When you’re expecting, it may seem like a food free-for-all. Eating for two, right? Sure you can indulge in a few hundred more calories a day guilt-free, but where you get those calories from matters, especially when you consider health problems and birth defects caused by harmful ingredients Don’t think of this as a downer, though! It’s just time to think of food differently for a healthy pregnancy.
“Instead of being negative, use this as an opportunity to do healthy things we all know we should be doing,” says Laura Riley, MD, OB/GYN, Director of Labor and Delivery at Massachusetts General Hospital and author of You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.
She suggests reformatting your diet to include six small meals a day so your energy levels stay up and to choose foods that won’t cause your blood sugar to spike. So, while candy is not on the Do Not Eat list, it is the kind of thing you want to eat in moderation.
What is on the Do Not Eat list are foods like sushi, cookie dough, brie cheese and more. For a full rundown of what not to eat when you’re expecting, read on.
1. Raw or Undercooked Foods
Rare meat, raw oysters, raw fish, and even undercooked eggs are things to avoid during pregnancy. Think eggnog, eggs over easy and even raw cookie dough, or raw cake batter with eggs inside — all things that will have to wait until after delivery.
Raw and undercooked foods, especially undercooked meat, may contain high levels of bacteria or parasites that can lead to food poisoning and other illnesses.
To be on the safe side, be sure to cook meats so they reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees and poultry gets to 165 degrees.
2. Homemade Dressings
Homemade dressings like Ceasar, béarnaise, hollandaise and mayonnaise are all dressings and sauces that you should avoid on your pregnancy diet. They traditionally contain raw eggs and as such, are susceptible to harmful bacteria growth.
Bottled versions, though, are not made with raw products (unless the label disagrees) are generally safe. Just read your labels.
3. Mercury-Heavy Fish
Fish is a great source of lean protein and healthy fats, but not all fish are created equally. Stay away from those that are prone to high mercury levels. Mercury can be harmful to you and your baby.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) encourages pregnant women to avoid to avoid include swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, shark and albacore or white tuna.
4. Unwashed Fruit & Vegetables
If you are increasing your intake of fruit and veggies, good for you! Just be sure to properly clean all produce. A parasite called toxoplasmosis can be present on produce sprayed with pesticides.
There is no need to add soap to the mix, just use a small vegetable brush or toothbrush to scrub away any residue.
5. Raw Sprouts
Live or active foods like sprouts, clover radish and alfalfa may sound healthy, but since they are raw and prone to absorbing bacteria, they should be avoided during pregnancy.
6. Fish from Local Waters
You aren’t sure what your lakes and rivers are contaminated with, especially if there are industrial buildings nearby. Locally caught bluefish, striped bass, salmon and trout may be affected by growing bacterial.
You can always check with your state’s parks department as to when the waters were last tested for contamination, but you may not get an answer for a while so best to avoid for the time being.
7. Room Temperature Foods
If you are attending a barbecue or potluck, stay away from anything that has been sitting out for too long. Generally, don’t eat anything that has been sitting out at room temp for more than two hours. If it is summer and hotter than 90 degrees, make that one hour. The Center for Disease Control explains that bacteria can grow rapidly at room temperature.
And be sure the temperature in your refrigerator is set to or below 40 degrees, and the freezer at 0 or below. This rule applies to leftovers from a restaurant. Chances are they aren’t refrigerating your doggie bag, and if your car is warm with a long drive, you could be creating an unhealthy breeding ground for food bacteria to develop.
Dr. Nicole Avena, a research neurologist and author of What to Eat When You’re Pregnant reminds us that while cantaloupe is healthy, during pregnancy, it should be avoided.
The melon is prone to contamination from listeria-carrying bacteria. She also recommends avoiding precut melon chunks you might find in a fruit platter or cup as they may have been cross contaminated with cantaloupe.
The March of Dimes recommends women who are pregnant should limit caffeine to 200 milligrams per day. That is equal to one 12-ounce cup of coffee. Caffeine is also present in soda, tea, and some chocolate and energy drinks that are disguised as healthy, such as Bai, so read your labels.
“I personally think soda is worse for pregnant women than coffee,” Avena told Fox News. But if you do have it, remember that caffeine is a diuretic, so you need to continue to hydrate the body with water every time you have caffeine.
10. Processed Meats, Hot Dogs and Smoked Seafood
Deli meats and foods like hot dogs are prone to listeria monocytogenes, a bacteria that causes listeriosis. In serious cases, listeriosis can lead to stillborn birth, miscarriage and even death.
Other foods that carry the bacteria include smoked or uncooked seafood, like salmon, cod, tuna, light tuna, and mackerel.
11. Soft Cheeses
While some dairy products are safe, soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk can contain food-borne illnesses and listeria bacteria.
It might upset you to read this, but avoid brie, camembert, feta, blue, queso blanco, queso fresco and queso panela. It’s best to avoid cheese boards with meat spreads and soft cheeses altogether.
12. Soft Serve Ice Cream
Pregnant women need to be avoiding soft serve for the same reason they are avoiding deli ham.
Unpasteurized dairy is prone to bacteria that causes listeriosis and that same bacteria can live in machines dispensing soft serve.
13. Fresh Juice
Fresh juice may sound like a great option for pregnant women, but it might be unpasteurized juice, so it’s important to protect against bacteria like E. coli and salmonella.