What Not to Eat When Pregnant: A Food Guide

When you’re pregnant, you realize that you are eating for two — yourself and the life that is growing inside you. It is this reality that guides the answer to what you can eat and not eat while pregnant. In deciding what not to eat when pregnant, you especially must keep in mind that your unborn doesn’t have a strong immune system as you. Also, the nervous system and other bodily organs obviously have not developed yet. Thus, infections and influences from alcohol or other substances that you can withstand would prove fatal to your unborn. These considerations factor into what not to eat when pregnant.

pregnant woman with hands on stomach

1. Soft or Unpasteurized Cheese and Other Dairy Products

Throughout our what not to eat when pregnant list, you’ll see unpasteurized items as a theme. Cheeses such as brie, feta, Camembert, queso blanco, queso fresco, and Roquefort are soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk. As such, they may contain E coli or listeria. Infections of listeria can result in spontaneous abortion, labor prior to full-term of pregnancy, stillbirths, and sepsis in early stages. Sepsis occurs when organs become inflamed and face damage because the body is fighting infections.

In place of the soft stuff, consume cheddar, Swiss, and other hard cheeses, or find pieces, blocks, or slices that have been pasteurized.

2. Salads From the Store or the Bar

Salads made in stores are foods not to eat while pregnant for the potential of listeria. In these salads, you could find ham, chicken, and seafood, which might not have been properly cooked or prepared to eliminate contaminants. Usually mild for the woman, foodborne illnesses caused by listeria may prove severe or even fatal to the unborn. Health hazards may also appear in salad bars, especially where other patrons sneeze, touch, or allow their fluids to make contact with the ingredients.

To reduce the risk of listeria and other bacteria from salads, prepare your own salad, but be sure you wash the ingredients thoroughly. Check with the federal or state food safety agencies on potential advisories for contaminated lettuce or other salad ingredients from which you might prepare your own salads. Heed any warnings issued by these entities. Separate your ingredients, cleanse them, and maintain the appropriate temperatures. Toss any ingredients at the sign of spoilage.

3. Sea Foods

Certain fish pose threats for developing fetuses due to mercury exposure. These include:

  • Tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico
  • Fresh tuna (including big eye)
  • King mackerel
  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • Yellowtail
  • Orange roughy

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, fish such as salmon, lobster, cod, and freshwater trout are favorable choices if you’re pregnant because they have little or no mercury. Even with these alternatives, limit your intake to two or three servings per week.

Additionally, sushi, clams, oysters, and other raw or uncooked seafood can harbor bacteria or parasites. Cook fish and other seafood to 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

platter of sushi

4. Foods with Raw Eggs

Cookie dough, pie filling, and batter for cakes, pancakes, and waffles have a good, sweet taste. These things are also mixed with raw eggs, and the not-so-insignificant traces of raw eggs leave salmonella in the mix. The risk of salmonella from raw eggs also presents itself in the following delicacies in homemade form:

  • Mayonnaise
  • Ice cream
  • Custards
  • Salad dressings

These foods that come commercially-made rather than in the home carry a smaller chance of causing food-borne illnesses because they contain pasteurized eggs.

5. Raw Sprouts

Avoid eating, as raw foods, radishes, alfalfa, clover, and other sprouts. Salmonella and E. Coli may take residence inside the sprout seeds. When they lodge themselves this way, these bacteria can withstand efforts to be washed away. Cooking at high temperatures offers the best way to disinfect these sprout foods.

6. Cold Deli-Style Meats

In an uncooked and cold state, hot dogs, precooked chicken, smoked seafood (including smoked salmon and shrimp), and deli foods such as ham, turkey, pate, and bologna are examples of what not to eat when pregnant. The juice or water within packages of hot dogs may also carry listeria or other bacteria.

Regardless of whether the package says precooked, get the foods to a temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit before consuming. When you cook, wash your hands thoroughly, using hot water or antibacterial soap. Use antiseptic or antibacterial soap, wipes or hot water, or a combination, to rid cleaning areas of the fluids or other traces of bacteria. Do likewise when handling or cooking poultry, meats, or sea foods.

7. Liver and Liver-Related Foods

Pregnancy provides a serious reason to avoid liver, liver pudding, liver sausage, and other foods based on liver. The vitamin A in liver may result in deformed eyes, lungs, skull, and heart, especially when the vitamin A exceeds safe levels. Hypervitaminosis (too much vitamin A) may arise when you take vitamin A supplements.

The danger of excessive vitamin A lies in its character as fat-soluble and potentially toxic. Symptoms of hypervitaminosis include dizziness, nausea, and cranial pressure. In certain cases, coma and death are also possible from excessive vitamin A.

8. Food from Potluck Events

Family reunions, or socials and community gatherings, often feature potluck dinners. While the contributions of many can foster a sense of community, they also make our list of foods not to eat during pregnancy — even if they would be safe in another setting.

Potluck dishes often sit on tables for several minutes, if not hours, before being served and eaten. This causes dishes that need to be hot to be eaten safely to become lukewarm or room temperature. Those foods best consumed when cold may become warm. Furthermore, numerous people passing by and taking dishes or failing to heed suggestions to use clean plates on multiple trips can pass bacteria and germs. For pregnant women, potluck dinners may prove too risky as breeding grounds for foodborne infections that risk your fetus.

If you’re going to eat potluck style:

  • Avoid eating foods that have sat out for more than two hours
  • On 90-degree days or in 90-degree environments, observe the one-hour rule for deciding whether to eat the food or not

9. Alcohol

Assume that alcohol in any quantity is hazardous to your unborn fetus and you during a pregnancy. Fetal alcohol syndrome, which occurs when you consume alcohol, can create a deformed face and intellectual challenges for the child after birth. Alcohol also raises the risk that you will have a stillborn fetus or miscarry.

If you’re pregnant or going to be during the holiday seasons, keep your celebration free of eggnog. The risks of this beverage comes from both the alcohol and the raw eggs.

The foods not to eat while pregnant often take the form of raw, uncooked sources of bacteria that can threaten you and your unborn child. In many cases, proper preparation and cooking can remove the threats of infection. Some of what not to eat when pregnant are foods that, other than during pregnancy, would allow you to enjoy festive and social occasions. If you have further ideas on what not to eat when pregnant, please feel free to share them with us.

Recommended Read: 7 Essential Minerals and Vitamins for Pregnant Women

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