16.04.2021

Foods to Avoid during Pregnancy

Every woman should have a well-balanced diet during her pregnancy. This provides the pregnant woman the necessary nutrients and energy to accommodate the body’s changes throughout the pregnancy, as well as provides the baby with the essential elements required to grow.

There are certain foods one should avoid in pregnancy largely to decrease the risk of food poisoning or because they can be potentially dangerous to the baby. The list of caution also includes methods of food preparation.

However, it is very possible to have a safe and carefree pregnancy despite these dietary restrictions.

  • Meat/Poultry
  • Fish/Seafood
  • Dairy Products
  • Vegetables/Fruits
  • Beverages
Meat/Poultry

Raw food especially meats should be avoided. This is especially important with poultry and products made from minced meat, such as sausages and burgers. Make sure these are cooked until they are piping hot all the way through and no pink meat is left. Always wash your hands after handling raw meat, and keep it separate from foods that are ready to eat. This is because raw meat contains bacteria e.g. Salmonella, Toxoplasmosis that can cause food poisoning.

All types of pâtes (even vegetable ones) should be steered clear off as these potentially contain a bacteria called Listeria which can cause miscarriage or severe illness in newborns.

Vitamin A is necessary in normal health but one has to ensure that excess quantities are not taken during pregnancy as it will harm the baby if high levels build up. Thus, avoid liver, liver products and fish liver oil.

Fish/Seafood

Most types of fish can be consumed during pregnancy. But there are a few types you should avoid and some others where you should limit the amount you eat.

Oily fish, for example, fresh tuna (canned tuna does not count), mackerel, sardines and trout are good for one’s health but one should also ration the amount eaten during pregnancy to two portions per week. This is because oily fish contain certain pollutants like dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). This is especially so for tuna which also contains high levels of mercury and this can have a damaging effect on the baby’s developing nervous system – one portion per week should suffice. Mercury is also found in shark, swordfish and marlin and these should be avoided.

Pass up on raw shellfish during pregnancy because raw shellfish can sometimes contain harmful bacteria and viruses that cause food poisoning. This would be particularly unpleasant during pregnancy.

Dairy Products

Cheeses are popular with many and most types can be eaten during pregnancy. The variety that should be kept away from are the soft and blue-veined cheeses such as camembert, brie, stilton, blue cheese and feta.

These are made with mould and may harbour harmful bacteria like Listeria. However, it is safe to take processed cheese (cheese spreads), cheddar, parmesan, cottage and cream cheese, mozzarella and ricotta.

To avoid the risk of salmonella, which causes a type of serious food poisoning, raw or partially cooked eggs or foods containing these should be avoided. This includes Caesar dressing, mayonnaise, homemade ice cream or custard, unpasteurized eggnog, or Hollandaise sauce. Eat eggs only if they are cooked until both the white and the yolk are solid. Generally, mayonnaise, ice cream and salad dressings sold in shops will have been made with pasteurised egg, which is safe to eat. It is better to stay away from homemade versions as these contain raw egg.

Unpasteurised dairy products should not be consumed at all as the risk of toxoplasmosis (a type of parasite) transmission is high.

Vegetables/Fruits

Fruits and veggies are generally not harmful in pregnancy although it is important to ensure that all raw fruit and vegetables eaten or used in preparation of other dishes are properly and thoroughly washed. As mentioned before, mayonnaise made with raw or partially-cooked eggs ought to be avoided and thus, some salads like coleslaw or potato salads should be screened before ingestion.

Beverages

Pregnant women, and women who are trying to conceive, are advised not to drink. Heavy drinking during pregnancy is associated with low birth weight and other more serious birth defects. Although it is best to stop drinking altogether during this period, if you do decide to drink alcohol while you are pregnant, you should limit the amount that you drink. The Department of Health and The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommend that pregnant women should not drink more than 1-2 units of alcohol once or twice a week. Binge drinking is not advised.

Caffeine occurs naturally in a range of foods, such as coffee, tea and chocolate, and it is also found in some soft drinks and ‘energy’ drinks. The amount of caffeine intake each day should be restricted but does not need to be eliminated completely.

No more than 300mg of caffeine a day is directed. This is because high levels of caffeine can result in babies having a low birth weight, or even miscarriage. Caffeine also affects the way the body absorbs iron, which is very important for baby’s development.

300mg of caffeine is roughly equivalent to:

  • 3 mugs of instant coffee
  • 3 cups of brewed coffee
  • 6 cups of tea
  • 8 cans of regular cola, or
  • 8 standard bars of chocolate.

Every woman should have a well-balanced diet during her pregnancy. This provides the pregnant woman the necessary nutrients and energy to accommodate the body’s changes throughout the pregnancy, as well as provides the baby with the essential elements required to grow.

There are certain foods one should avoid in pregnancy to decrease the risk of food poisoning or because they can be potentially dangerous to the baby. The list of caution also includes methods of food preparation. However, it is very possible to have a safe and carefree pregnancy despite these dietary restrictions.

Meat/Poultry.

Raw food especially meats should be avoided. This is especially important with poultry and products made from minced meat, such as sausages and burgers. Make sure these are cooked until they are piping hot all the way through and no pink meat is left. Always wash your hands after handling raw meat, and keep it separate from foods that are ready to eat. This is because raw meat contains bacteria e.g. Salmonella, Toxoplasmosis that can cause food poisoning.

All types of pâtes (even vegetable ones) should be steered clear off as these potentially contain a bacteria called Listeria which can cause miscarriage or severe illness in newborns.

Vitamin A is necessary for a person’s health under normal circumstances however, one has to ensure that excessive quantities are not comsumed during pregnancy as high levels of Vitamin A are harmful to the baby. Thus, avoid liver, liver products and fish liver oil.

Fish/Seafood.

Most types of fish can be consumed during pregnancy. However there are a few types you should avoid and some others which should only be consumed in limited amounts.

Oily fish, for example, fresh tuna (canned tuna is an exception), mackerel, sardines and trout are good for one’s health but one should also ration the amount eaten during pregnancy to two portions per week. This is because oily fish contain certain pollutants like dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). This is especially so for tuna which also contains high levels of mercury and this can have a damaging effect on the baby’s developing nervous system – one portion per week should suffice. Mercury is also found in shark, swordfish and marlin and these should be avoided.

Avoid raw shellfish during pregnancy because raw shellfish can sometimes contain harmful bacteria and viruses that cause food poisoning. This would be particularly unpleasant during pregnancy.

Dairy Products. Cheeses are popular with many and most types can be eaten during pregnancy. The variety that should be avoided are the soft and blue-veined cheeses such as camembert, brie, stilton, blue cheese and feta. These are made with mould and may harbour harmful bacteria like Listeria. However, it is safe to take processed cheese (cheese spreads), cheddar, parmesan, cottage and cream cheese, mozzarella and ricotta.

To avoid the risk of salmonella, which causes a type of serious food poisoning, raw or partially cooked eggs or foods containing these should be avoided. This includes Caesar dressing, mayonnaise, homemade ice cream or custard, unpasteurized eggnog and Hollandaise sauce. Eat eggs only if they are cooked until both the white and the yolk are solid. Generally, mayonnaise, ice cream and salad dressings sold in shops will have been made with pasteurised egg, which is safe to eat. It is better to stay away from homemade versions as these contain raw egg.

Unpasteurised dairy products should not be consumed at all as the risk of toxoplasmosis (a type of parasite) transmission is high.

Vegetables/Fruits.

Fruits and veggies are generally not harmful in pregnancy although it is important to ensure that all raw fruit and vegetables eaten or used in preparation of other dishes are properly and thoroughly washed. As mentioned before, mayonnaise made with raw or partially-cooked eggs ought to be avoided and thus, some salads like coleslaw or potato salads should be screened before ingestion.

Beverages.

Pregnant women, and women who are trying to conceive, are advised not to consume alcoholic beverages. Heavy drinking during pregnancy is associated with low birth weight and other more serious birth defects. Although it is best to stop drinking altogether during this period, if you do decide to drink alcohol while you are pregnant, you should limit the amount that you drink.

Caffeine occurs naturally in a range of foods, such as coffee, tea and chocolate, and it is also found in some soft drinks and ‘energy’ drinks. The amount of caffeine intake each day should be restricted but does not need to be eliminated completely.

Expecteant mothers are not advised to consume more than 300mg of caffeine a day. This is because high levels of caffeine can result in babies having a low birth weight, or it may even lead to a miscarriage. Caffeine also affects the way the body absorbs iron, which is very important for baby’s development.

Other General Tips

Good hygiene is paramount. Always wash hands  after using the restroom, before and between food preparations. Ensure that utensils are clean and avoid contaminating food with each other. Completely defrost food, especially meats and poultry prior to cooking. Importantly, do not refreeze anything once it has been defrosted and reheat food only once. Ready-made meals should be piping hot before consumption.

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