From the moment of conception, what you eat affects your child’s development in the womb. This is why it’s important to follow your obstetrician’s food recommendations and to follow a healthy diet throughout your pregnancy. While you can eat most things in moderation, there are several items that doctors will tell you to avoid. So we’ve put together a list of pregnancy food to avoid for your benefit.
Unpasteurized Dairy Products
There’s nothing wrong with drinking milk when you’re pregnant. In fact, you can get much-needed nutrients from milk specifically formulated for pregnant women. However, unpasteurized milk and dairy products such as soft cheese (brie, feta, camembert and the likes) are clear examples of pregnancy food to avoid. This is because they may contain bacteria that causes listeriosis, a foodborne illness that gives you flu-like symptoms, nausea and diarrhea. Catching listeriosis when you’re pregnant can lead to miscarriage, still birth, or preterm labour. Hence, it is best to stick to pasteurized dairy1.
As mentioned above, instead of raw or unpasteurized milk and dairy, you should try pasteurized dairy products and milk formulated for expectant mothers. Two servings of Enfamama A+ will provide your daily calcium needs and help nourish your body to support your child’s development throughout pregnancy.
Refrigerated Processed and Ready-to-Eat Meat
Bacteria such as Listeria (causes listeriosis) which is found in unpasteurized dairy may also be found in some processed and ready-to-eat meat products. Avoid eating them unless properly and adequately heated. Below are some examples of processed and ready-to-eat pregnancy food to avoid:
- store-bought ready-to-eat chicken
- meat-based salads
Switch to unprocessed, well-cooked meat to avoid getting listeriosis.
Raw Seafood and Under-cooked Meat
While we’re on the topic of well-cooked meat, another pregnancy food to avoid is raw seafood and under-cooked meat. Raw seafood possibly carries Salmonella, which can cause salmonellosis. Symptoms may include the following:
- stomach cramps
- intrauterine sepsis or infection which can affect your unborn child2
Uncooked or under-cooked meat, on the other hand, is yet another possible carrier of Listeria. Other bacteria which these contaminated meat and poultry may carry include E.coli, Salmonella, Toxoplasma gondii and Campylobacter1.
Fish with High Mercury Content
Fish isn’t usually the first thing you see on the list of pregnancy food to avoid because they provide omega-3 fatty acids and protein, but some types of fish are included because of their high mercury content. Examples of fish with high mercury content are the following:
- king mackerel
Ingesting mercury can cause nervous system damage to you and development problems for your child, such as brain damage and vision or hearing impairment3. Instead of eating the fish mentioned above, you can stick to other types of fish. Make sure they are properly cooked. Avoid sashimi or sushi. Smoked salmon, cooked shellfish, tuna, and cooked prawns may be eaten in moderation4.
Another item on the list of pregnancy food to avoid is raw and under-cooked eggs. They may be Salmonella carriers, which can be dangerous for you and your unborn child. You can eat eggs but make sure that both the yolks and whites are firm enough. This means the eggs are cooked enough to kill germs and bacteria that may be residing in them.
You should also avoid food with raw eggs as ingredients, such as raw batter and cookie dough, homemade eggnog, homemade Caesar salad dressing, tiramisu, and homemade ice cream to name a few1.
Many believe coffee is automatically on the list of pregnancy food to avoid, but that’s not necessarily the case. This is because you’re not entirely told to hold off on food and drinks with caffeine. But you are advised to limit your intake to no more than 200mg each day. If you can’t stay away from your coffee fix, a cup should be just fine4. Better yet, switch to the decaffeinated variant.
To illustrate, see the examples below:
- 1 mug of instant coffee - 100mg of caffeine
- A mug of filter coffee - 140mg of caffeine
- 1 mug of tea - 75mg of caffeine
- A can of cola - 40mg of caffeine
Drinking alcohol leads to long-term problems in your child’s development. That’s why doctors recommend that you stop drinking alcohol even before you get pregnant. You need to stop once you decide you want to try conceiving. Furthermore, you should avoid drinking altogether during your pregnancy.
Make sure to follow your OB-GYN’s dietary instructions to get the nutrition you need throughout your pregnancy. Remember to supplement your nutritional needs with vitamins and specially formulated maternal milk like Enfamama A+.
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1“People at Risk: Pregnant Women.” FoodSafety.gov. Accessed August 18, 2020. https://www.foodsafety.gov/people-at-risk/pregnant-women
2Meltzer Warren, Rachel. ”The Foods to Avoid When You’re Pregnant.” The New York Times. Accessed August 18, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/article/foods-to-avoid-when-pregnant.html
3“10 foods to eat and avoid during pregnancy.” UC Davis Health. Accessed August 18, 2020. https://health.ucdavis.edu/good-food/blog/pregnancy-diet.html
4”Foods to avoid in pregnancy: Your pregnancy and baby guide.” National Health Service (NHS). Accessed August 18, 2020. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/foods-to-avoid-pregnant/