill for longer until they are well done. Steer clear of rare steaks, for now, you don’t want to take the risk. 

 


Though cut meat should not be consumed undercooked, whole cuts of meat including tenderloins, sirloins or ribeyes are safe to consume even when they are not cooked all the way through. However, this is only applied when the piece of meat is whole or uncut and is completely cooked on the outside. 

 


However, to be safe, you should prefer to eat your meats well done for now. 

 


Processed meats including hot dogs, lunch meat and deli meat are also a point of concern that may come as a surprise to many pregnant women. The trouble with these types of meat is the fact that they could be contaminated by various types of bacteria during the processing and storage stage. 

 


If you are pregnant, you shouldn’t be consuming processed meat products unless the meats have been properly reheated until they are steaming hot. 

 

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10. Sushi (Undercooked or Raw Fish)

Much like undercooked meats, undercooked fish also carries the risk of various bacterial infections. Further to this, they also contain various viruses and parasites which can all threaten the wellbeing of your unborn baby. They can be ripe with norovirus, Vibrio, Salmonella and Listeria, which is bad news for sushi fans. 

 


Though some of these infections may only affect you, some infections can pass down to your baby and can have serious and even fatal consequences. 

 


Pregnant women are more susceptible to listeria infections than the general population. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mentions that pregnant women are 10 times more likely to be infected by Listeria than the general population. 

 

 

Listeria can pass down to your baby through the placenta even if you yourself are not showing any signs of illness. This can lead to various serious health problems for your baby and can even lead to stillbirth, miscarriage and premature delivery. 

 


It is best advised to avoid raw fish and shellfish. This includes avoiding sushi which contains raw fish. It is a sacrifice you will have to make. You can enjoy your sushi after your baby is born. 

 

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11. High Mercury Fish

Mercury is known to be an extremely toxic element. It has no known safe levels of exposure and is commonly found in polluted water.

 


High amounts of mercury can have a toxic effect on the nervous system, immune system and kidney. They can lead to serious developmental problems with children and various adverse effects. 

 


Since high amounts of mercury are found in polluted sea waters, large marine fish can accumulate a high amount of mercury. Hence, it is best to avoid high mercury fish when you are pregnant or breastfeeding. 

 


Shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tuna, marlin, tilefish and orange roughy are some high mercury fish that you should look to avoid. 

 


Not all fish are high mercury fish. Only certain types of fish contain high levels of mercury, which is why they are known as high mercury fish. Consuming fish during pregnancy can be a great way to source protein. It can be very healthy for you and your baby and you should look to eat fish up to three times a week. 

 


Low mercury fish are many and include anchovies, trout, tilapia, salmon, haddock, flounder and cod. 

 


Fatty fish like salmon and anchovies are considered an especially healthy option for the baby for they contain omega-3 fatty acids which are important for the growth and health of your unborn child. 

 

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12. Allergens

If you have a known allergy to a certain type of food, you should most certainly avoid it during pregnancy. You don’t have to avoid all foods that are considered highly allergic, for they don’t prevent allergies in your baby. Instead, what you should be on the lookout for are foods that you are known to be particularly allergic to.

 


If a healthcare professional has asked you to avoid a certain food due to the fact that you are allergic to it, you should most certainly avoid these foods during pregnancy. 

 


Consuming food that you are allergic to can cause complications for both you and the baby. The allergens could pass from you to the baby, what more, it could cause complications for you that could hamper the wellbeing of your baby. 

 


Look to avoid all foods that you have a known allergy to. If you have been advised by a healthcare professional, it is double the reason why you should not consume them during pregnancy. 

 


To Conclude

When you think about it, the types of food that you shouldn’t eat aren’t too restrictive. Sure the first one on this list packs a punch, after all, almost everyone likes some sort of junk food or the other. However, everything else on this list is rather expected. 

 


During pregnancy, you want to be eating healthy foods that are packed with nutrients. You do need plenty of fish and meat to provide a good level of protein for the growing child. However, you have to ensure that you source these fish and meats properly and cook them well before eating them. 

 


The same goes for fruits and vegetables that are packed with nutrients. So long as you ensure to clean them properly, they should be a good addition to your diet and should ideally make a good portion of your meals. 

 


We aimed to provide you with an informative article that would help you better understand the types of food that you should look to avoid during pregnancy. We hope after reading this word to word, you have a good idea about the types of food that you should avoid and restrict and have the information that you need for a safe and healthy pregnancy. 

 


Remember, you aren’t simply caring for yourself now, you are caring for your unborn child too. Hence, don’t do anything that will hamper their wellbeing.

 


Happy Caring!

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