Food to Avoid During Pregnancy

Each pregnant woman has heard the rumors about which foods they should eat and which they should avoid. Unfortunately, with so much discrepancy, it's no wonder that you are so confused about which you should actually eat and which you should actually avoid.

Many foods actually pose a health risk to your unborn child. These are the foods that you definitely need to be wary about. Those that contain large quantities of mercury or vitamin A are just a few. Below you will find a list of the foods that you should definitely be avoiding.

Food to Avoid During Pregnancy

1. Meat & Poultry

  • Raw or Undercooked Meat – Uncooked or rare meat and poultry contain many contaminants such as coliform bacteria, toxoplasmosis, and salmonella. Use a meat thermometer to ensure proper temperatures when cooking.
  • Deli Meat – Listeria has been known to contaminate many deli meats. Pregnant women who ingest deli meats with listeria may have a miscarriage. This happens because the listeria is able to go through the placenta and infect the baby directly, causing infection or blood poisoning.
  • Pate – You can opt to eat canned pate or meat spreads; however, those that are refrigerated need to be avoided as they may contain listeria.
  • Fresh Pre-Stuffed Poultry – The stuffing in the middle of the raw poultry is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Although cooking helps kill off these bacteria, being pregnant makes you more susceptible. Use frozen instead of fresh and do not let it thaw first.

2. Fish & Seafood

When it comes to food to avoid during pregnancy, always be careful about fish and seafood, especially when raw as the parasites and bacteria they harbor may pose great risks to both you and your baby's health.

  • Seafood High in Mercury – Ingesting large amounts of mercury can potentially harm the developing nervous system within your baby. It is mostly large fish such as swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and tilefish that you have to be wary about. Be cautious around tuna as well because the mercury levels vary from can to can.
  • Raw Fish – Although sushi is loved by many, ingesting it while pregnant may be harmful. Oysters, scallops, and clams that are uncooked should be avoided as well. The raw fish and seafood contain parasites and bacteria that may lead to infection, if not death.
  • Polluted Fish – Salmon, striped bass, bluefish, and walleye may be found in contaminated rivers and lakes. If they contain high quantities of polychlorinated biphenyls, they can be potentially deadly to your infant or leave them with a disability.
  • Smoked Fish – Smoked fish, like deli meats, may contain listeria. However, you can cook smoked fish in a casserole. The cooking kills the listeria.

3. Dairy

  • Unpasteurized Milk Any food containing unpasteurized milk is extremely bad. The pasteurization removed many bacteria and viruses which can cause illnesses, if not miscarriages.
  • Soft cheeses such as Brie, feta, and blue cheese are not always pasteurized. Make sure you read all labels.
  • Eggs – Make sure that you cook eggs until the yolks and whites are opaque and firm. They may contain harmful bacteria that can infect, both the mother and unborn infant. Any items such as eggnog and tiramisu that contain raw eggs should be avoided.

4. Beverages

  • Unpasteurized juice may also harm your unborn child, making it food to avoid during pregnancy.
  • Caffeine – Most of the time caffeine in moderation is acceptable. It is important to note, though, that caffeine has shown that it may be related to miscarriages. You may begin drinking 1-2 cups of caffeinated drinks after your first trimester.
  • Alcohol is simply not safe. It has been proven that it can alter the development of your baby; it can even lead to fetal alcohol syndrome. Stop as soon as you know you are pregnant and do not start again until you are done breastfeeding.
  • Herbs – Herbal tonics, teas, and supplements may actually harm you or your infant during pregnancy. They are not approved by the FDA, therefore there are not many quality standards for herbal remedies.

5. Unwashed Veggies/ Fruits

Rinse all fruits and vegetables as soon as possible. Although they are mostly safe, when you are pregnant it is safer to wash them. Toxoplasma, a common parasite may live on fruits and veggies. This parasite is extremely dangerous for an unborn child because it causes toxoplasmosis.

  • Raw Sprouts – All the healthy hype is about eating raw sprouts. While they add great nutrition to a normal diet, when you are pregnant the bacteria may harm your child. Cook any alfalfa, clover, or radish sprouts thoroughly before eating.

6. Nuts

Speaking of food to avoid during pregnancy, you should also pay attention to the nuts. Nuts that are commonly known to cause allergies need to be avoided. This is because if you have an allergic reaction you may have swelling of your body parts which may harm the infant.

7. Highly Processed Foods

  • Canned Foods – Many canned foods have a long shelf life, which can lead to several ill-effects. Two of the main reasons that they are harmful are: First, the lining of most cans contains BPA. BPA interferes with the fetal endocrine activity. Second, they may have gotten too old and now contain harmful bacteria.
  • Foods That Contain Nitrate – Foods such as bacon, sausage, and diet sodas have high levels of nitrate. The nitrate may potentially cause unwanted birth abnormalities and other defects.
  • Foods High in Sugar – You may experience a craving for sugar; however, too much sugar may lead to diabetes in your unborn child.
  • Artificial Sweeteners – Saccharin, found in many foods as a sugar substitute, is not filtered by the placenta. This may result in birth defects in your unborn child.

8. Other Food to Avoid During Pregnancy

  • Raw Cookie Dough – A favorite among many pregnant women, raw cookie dough contains raw eggs. Eating raw eggs may lead to salmonella poisoning.
  • Party Foods – Many times a gathering with friends or family contains potluck style foods. It is very important that you stick to the 2-hour rule. If left unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours, bacteria will begin to grow causing a greater danger to you unborn child.
  • Roadside Foods – You may be craving your favorite treat from the roadside stall down the road; however, this is not a good idea. Your unborn child may not be as prepared as you are for the upset stomach, food poisoning, or other problems such as poor hygiene that may be found at those stalls.