Pregnancy: Foods and Drinks to avoid
When you are pregnant, it’s essential to avoid foods and beverages that may put you and your baby at risk. In addition to getting extra calories, taking your prenatal vitamins to get nutrients like folic acid and iron, and eating a well-balanced diet, there’s also the subject of what not to eat when you’re pregnant.
Certain foods should only be consumed rarely, while others should be avoided completely. Here are some foods and beverages to avoid or minimize while pregnant.
Pregnancy: Foods to avoid
The following foods are best avoided during pregnancy:
- Mercury in some types of fish – shark, swordfish, and marlin should be avoided or kept to an absolute minimum.
- Uncooked or partially cooked meat – this should be avoided, it should be cooked right through. Uncooked shellfish – there is a risk of bacterial or viral contamination which can cause food poisoning. Some bacteria and viruses can also cross the placenta and harm the baby.
- Raw eggs – including any foods with raw or partially cooked eggs in them. Eggs must be well cooked through to avoid salmonella infection.
- Uncooked or undercooked ready-prepared meals – it is crucial that ready-prepared meals are cooked through until they are piping hot. The risk of listeriosis exists, as well as infection from other pathogens.
- Pate – any type of pate, be it vegetable or meat-based – the risk here is also of listeria infection.
- Soft mold-ripened cheese – such as blue-veined cheese, Brie, or Camembert. There is a risk of listeria infection. A listeria is a group of bacteria that can cause potentially fatal infections to pregnant women and their babies.
- Empty calorie foods – cakes, biscuits, cookies, chips, and candy should be kept to a minimum. Many of these options are high in sugar and fat, have little nutritional content, and may undermine a pregnant woman’s efforts at maintaining healthy body weight.
Pregnancy: Drinks to avoid
If you have milk, drink only pasteurized or UHT (ultra-heat treated) milk — sometimes also called long-life milk. If only raw (unpasteurized) milk is available, boil it first. Don’t drink unpasteurized goat’s or sheep’s milk or eat food that is made out of them, such as soft goat’s cheese.
Don’t eat soft ice-creams while you’re pregnant as they have a higher risk of listeria contamination.
There is no safe level of alcohol that you can have during your pregnancy. Whether you are planning a pregnancy, already pregnant or breastfeeding, not drinking is the safest option as alcohol can harm your unborn baby.
High levels of caffeine can increase the risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, and experiencing a difficult birth. Caffeine is naturally found in lots of foods, such as coffee, tea, and chocolate, and is added to some soft drinks and energy drinks. Some cold and flu remedies also contain caffeine. Talk to your midwife, doctor, or pharmacist before taking these remedies.
You don’t need to cut out caffeine completely but don’t have more than 300mg a day. So if you have, for example, one bar of chocolate and one cup of espresso coffee, you have reached almost 165mg of caffeine. Don’t worry if you occasionally have more than this amount, the risks are quite small. To cut down on caffeine, try decaffeinated tea and coffee, fruit juice, or mineral water instead of regular tea, coffee, and cola.
Energy drinks are not recommended during pregnancy as they may contain high levels of caffeine, and other ingredients not recommended for pregnant women.
Fast facts about eating during pregnancy:
- A pregnant woman’s calorie intake grows during pregnancy. She does not eat for two; her calorie consumption just goes up a few hundred calories a day for most pregnant women.
- Typical weight gain, if the mother is carrying just one baby, varies considerably based on pre-pregnancy weight and other factors. An underweight pregnant woman is recommended to gain the most, whereas an overweight woman is recommended to gain the least.
- A woman’s body absorbs iron more efficiently and blood volume increases when she is pregnant, so she has to consume more iron to make sure that both she and her baby have an adequate oxygen supply.
Why Should You Avoid Certain Foods During Pregnancy?
|Your immune system is weakened during pregnancy, so you’re more susceptible to bacteria, viruses, and other things that can cause foodborne illness. Not only can these make you sick, but severe cases can cause preterm labor or miscarriage. |
Also, since you’re passing along most everything to your growing baby, what you eat—from the mercury in fish to caffeine in coffee—affects them too.
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