Avoid these Foods for a Healthy Pregnancy

Perhaps more than any other time in a woman’s life, her pregnancy days will find her at the receiving end of a great deal of advice – both wanted and unwanted. Much of that advice is focused on what she should and shouldn’t eat. And the advice varies from culture to culture.

Western women are told to avoid soft cheeses, among other things. Here in India, some recommend staying away from “hot” foods such as turmeric or papayas. The list below identifies many of the foods that pregnant women are advised to avoid:

  • Undercooked and uncooked meat or fish offers an ideal environment for the growth of fungi and harmful bacteria that can be dangerous for the mother as well as the child. Toxoplasmosis (a blood infection) and Salmonella can result from the consumption of raw meat or fish. Salmonella contracted during pregnancy can even be life-threatening, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
  • Certain types of fish – Fish that contain high levels of mercury should be avoided, as they have been linked to developmental delays and brain damage. Examples of fish that are likely to contain mercury are shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. As a precaution, tuna should also be avoided, but canned, chunk light tuna can be consumed in moderation. Raw shellfish (oysters, clams and mussels) are also among the fish that pregnant women should avoid.
  • Deli meats and smoked seafood can be contaminated with listeria, a type of bacteria that can cross the placenta and infect the baby or lead to blood-poisoning, which can be life-threatening.
  • Raw eggs must be avoided because of the possible exposure to Salmonella. Foods that can contain raw eggs, such as Caesar salad dressings, mayonnaise, homemade ice creams or custards and Hollandaise sauces can also pose a threat.

Soft cheeses, pates and meat spreads can contain listeria and should not be consumed.

  • Caffeine – Consumption of caffeine should be limited to 200 mg per day and should be avoided altogether in the first trimester, as it can increase the risk of miscarriage.
  • Alcohol – According to the American Pregnancy Association, “There is no amount of alcohol that is known to be safe during pregnancy.”
  • Unpasteurized dairy products – Unpasteurized milk products, like undercooked or raw meat, form an ideal environment for bacteria and viruses to grow. They can cause harm significant enough to cause the termination of a pregnancy.
  • Preserved food items – Food items that have been stored for long or are processed are not fresh and are susceptible to harmful bacteria and other micro-organisms. They are best avoided during pregnancy.

Though some of these foods may be favorites, pregnant women need only avoid them for nine months – a small price to pay for a healthy pregnancy.