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Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

Katlyn Joy |24, January 2011


Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

Eating for two is an important responsibility. You take your prenatal vitamins, drink your milk and gave up junk food. That should do it, right? While you've probably heard that alcohol is absolutely forbidden, has anyone warned you about dangers of lunch meat or sprouts?

Here's the lowdown on the foods you should avoid while expecting a baby and healthy alternatives you may partake of minus the worries and guilt.

Raw meat
You probably realize this one, but raw or undercooked meats, whether they are beef, poultry, pork or seafood can infect you with toxoplasmosis, salmonella, coliform bacteria, viruses and parasites. Make sure you don't eat rare meats and that you practice careful sanitary practices in the kitchen so you don't pick up the nasty bugs from a counter top or utensil contaminated from raw meat.

Any kind of lunchmeat, whether packaged or fresh from the deli may cause listerian. This illness crosses the placenta and may cause infection or blood poisoning and can be lethal or cause miscarriage. If you've got a craving for a ham and cheese sandwich, then heat the meat to the point of steaming prior to eating.

While healthy in moderation, excessive amounts of liver in the diet leads to a build up of vitamin A which has been linked to birth defects. You may eat it in normal amounts, however.

Fish High in Mercury
Mercury is associated with brain damage and developmental delays in developing fetuses. Avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tile fish altogether. The FDA recommends pregnant women limit their dietary intake of albacore tuna to 6 ounces or less each week. They also recommend a total of 12 ounces or less of lower mercury containing fish like salmon, shrimp, canned tuna, sardines, tilapia, cod and catfish.

Smoked Seafood
Lox, kipper, jerky or nova style items from the deli counter pose risk of listeria. However the canned variety, or deli style cooked in recipes such as casseroles are fine.

Fresh fish
Fish caught from local waters might be contaminated with industrial pollutants, so it's best to avoid Uncle Joe's trout caught this morning on his fishing trip. If you are set on it however, call the local health department or EPA to find out what local waters and fish are known to be dangerous and which are safe to eat.

Raw shellfish
Raw shellfish like oysters, mussels, or clams are dangerous eats for anyone but especially pregnant women. Even when cooked, they may pose a risk due to algae-related infections.

Raw Eggs
Raw eggs or undercooked ones can infect you with salmonella. Don't forget that there may be raw eggs in homemade items such as mayonnaise, Hollandaise sauce, ice cream and custard as well as Caesar dressing. Commercially prepared items however should be fine since they typically use pasteurized eggs. Remember not to eat the dough when it contains uncooked egg yolks or whites, either.

Soft Cheeses
These may cause listeria. Avoid cheeses such as Brie, Camembert, Roquefort, Feta, Gorgonzola and Mexican cheeses such as queso blanco and queso fresco. If the soft cheese was not imported and doesn't contain unpasteurized milk it should be fine.

Unpasteurized milk and juice
These beverages can cause listeria or E coli.
Pate If it's not canned or shelf-stable then it's possible it can cause listeria.

Unwashed Veggies
Yes, eat your veggies, but make sure you wash them thoroughly first. Unwashed vegetables can carry toxoplasmosis or E coli.

Raw Sprouts
If you want to eat sprouts, you must cook them. Raw sprouts cannot be cleaned enough to rid them of the risk of E coli or toxoplasmosis. These include alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts.

Herbs and Supplements
Even herbal teas may be dangerous for pregnant women. Other herbal supplements can cause contractions or other potential health problems. They have not been tested for safety in pregnant women, so if you want to take an herb or drink an herbal tea, make sure you get the go-ahead from your health practitioner.

Chocolate, soda, coffee and tea. Caffeine is found in a variety of products however no consensus on what a safe amount of caffeine is for pregnant women. It's best to avoid it totally if you can, but especially during the first trimester when the developing fetus is most vulnerable and when the risk of miscarriage is greatest. If you do ingest caffeine later in the pregnancy, limit it to 200 mg. Daily. Caffeine depletes you of water and calcium and has been linked to prematurity, miscarriage, low birth weight and withdrawal symptoms in infants.

There is no known safe amount of alcohol for pregnant women. Don't stress over that cocktail you knocked back before you knew you were expecting, but avoid the wine glass or bottle of beer until after you give birth. Alcohol can cause fetal alcohol syndrome or FAS, which is associated with developmental disabilities and serious health concerns.

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