One of my first cravings as a mama–to–be was brie cheese. Little did I know it was on the list of foods to avoid when you're expecting. I didn't find that out until I was two months pregnant at my first prenatal appointment.
That's when I got the list of foods and beverages to avoid for the remainder of my pregnancy. I knew alcohol and caffeinated sodas were off the menu but wished someone had told me earlier to be wary of unpasteurized cheeses and deli meats. I panicked that my unborn babe might contract listeria from a sandwich I had eaten. Luckily, she was fine. To check out the foods to avoid,
- Certain types of fish: Swordfish, shark, tilefish, king mackerel, limit canned albacore tuna fish. These large fish harbor higher levels of methylymercury, a metal detrimental to a growing child's brain and nervous system. Pregnant and nursing women may safely eat up to 6 ounces of albacore ("white') tuna fish as part of their weekly total limit of 12 ounces of seafood low in mercury, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This also includes salmon, shrimp, canned light tuna, pollock, and catfish.
- Fish caught in rivers, lakes, streams, or any other body of water. Recreational anglers may hook fish contaminated with bacteria or chemicals. Check the safety of fish from your favorite fishing grounds with your local health department.
- Raw or undercooked meats: Red meat, poultry, seafood (like raw oysters, clams, sushi), and eggs (including eggs in cookie dough and cake batter). Undercooked animal foods may contain a variety of bacteria and viruses. Use a meat thermometer to determine how well done the meat and poultry are, and cook eggs until they are no longer runny.
- Hot dogs and luncheon meats: This includes deli ham, turkey, bologna, and salami. They are fine to eat if they have been reheated until steaming hot. These foods are prone to Listeria monocytogenes, a bacteria that causes listeriosis, which may result in miscarriage, stillbirth, or other serious health problems.
- Unpasteurized dairy foods: These can include some milk and certain cheeses, such as Brie, feta, Camembert, Roquefort, blue-veined, "queso blanco," "queso fresco," and Panela; refrigerated pates or meat spreads; and refrigerated smoked seafood, such as salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna, or mackerel (most often labeled as "nova-style," "lox," "kippered," "smoked," or "jerky"). These foods may contain harmful levels of listeria bacteria. Refrigerated smoked seafood is safe when it's part of a cooked dish, like casseroles.
[Lil note: Many cheeses in the US are pasteurized though, in which case they are fine. But if you are traveling abroad, you might want to play it safe and avoid it all together.]
- Unpasteurized juices: Juices such as cider purchased from roadside stands, at farms, or in stores can be prone to germs, including E. coli. Check the label to be sure juice is pasteurized.
- Raw vegetable sprouts: The FDA says sprouts are not a good idea for anyone, especially pregnant women who are more susceptible to the health effects of the germs sprouts possess. Examples of raw vegetable sprouts are alfalfa sprouts, clover, radish, and mung bean.
- Herbal supplements and teas: Herbs are natural, but herbal products have not been studied enough to recommend them during pregnancy.
- Alcohol: Beer, wine, and spirits rob developing cells of oxygen, making normal development impossible. The effects of alcohol on intellectual prowess are irreparable. According to the March of Dimes, there is no known safe level for alcohol consumption in pregnancy.
- Tap water in undeveloped countries: Drink bottled water to avoid bacteria and viruses.
- Certain foods that cause food allergy. Depending on your family history, your child may be at risk for developing food allergies. Avoiding foods including peanuts and peanut products during pregnancy (and nursing) may reduce allergy risk in susceptible children. Before you make any changes to your diet, speak with a licensed health care professional about your child's risk for allergy and consult with a registered dietitian knowledgeable about food allergy.