Having discussed what foods are best for your pregnancy, it is also necessary for you to know what foods to avoid and not eat when pregnant. There are certain foods and habits that can harm your pregnancy and your baby and therefore, should be avoided.
You should avoid these foods and drinks throughout the months and trimesters of pregnancy and well into the lactation months. As a matter of fact, you should stay away from these foods and drinks from the pre-pregnancy period, meaning from the day you decided to get pregnant.
These foods have the potential to cause a miscarriage and so take this advice seriously.
Another important piece of advice is to eat small healthy snacks during the day instead of three heavy meals and remember not to overeat.
Here is a checklist of foods you should avoid eating during your pregnancy from the time you have decided to become pregnant until the end of the lactation period and not just when your pregnancy is confirmed.
Avoid seafood high in mercury
Fish are a great source of proteins and omega-3 fatty acid, which help in proper development of the brain and nervous system of the developing baby.
However, certain fish can cause potential harm to the nervous system of the baby and you should avoid them during pregnancy. This is because they contain high levels of mercury, which acts as a neurotoxin.
Prenatal exposure to mercury can cause mental retardation, deafness, cerebral palsy and blindness. Even low doses can affect the baby’s development.
Avoid eating the following fish because they contain mercury:
- King mackerel
Avoid eating raw fish such as oysters and clams. You should also not eat fish that has been taken from a contaminated river or lake, which has been or is being exposed to industrial pollutants.
Avoid alcohol during pregnancy
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy greatly increases the risk of pregnancy problems and defects in the baby. You should stop alcohol totally from the moment you have decided to conceive and not only when your pregnancy is confirmed.
The following conditions have been associated with pregnant mothers who consumed alcohol during their pregnancy.
- Premature delivery
- Mental retardation,
- Physical defects in the baby.
- Learning disability in the child,
- Emotional problems in the child.
- Low birth weight babies.
Do not smoke
Besides the effects of smoking on you, smoking when pregnant can have serious effects on your pregnancy and the developing fetus. Smoking greatly increases your risks to the following conditions
- Premature delivery
- Low birth weight baby
- Congenital heart defects in the baby
- Babies become prone to respiratory problems like asthma.
Unpasteurized milk and its products
Milk forms an essential part of the pregnancy diet simply for its nutritional value. However, raw unpasteurized milk is dangerous for the pregnancy and the growing baby.
Raw milk contains the bacteria, listeria, which causes tuberculosis, typhoid and other infections.
Avoid such raw milk or milk products made from it. You should avoid soft cheese for the same reason. However, soft cheese made from pasteurized milk is safe to eat.
Avoid Brie, Camembert, Roquefort, Feta, Gorgonzola and Mexican style cheeses that include queso Blanco and queso fresco, unless they clearly state that they are made from pasteurized milk.
Yogurt too, made from pasteurized milk is safe to eat.
Excess caffeine and cold drinks
During pregnancy, limit your daily caffeine intake to 200 mg only. Caffeine is a diuretic, which causes excess urination leading to loss of water and calcium from the body.
Caffeine increases the risk of miscarriage and low birth weight babies. Replace cold drinks with healthier alternatives such as fresh fruit juices or coconut water.
Ideally, refrain from taking caffeine in any form especially during the first trimester to reduce the risk of miscarriage.
For reference to limit caffeine intake to 200 mg, read below:
- An 8-ounce cup of coffee contains 150 mg of caffeine
- A similar cup of black tea with milk contains 80 mg of caffeine
- Chocolate too contains caffeine. A chocolate bar contains about 40 mg of caffeine.
- A 12-ounce glass of caffeinated soda contains between 30 to 60 mg of caffeine.
Unwashed and uncooked foods during pregnancy
The reasons are obvious. Eating raw foods and foods that are not properly washed exposes you to bacteria that can give you diseases and infections and further, exposure to medications, which you do not need when you are pregnant.
The infection can travel to the fetus and medications can have harmful effects on the delicate structure of the fetus.
The soil where the vegetables were grown could be contaminated with toxoplasmosis.
Do not eat raw or soft-boiled eggs for fear of salmonella infection.
Fruits to avoid during pregnancy: Unripe papaya and pineapple
It is believed in some countries that eating too much of certain fruits is not advisable in pregnancy.
Unripe or semi-ripe papayas contain latex and pineapple has bromelain, which can cause uterine contractions and softening of the cervix of the uterus. This can induce premature labor.
Similarly, women in their last trimester of pregnancy should avoid grapes because of their heat content. However, moderate consumption is okay.
Ripe papayas contain good nutrients like vitamin C and are good for pregnancy symptoms like heartburn and constipation.
Raw undercooked meat and deli meat during pregnancy
Raw seafood and raw meat severely increase contamination with coliform bacteria, toxoplasmosis, and salmonella.
Similarly, deli meat (processed meat) has been known to be contaminated with listeria, which can cause miscarriage and blood poisoning in the fetus as it can cross the placental barriers and enter the bloodstream of the fetus.
If deli meat has to be eaten, be sure to reheat it till it is steaming. For the same reason, do not eat non-vegetarian sandwiches or hot dogs in restaurants as many of them use deli meats.
Avoid buying and consuming processed food when pregnant and more so when they have a long expiry period.
Such foods have preservatives added, which are not advisable in pregnancy. Especially when pregnant, do not trust the labels of foods. They can be misguiding.
Too much of vitamin A
Too much of vitamin A especially in nonbeta carotene form is known to cause birth defects.
The Institute of Medicine advocates about 2500 IU (international units) of vitamin A for pregnant women over 19 years of age.
Organ meat is a great source of several nutrients such as iron, vitamin B12, vitamin A, and copper. But, eating too much of animal-based vitamin A (organ meat) can cause vitamin A toxicity, as well as abnormally high copper levels, which can result in birth defects and liver toxicity. Having it once a week is okay.
The liver is a rich source of vitamin A. For reference, 3 ounces of cooked beef liver contains 27,185 IU and 3 ounces of cooked chicken liver contains 12,325 IU.
Avoid using saccharine during pregnancy as it can cross the placenta and remain in the tissues of the fetus. Use sweeteners that have been approved by the FDA during pregnancy.
Refined grain flour
Stick to only whole grains and do not eat bread or roti or rice made from flour of processed grains. Processing takes away the nutrients and such flour has very little nutritive value.
Consuming candies, which contain lead (especially those from Mexico) increases the risk of miscarriage, premature delivery, and delay of development in children.
Avoid any type of medication, allopathic or ayurvedic or homeopathic, during pregnancy. However, if necessary take only with your doctor’s advice.
The above guidelines of what foods to avoid during pregnancy should be religiously followed. Do read what nutrients to eat during pregnancy which will educate you further on the good eating foods during your pregnancy.