If you are expecting a baby, chances are you are taking vitamins, adding an extra glass of water or two to your daily intake, and choosing fresh foods that will provide your baby with the most nutrients possible. However, do you know which foods you should not consume while pregnant for the health of your baby? The advice from your friends and well-meaning family can be confusing, but the guidelines that have been established by years of medical research don’t have to be overwhelming. Whether you have allergies, sensitivities, or special health concerns there are basic pregnancy nutrition choices you should consider during pregnancy.
Seafood can give you and your baby the omega-3 fatty acids that are important to both of you, but if you’re not careful you might be exposing your baby to elevated levels of mercury. This mercury poses a danger to your unborn child’s nervous system development. As a general rule of thumb, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), say to eat smaller and “younger” fish equaling no more than 8 to 12 ounces per week – the older and larger the fish is, the greater the chance that it will contain elevated amounts of lead. Along with this general guideline, the FDA, EPA, and many physicians agree that during pregnancy you should avoid:
- Swordfish and shark
- King mackerel
- Raw fish
Meat, Proteins, and Poultry Consumption
Foodborne illnesses that arise from improper handling and preparation of raw meat can put pregnant women and their unborn babies at risk. Your body during pregnancy can react more strongly to bacterial food poisoning, and that can have harmful effects on your baby as well.
- Raw eggs carry a risk of salmonella. Products such as protein drinks, eggnog, Caesar salad dressing, and processed egg salads are of particular concern. Make sure that all eggs and products containing eggs are thoroughly cooked before eating them – including that beloved raw cookie dough!
- Do not order meat medium or medium rare, and use a meat thermometer to make sure that all meat and poultry products are thoroughly cooked according to the meat type.
- Even when you consume “pre-cooked” meats like hot dogs and other processed meat products, reheat the product until it is completely hot.
Dairy Product Consumption
A healthy pregnancy relies on an adequate supply of calcium, and dairy products can be a wonderful source. However, you need to make sure that the dairy products you choose are pasteurized. You can do this by reading the labels carefully and asking your grocer for help. Some particular products that you need to check carefully include:
- Soft cheeses (Brie, Feta, Blue Cheese, etc.)
- Fruit juices
Other Food Risks During Pregnancy
Sometimes the things that you choose to eat during pregnancy you think are part of a healthy diet, only to find out that they pose increased risks. Such is the case for things such as undercooked or raw sprouts, Mung beans, and radishes. These produce products carry increased risks for E. coli and Salmonella, so during pregnancy either avoid these or only eat them once they have been thoroughly cooked.
The preparation you practice when getting dinner ready can also affect the health risks of certain foods. Fresh and raw fruits and vegetables offer a great source of a variety of nutrients, but you must wash them very thoroughly and remove any bruised or discolored portions.
It is also important to look for hidden sources of caffeine in certain products. Not only do you need to be careful about drinking coffee and sodas, but many teas and chocolate contain caffeine as well. Work with your healthcare provider to determine a caffeine intake-level that is safe for you and your baby.