What Foods Should You Avoid During Pregnancy?

As soon as you find out you’re pregnant, pretty much everything changes. Your life becomes a series of doctor’s appointments, taking vitamins, napping, and trying not to vomit. Your routine becomes unrecognizable, and you’ll find yourself saying goodbye to so many things you enjoyed pre-pregnancy. One of the biggest adjustments for women can be their diet. Specifically, not being able to eat and drink as they did before those little lines showed up on the pregnancy test. There’s a lot of information out there about what you can and can’t eat during pregnancy, but how much of it is factual? What foods should you avoid during pregnancy? We’ll break it down for you.

The most important thing to remember is that you need to eat a healthy, balanced diet. But what foods should you avoid during pregnancy as part of that diet? Let’s start with the biggies, like raw eggs and meat.

Eggs are a great source of protein for pregnant women, but consuming raw eggs can be dangerous. They may be tainted with salmonella, which is not something you want to risk when you’re pregnant (or ever!). Since most people don’t eat just plain raw eggs, you have to be aware of things that contain raw eggs and avoid those. Homemade mayo or eggnog, restaurant-made Caeser salad dressing, raw cookie dough, and under-cooked eggs should all be avoided. When you do cook eggs, make sure the whites and yolks are cooked through and not runny.

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Another food to avoid during pregnancy is raw or under-cooked meat. Like raw eggs, eating raw or under-cooked meat can put you at risk of contracting several food-borne related illnesses, like salmonella or E. coli. While these illnesses would make you sick no matter when you contracted them, they are incredibly dangerous for your developing baby. Some whole cuts of meat, like beef sirloins or ribeye, may be safe to eat medium rare. But cut meats and ground meats should be cooked all the way through.

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Lunch meats and things like hot dogs should also be cooked thoroughly. Processed meats can carry listeria, another dangerous bacteria. Additionally, processed meats like hot dogs and cured bacon can be very high in nitrates, an additive linked to possible brain tumors. It’s best to limit your consumption of processed meats. If you do eat them, make sure they’re cooked all the way through.

Fish is a great source of vital nutrients, but some fish should be avoided during pregnancy.

Fish is always a great meal choice during pregnancy, but you should avoid fish with high levels of methyl-mercury, like swordfish, tilefish, and shark. Even “safe” fish may contain traces of mercury, so while eating those varieties is fine, you should limit your consumption to 12 ounces a week. And don’t eat too much canned white albacore tuna, as it tends to have more mercury than other varieties.

Sushi lovers aren’t going to like this, but pregnant women should also avoid raw fish. Again, as with raw eggs and meat, the risk of contamination from salmonella or listeria is just too high. California rolls and cooked fish sushi are fine, though!

In addition to the things listed above, what foods should you avoid during pregnancy?

Be careful with raw sprouts or unwashed produce. Raw sprouts like alfalfa and mung bean sprouts can be contaminated with salmonella. The surfaces of produce can also carry bacteria and parasites, so make sure you wash everything really well (even if it was washed at the store before you bought it).

Unpasteurized juices and foods, like milk and some cheeses, can carry an array of potentially harmful bacteria, so avoid raw or unpasteurized foods.

You may also want to limit your consumption of some things too, like caffeine. Current guidelines recommend no more than 300 milligrams per day during pregnancy, which is roughly 2 – 3 cups of coffee. Some studies have linked excessive caffeine consumption to fetal health risks, so better safe than sorry.

So what foods should you avoid during pregnancy? Quite a few, as it turns out. The list may seem long, but remember, it’s only for 40ish weeks! Then you can celebrate your new baby with all the sushi and eggnog your heart desires.

(Image: iStock / nd3000)

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