Women health

Pregnancy food chart

What not to eat and drink now that you're eating for two is really crucial.

You're probably focused on picking healthful foods that will help you feel your best and support your growing baby now that you're eating for two. But it's just as crucial to know what not to eat and drink while pregnant.

While your peanut will benefit from all of the nutritious foods you're eating, a baby can be harmed by illness-causing germs found in some meals. When you're pregnant, it's recommended to err on the side of caution and stay away from any menu items that could make either of you sick or have an impact on your baby's growth and development.

Thankfully, determining what is safe and what is not is rather simple. Here are what foods and drinks to avoid during pregnancy, as well as what to do if you eat or drink something on the list by accident.

Why should some foods be avoided during pregnancy?

Some foods are more likely to contain germs that cause illness, such as Listeria, Salmonella, or E. coli. During pregnancy, though, your immune system has a tougher difficulty battling pathogens.

 When you combine the two, you're more likely to become ill or experience issues such as miscarriage or premature birth if you ingest something contaminated by accident. The notion that microorganisms that cause foodborne illness can cross the placenta is also problematic.

Because your baby's immune system isn't yet strong enough to fight off infections, she's at risk of contracting a serious infection or perhaps developing birth defects.

Bacteria aren't the only reason to avoid certain foods. While alcohol and high-mercury fish won't make you sick, they can have a harmful impact on your baby's development. Others haven't been investigated thoroughly enough to determine whether they're safe for your growing kid.

Food to avoid when pregnant

So, what should you stay away from these days? Here are some foods and beverages you should avoid until your baby is born.


Plan to commemorate happy moments with a mocktail or fruit juice spritzer for the next 40 weeks. Even though you've heard that having an alcoholic drink every now and then is fine, it's preferable to be safe when you've got a baby on board. Why? Alcohol enters your kid's bloodstream at the same concentration as yours — and takes twice as long to exit — so whatever you're drinking, your baby is drinking as well.

Have you had a few drinks before finding out you're pregnant? Try not to be concerned. It happens to a lot of moms, and it's not something to be concerned about.

Dairy and juices been pasteurized

Thanks to the Food and Drug Administration, you won't have to worry about finding unpasteurized milk in the grocery (FDA). Soft cheeses manufactured with unpasteurized milk, on the other hand, are a different matter, as they might contain Listeria and other infections.

Stick to hard cheeses like Swiss or cheddar to be safe, or check the label to be sure it's prepared with pasteurized milk. Do you crave feta, Brie, Camembert, goat cheese, blue-veined cheeses, or queso fresco? Check to see if they're created using pasteurized products or heat them until they're frothy.

Unpasteurized liquids, such as apple cider or fresh-squeezed orange juice, should also be avoided. What about treated juice (fruit juices that have been treated to kill bacteria and can be obtained in farmer's markets and health-food stores)? It's probably fine as long as it's been treated with UV radiation.

Caffeine excess

Even if you couldn't live without your daily triple-shot vanilla lattes before becoming pregnant, now is the time to replace at least a couple of them with decaf versions.

While a few modest cups of coffee each day are safe during pregnancy, you should limit your caffeine intake to no more than 200 mg per day. Caffeine deficiency can also make it difficult for your body to absorb iron (which can lead to anemia).

In addition to kicking the caffeine habit, you should limit your soda and energy drink use. (A can of Mountain Dew, for example, contains 54 mg of caffeine, whereas a can of Red Bull contains 80 mg.) Also, keep an eye out for other hidden caffeine sources like chocolate, black or green tea, energy bars, coffee-flavored sweets (hello, tiramisu! ), ice creams, and yogurts to make sure you don't go over the 200 mg limit.

Seafood either raw or underdone

Do you fancy some sashimi-style tuna? Do you have a thing for half-shelled oysters? Keep in mind that uncooked or even seared fish is off-limits during pregnancy because the risk of eating bacteria and parasites is too great.

So avoid raw oysters, clams, ceviches, fish tartares, and carpaccios, as well as smoked foods (such as lox) that may contain parasites and germs that cause disease. (Smoked seafood in a prepared dish, such as a casserole, is OK.)

While this does not imply that you should avoid your favorite Japanese restaurant for the next nine months, it does indicate that you should be cautious about what you order. Most locations, for example, have cooked fish or vegetable rolls available right at the sushi counter! Simply ensure that any seafood you order is properly prepared: Fish and shellfish should flake easily, and shellfish should be firm.

Meat rare or underdone

Now is not the time to see pink...or red...in your meat. (This is also true for poultry and pork, but most people prefer it well done.) So, while you may have cooked (or ordered) that medium-rare steak before your kid arrived, you'll need to avoid blood-red meat now.

And what if the burger you ordered at a restaurant is a little too pink? Don't be afraid to return it. This is not the time to be modest. (It'll be easier to let out your inner restaurant diva if you keep your baby's safety in mind!)

Deli meat and hot dogs

That double turkey, salami, and onion sandwich with additional mustard may entice your pregnant appetite, but it might not be the healthiest option available right now.

As a pregnant woman, you should avoid foods that have been preserved with nitrates and nitrites, chemicals used in food preservation that are harmful to a growing fetus in excessive doses.

Undercooked meat (and poultry) can include bacteria like E. coli, Trichinella, and Salmonella (all of which can cause severe food poisoning) or toxoplasmosis.

You might wish to skip the hot dogs and pâté in addition to the double-decker sandwich. These foods, in addition to being high in preservatives (and fat), have a minor risk of containing Listeria.

If giving up deli is too much of a sacrifice, try switching to nitrate-free lunch meats and steaming them to kill any bacteria before eating (turkey melt, anyone?).

eggs raw or undercooked

While it may seem obvious to avoid raw or runny eggs, they can be found in more locations than the tasty batter crumbs that adhere to the spatula. Avoid meals like soft scrambled eggs, handmade ice cream or mousse, uncooked batter or cookie dough, homemade mayonnaise, tiramisu, and homemade eggnog unless they're made with pasteurized eggs.

Skip the Caesar and hollandaise dressings (unless you're confident they weren't made with eggs — bottled, shelf-stable Caesars are typically fine), and make sure your breakfast omelets and scrambles are fully cooked. You don't want to risk being infected with Salmonella by eating raw meats or poultry.

To be safe, ensure sure the eggs you buy were refrigerated and that the sell-by date hasn't passed.

Fish with a lot of mercury

You're probably aware that fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial to both the brain and the mood. When it comes to eating fish while pregnant, though, it's easy to become confused about which species are harmful (heavy in mercury) and which are healthy.

In a nutshell, stay away from sharks, swordfish, king mackerel, Gulf of Mexico tilefish, orange roughy, and bigeye tuna since they contain the most mercury. You should also limit yourself to one 6-ounce (oz.) portion of albacore tuna, grouper, snapper, wild striped bass, and halibut every week.

What is the safest seafood to consume if you're pregnant? Wild salmon (fresh, frozen, or canned), pollack, skipjack (light) tuna, cod, freshwater trout, sole, tilapia, shrimp, sardines, anchovies, and scallops are examples of this. Aim for two to three servings (or 8 to 12 oz.) of seafood twice a week, but make sure it's well-cooked.

Sprouts, raw

Do you want to add some alfalfa or bean sprouts to your sandwich or salad to add some crunch? You should reconsider your position. Raw sprouts have been connected to E. coli and Salmonella outbreaks, thus they fall under the "better-safe-than-sorry" category of foods to avoid while pregnant.

However, you are not obligated to forego the crisp feel until after you give birth. In your sandwich or salad, try substituting baby spinach or baby arugula, or add some thin-cut, French-style green beans. That will undoubtedly improve the color and flavor of your sandwich, as well as provide you with a serving of those important green vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables unwashed

It's generally a good idea to give vegetables a brief washing before eating it, but it's especially crucial before consuming it.

Fruits and vegetables that have not been washed

It's generally a good idea to give food a short rinse before eating it, but raw fruits and vegetables are especially vital these days. On the outsides of produce, harmful bacteria like Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli can hide, and when a fruit or vegetable is chopped, juiced, or peeled, the microbes can readily travel to the internal flesh.

There's no need to use a special produce-cleaning spray, though. Before eating or preparing, give the product a thorough rinse under running water, and scrape away any leftover dirt with a produce brush. Finally, cut away any bruised or broken produce, as these regions are more prone to retain bacteria.

Salads from the deli

For the time being, stay away from the egg, spaghetti, chicken, and tuna salads behind the deli counter or at the neighborhood sandwich shop. If you acquire a craving, you can manufacture your own versions at home. Simply ensure that items such as egg and chicken are well cooked, and choose low-mercury tuna such as skipjack.

What if you consume one of these items while you're expecting?

Have you inadvertently consumed anything you shouldn't have? It happens from time to time. If you start to detect signs of food poisoning, call your doctor right away. Stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, or flu-like symptoms like fever, body pains, or headache are examples. Food that has been tainted usually makes you sick one to three days after you eat it.

And if you're in good health? You are not required to contact a physician, but there is no harm in doing so. It's never a terrible thing to have a little additional assurance!


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