As you start your pregnancy journey, getting the right nutrients is important for a healthy mama and baby. While you start increasing the amount of nourishing foods in your diet, you may also want to consider cutting some foods out. These foods can either be harmful to the baby while you’re pregnant, or may have other adverse effects you will want to consider.
Here are the top 10 foods to avoid during pregnancy.
1. Raw and unpasteurized foods
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), undercooked beef or poultry should be avoided due to the risk of contamination with coliform bacteria, toxoplasmosis and salmonella. If contracted, the baby can then be susceptible to foreign bacteria as well, leading to effects such as low birth weight, jaundice and other serious complications.
Raw and unpasteurized foods to avoid include:
- unpasteurized dairy or juice
- raw seafood (like sushi, oysters, and mussels)
- raw eggs (and foods that contain raw eggs like cookie dough and salad dressings)
- raw meats
2. Deli meats, unless heated per USDA guidelines
Deli meats can contain listeria, a bacteria found in contaminated water and soil. If contracted while pregnant, it could cause a miscarriage or premature birth. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggests cooking hot dogs, luncheon meats, bologna, or other deli meats until steaming hot or reaching a safe temperature of 165 °F (73.9 °C) as measured with a food thermometer.
3. Unwashed produce
Fruits and veggies are essential to a balanced diet, but make sure you’re washing them well before eating to avoid exposure to harmful bacteria like toxoplasmosis and listeria. For more information on how to properly wash produce, check out these tips recommended by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
4. Precut fruit that’s been sitting out or fresh-squeezed juice
Fruit that’s been sitting out and anything unpasteurized are ripe conditions for potential bacteria growth.
This goes for all types of sprouts, such as alfalfa, radish, clover and mung bean. Sprouts need warm and humid conditions to grow, conditions that are also perfect for bacteria such as listeria, E. Coli and salmonella. These bacterias could cause harm to a fetus.
6. Soft cheeses
Soft cheese may contain listeria, which can be harmful. Cheese to avoid include:
- queso blanco/fresco (unless made from pasteurized milk)
If you see mold, it’s best to avoid it.
7. High-mercury fish
Mercury consumed during pregnancy has been linked to some congenital issues, such as developmental delay and brain damage. Fish that have high mercury levels include:
- king mackerel
- orange roughy
- ahi tuna
- bigeye tuna
One way to think of it is, fish that eat other fish likely have a higher mercury content than those that don’t.
Fish is not all bad—experts have learned that some low mercury fish (like salmon, sardines, scallops, shrimp, squid and tilapia) are safe to consume during pregnancy. They recommend 8 to 12 ounces of fish low in mercury per week.
8. Unrefrigerated leftovers
Like most of the foods listed, unrefrigerated leftovers can grow harmful bacteria. If it’s been sitting out at room temperature for more than two hours, sitting in the sun at all, or you can’t remember how long it’s been sitting out, it’s best to throw it away. The USDA recommends staying out of the “Danger Zone”: the range of temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Caffeine is a stimulant. It increases your blood pressure and heart rate, both of which are not recommended during pregnancy. It can also be absorbed through the placenta, where the baby is unable to metabolize the caffeine. This can disrupt the sleeping patterns of the baby during the later stages of pregnancy.
However, experts have stated that moderate amounts of caffeine are okay to consume. According to the ACOG, anything below 200mg per day is safe. To give a better picture of how much that is, a regular cup of drip coffee is 137mg.
There is no amount of alcohol that is known to be safe during pregnancy; pass on the drinks while pregnant, mama, to keep you and your little one safe. Depending on the amount, timing and frequency, alcohol consumption can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome and other developmental disorders.