Nutrition during pregnancy is important for both mom and baby. There are certain vitamins and nutrients that a growing baby needs for proper development such as folic acid, DHA, iron, and calcium. Most foods are safe to eat while pregnant, but there are a few things you should avoid while you’re eating for two.
Foods to avoid during pregnancy
There are certain foods that can pose potential problems for your developing baby. Its best to avoid these specific foods while pregnant:
Raw meat – Uncooked seafood or sushi, as well as rare or undercooked red meat or poultry, should be avoided during pregnancy. There is a high risk of contamination with bacteria that can cause toxoplasmosis or salmonella. Toxoplasmosis is relatively common and usually does not cause problems in most people because they have a healthy immune system that keeps the bacteria from causing infection, however, during pregnancy, this tiny parasite can cause big problems for your baby.
Complications from toxoplasmosis can include preterm birth or even stillbirth or other problems such as eye infections, jaundice, pneumonia, or an enlarged liver or spleen. Similarly, contracting salmonella from uncooked meats or seafood may be just unpleasant with gastrointestinal symptoms, but in rare cases during pregnancy, it can cause pre-term delivery or miscarriage.
Deli meat and hot dogs – In the past, these meats have been found to be contaminated with Listeria which can cross the placenta and cause miscarriage. Listeria is one of the most serious food-borne illnesses, and pregnant women are 10 times more likely to get listeria than the general population. Since it can cross the placenta and infect the baby, it could possibly lead to infection or blood poisoning and may be life-threatening. One way to help prevent listeria is to heat deli meats at a high temperature before eating, but it’s best just to avoid them altogether.
Soft cheeses – Some cheeses carry the risk of listeria too. Imported cheeses like Brie, Feta, Gorgonzola, Camembert, and Mexican-style cheeses (such as Queso Blanco or Queso Fresco) are all made from unpasteurized milk and could contain listeria bacteria. Cheeses made with pasteurized milk are safe to eat while pregnant. You should also avoid unpasteurized juices and raw eggs.
Fish with mercury – Fish that contain mercury should be avoided because mercury consumed during pregnancy has been linked to developmental delays and brain damage. Mercury-containing fish include swordfish, shark, mackerel, and tilefish. Canned, chunk light tuna usually contains lower amounts of mercury, but should only be eaten in very small amounts during pregnancy and only occasionally.
Caffeine – Some studies and some doctors will say that a moderate intake of caffeine during pregnancy is OK, but there are other studies that show too much caffeine can be related to miscarriages. It’s best to avoid caffeine during the first trimester when miscarriage risk is highest to lower the risk. If you do choose to drink coffee or other caffeine-containing beverages after the first trimester, you should limit it to less than 200 mg per day. That is the equivalent to one 12-oz. cup of coffee.
Alcohol – No amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy; it should be avoided completely. Exposure to alcohol in the womb can interfere with a baby’s healthy development, and regular use of alcohol, especially in larger amounts, can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome, which can cause a range of developmental disorders.
The best foods to eat during pregnancy
To make sure you and your growing baby are meeting all of your nutritional needs, eat a varied diet that is rich in protein, calcium, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, and lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Some superfoods to eat during pregnancy include lean meat, lentils, yogurt, salmon, avocado, nuts, carrots, red peppers, mangoes, eggs, bananas, kale, oats, sweet potatoes, and low-fat milk.
In addition to eating a varied, healthy diet throughout your pregnancy, always make sure you are drinking enough water to not only deliver nutrients to your baby but also to keep yourself hydrated as well. Aim for 10 eight-ounce glasses of water per day.