When you’re pregnant you’re eating for two — for you and your baby. It’s very important to be extra careful about what you eat during this time because the foods you consume will not only affect your health but that of your baby’s too.
There are some foods you need to watch out for and take certain precautions before eating and then there are foods that are absolutely in the Do-Not-Eat list. Here are some guidelines for safer pregnancy eating:
Avoid: Cheeses that are made of mould such as brie, camembert, goat’s cheese, Danish blue, gorgonzola and Roquefort. Also watch out for cheeses made from unpasteurized or raw milk like mozzarella, feta or ricotta. These types of cheese could contain listeria, a bacteria that can cause an infection that can lead to stillbirth, premature delivery or cause you to miscarry your baby.
Safe to Eat: Go for hard cheeses like cheddar, parmesan, Gouda, gruyere and stilton or processed/pasteurized cheeses like cream cheese or cottage cheese.
Safety Tip: You can eat mould-ripened cheeses and unpasteurized cheeses but only if you cook them thoroughly. Make sure the cheese is heated all the way through and is melted and bubbly. The heat will kill off any harmful bacteria.
2. Deli Meats or Cold Cuts
Avoid: Pre-packaged frozen meats like turkey, ham, hot dogs and off-the-deli-counter cured or fermented meats like salami, pepperoni, chorizo, Parma ham or pastrami. These are high-risk foods that may contain T. Gondi parasites, organisms that can contaminate foods that have not been thoroughly cooked or properly prepared or stored. T.gondii can cause toxoplasmosis infection which can lead to stillbirth or miscarriage or congenital disorders like epilepsy, hydrocephalus or jaundice.
Safety Tip: Freeze cured deli meats for four days at home before eating or you can cook them over heat to be really safe. Extremely cold and hot temperatures will kill most parasites and make meats safer to eat. Try making turkey Panini sandwiches or grilled ham sandwiches, or bake your own pepperoni pizza or twist some prosciutto on asparagus spears and then steam or grill.
3. Fish with High Levels of Mercury
Avoid: Shark, swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, orange roughy, grouper, marlin, ahi tuna, big eye tuna, saltwater bass, and canned solid white albacore tuna. These types of fish contain high levels of mercury that can be harmful to your baby’s developing nervous system, lungs, kidneys, vision, and hearing.
Safe to Eat: Choose low-mercury fish with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and DHA, like anchovies, salmon, snapper, skate, mahi-mahi, monkfish, herring, sardines, sole, Boston or Chub Mackerel, and canned light tuna.
Safety Tip: According to the FDA and the EPA, you can eat low-mercury fishes up to two 6-oz servings per week.
4. Sushi and Sashimi
Do Not Eat: Sushi and sashimi rolls made of raw fish. The raw fish could contain small parasitic worms that can cause food poisoning which is very difficult to treat in pregnant women.
Safe to Eat: Go for sushi varieties that are fully cooked or vegetarian, like cooked seafood rolls unagi, which has cooked eel or ebi, with cooked shrimp or California rolls with avocado or cooked egg or maki rolls with cucumber.
Safety Tip: If you really must eat raw-fish sushi or sashimi, make sure it uses only frozen fish. If you’re making your own at home, freeze the fish for four days before using them.
5. Raw Eggs
Do Not Eat: Runny eggs (with whites and yolks somewhat liquid), freshly-made Caesar salad dressing, homemade mayonnaise, and raw cookie dough or cake batter. Dishes that have uncooked or undercooked eggs may give you salmonella food poisoning which can trigger severe diarrhea and vomiting that can lead to dehydration and potentially affect the growth of your baby, or in a worst case scenario, cause preterm labor.
Safe to Eat: Eat only thoroughly cooked eggs. Pregnant and nursing women should eat one or two eggs every day. Eggs contain high-quality protein, calcium, zinc, iron, iodine and essential fatty acids that can help build up the placenta and fetal tissues. Most importantly, eggs contain the micronutrient choline to help in baby’s brain development and prevent certain birth defects such as spinal bifida and anencephaly.
Safety Tip: Cook eggs thoroughly until whites and yolks are firm and stable in shape. Use pasteurized liquid egg for dishes that have need of raw or partially cooked eggs.
Do Not Eat: Food and beverages that contain large quantities of caffeine, such as coffee, teas, cola, energy drinks and chocolate. Caffeine is a stimulant and diuretic which can cause iron deficiency, increased heart rate and blood pressure, sleep problems, heartburn, frequent urination and dehydration and result in a miscarriage or preterm. High amounts of caffeine in your system will cross over to the placenta and your baby will feed on this, causing low birth weight and other developmental problems in later pregnancy stages.
Safe to Eat: Moderate amounts of caffeine is ok in pregnancy eating. You can take in daily up to one 12-ounce cup of coffee, two 75 mg cups of tea, 5 cans of cola containing 40 mg of caffeine each or 8 small bars of milk chocolate with 25 mg of caffeine in each piece.
Safety Tip: Control your intake of caffeine to the recommended daily limit of 200mg.
7. Artificial Sweeteners
Avoid: Saccharin (Sweet’N Low), though deemed safe to use by the FDA, several studies show that it can cross over to the placenta and get to your baby’s tissues. Since baby’s developing metabolism cannot process it properly, this could lead to complications as the baby grows.
Safe to Eat: Go for artificial sweeteners made with aspartame and sucralose, like Equal, NutraSweet, NutraTaste, and Splenda.
Safety Tip: Artificial sweeteners contain no nutrients so be sure to eat a balanced diet and drink a variety of healthy beverages like water, milk, or juices that are beneficial to your developing baby.
8. Herbal Teas
Avoid: Keep away from these herbal teas when you’re pregnancy eating as they may have medicinal properties that can act like prescriptive drugs and may cause some problems during pregnancy – anise, ginger, lime blossom, rose hip, catnip, chamomile, comfrey, ephedra (ma huang in traditional Chinese medicine), European mistletoe, hibiscus, horehound, Labrador, lemongrass, licorice root, mugwort, pennyroyal, raspberry leaf, rosemary, sage, sassafras, stinging nettle leaf, vetiver, and yarrow.
Safe To Eat: Choose mild mint or fruit-flavored teas or some green and black teas. Always read ingredients to be sure. Limit drinking tea to just a cup or two daily as you also need to watch out for your caffeine intake.
Safety Tip: Stick to brands that you normally drink. Now is not the time to experiment and try out new blends.
Avoid: Alcohol is a toxin and therefore poisonous for you and especially for your underdeveloped baby. Don’t drink alcoholic beverages of any kind at any time when you are pregnant as this can cause a miscarriage, premature birth or a stillborn birth. Too much alcohol in your system can damage your baby’s cells and cause permanent defects on your baby’s face, organs, nervous system and brain.
Safe to Eat: You may indulge in non-alcoholic beer or wine, sparkling water, soda water, syrups or fruit juices.
Safety Tip: Some studies have found that any alcohol taken during pregnancy may be harmful so even occasional or light drinking is not advised.