Foods Not to Eat During Pregnancy, Food Safety While Pregnant

The list of foods not to eat during pregnancy has become so long and debatable. This makes it difficult for pregnant women to know what to eat and what not to eat during pregnancy. Forget the old wives tales, here is a complete guide to things to avoid when pregnant. 

While pregnancy comes with lots of crazy cravings it is important for moms to be to exercise caution. There are foods and drinks that you should give up or cut down while pregnant. Some foods may end up hurting you or your unborn baby. 

Foods Not To Eat During Pregnancy

Congratulations on your pregnancy! Pregnancy is an awesome phase in a woman’s life. Quite a number of things are bound to change from the moment you find out you are pregnant. While your body changes, you also need to topple your priorities and lifestyle choices to facilitate a healthy pregnancy from the earliest stage.

Food cravings is a normal thing. It is actually ironical that most of the things pregnant women crave for are the wrong ones. It is up to you as a mom to be to get the right info on what is not good for you and your unborn baby.

Note: With lots of information, advice different quotas, it is best to seek professional advice. Attending Ante Natal Clinics is one of the ways to make sure you have an expert taking through your pregnancy in a healthy way.

Raw Eggs and Pregnancy

It is not recommended to eat raw and under cooked eggs during pregnancy. This is because Raw or soft boiled eggs may carry Salmonella Bacteria. Raw eggs during pregnancy pose the risk of Salmonella food poisoning. While this may not harm your baby, salmonella food poisoning is a very unpleasant illness with symptoms such as severe vomiting and diarrhea. This may be so bad that hospital treatment may be required to avoid dehydration.

Raw Eggs and Pregnancy, Salmonella Bacteria

Raw Eggs and Pregnancy, Salmonella Bacteria

Cook eggs thoroughly until the yolk and whites are hard enough. When eating out, avoid sorbets, mayonnaise, Caesar dressings and tiramisu- they often contain raw eggs. It is always important to check the label or ask for products with pasteurized eggs which are safer. Most products in the supermarkets such as mayo and ice cream are made with pasteurized eggs.

Practice Caution when cooking or storing eggs by;

  • Always keep eggs in the fridge
  • Keep eggs in a separate tray or box from other foods
  • Do not eat eggs with damaged shells
  • Do not store hard boiled eggs in the fridge for more than a week
  • Boiling eggs for at least seven minutes
  • Fry eggs on both side
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after touching eggs
  • Clean surfaces and utensils that have come into contact with raw eggs with soap and water

Avoid Deli Meat during Pregnancy

You’ve probably heard time and again that you should not eat Deli meats while pregnant. It gets even more confusing when you’ll hear other people talk about eating deli meats without any problems at all. Well, Deli it is advisable to avoid deli meat during pregnancy unless it is thoroughly cooked and should only be eaten when steaming hot.

Avoid Deli Meats While Pregnant

Avoid Deli Meats While Pregnant

Note:  Deli meats or lunch meats refer to cooked meats that have been sliced and prepared for light dining options such as sandwiches. They include; bologna, salami, pepperoni, hotdogs, sausages and burgers.

Deli meats are easily contaminated with Listeria bacteria which has the ability to cross through the placenta affecting the baby. Pregnant women are more vulnerable to the complications that can be caused by food poisoning due to Listeriosis. Just like with Salmonella, Listeria is only destroyed by heating.

Complications due to Listeria in Pregnancy include;

  • Bacteremia
  • Meningitis
  • Low birth weight/ premature birth
  • Still births
  • Miscarriage

It is for the same reason that you should avoid eating raw or undercooked meat and poultry. This time for the risk of infection by the toxoplasma gondii parasite present in raw meats. Thoroughly wash utensils and surfaces that get into contact with raw meats. Choose to eat meat at home rather than outside.

Certain Sea Foods and Fish

Fish foods especially those with high Omega-3 fatty acids are a great choice during pregnancy as they boost your baby’s brain development. It is however very important to note that some varieties should not be eaten during pregnancy due to their high levels of mercury. Mercury is a heavy metal that when consumed during pregnancy can cause brain damage and developmental delay. These types of fish include: swordfish, shark, mackerel and tuna.

Do Not Eat Raw Sea Foods While Pregnant

Do Not Eat Raw Sea Foods While Pregnant

Mercury is stored up in the body for long periods of time (up to 4 years). You may want to avoid fish types with high levels of mercury if you are planning to get pregnant or during your child bearing years.

Some fish types contain lower or trace amounts of mercury and should only be eaten in moderation.  Fish with lower amounts of mercury include; salmon, shrimp, catfish and canned tuna. It is recommended that you cut your fish meals to not more than two potions a week.


Soft Cheeses

Why can’t I eat soft cheeses during pregnancy? Soft cheeses are considered potentially harmful in pregnancy unless they are made with pasteurized milk. Soft cheeses such as feta, brie, gorgonzola and camembert are known to harbor a bacteria known as Listeria monocytogenes which can be very harmful in pregnancy. Check labels for certainty.

Soft Cheeses Pose the Risk of Food Poisoning in Pregancy

Soft Cheeses Pose the Risk of Food Poisoning in Pregnancy

Are hard cheeses safe to eat while pregnant? According to the NHS Choices UK, hard cheeses are safe to eat in pregnancy. Hard cheeses have the listeria bacteria in low numbers that are not likely to pose a risk to you and your unborn baby. Always refrigerate.

Safe cheeses to eat while pregnant include; cheddar, stilton, Gouda and many others.

Are goat cheeses safe to eat during pregnancy? Some types of goat cheeses are safe to eat while others are not. Soft goat cheeses are not safe to eat especially if served in restaurants. Cooking cheese thoroughly until steaming hot will kill any bacteria present.

What Not To Drink during Pregnancy

Most drinks listed below are considered some of the best health drinks with medicinal/nutritional values. Too bad however that most of them are not pregnant friendly because of the different ways they metabolized by the body. There is not much information on what not to drink during pregnancy. Here are top drinks you should avoid while pregnant.

Drinking Caffeine While Pregnant

How much caffeine is safe during pregnancy? Well, you do not need to cut off your favorite drink from your diet. When pregnant, you should limit your caffeine intake to 200 milligrams per day- an equivalent of two mugs of instant coffee in a day. Caffeine is found in foods such as tea, coffee, chocolate, soft drinks and some energy drinks.

High levels of caffeine can result in low birth weight and miscarriages. Coffee is a stimulant that increases your heart rate and causes insomnia. These effects may be more pronounced in pregnancy. This is because in pregnancy the ability of the body to break down caffeine reduces as the pregnancy progresses. This means that during the third trimester, it takes longest.

Limit Caffeine Intake to 200mg per day While pregnant

Limit Caffeine Intake to 200mg per day While pregnant

Caffeine that crosses the placenta will affect your baby as they cannot process it efficiently. It is for this reason that you should limit your caffeine intake while breastfeeding.

According to the, beverages such as tea and coffee contain compounds called phenols. Phenols interfere with iron absorption by complex formation making the iron less available for the body. Pregnant women are already low on iron that it actually needs to be supplemented. It is advisable to have coffee or tea in between your meals.

For addicts like I am: Withdrawal symptoms like headaches and irritability are likely to affect you if you quit in a go. You can ease off your intake by;

  • Gradually increase the ratio of decaffeinated coffee to caffeinated
  • Use more milk
  • Use smaller amounts of ground coffee or tea leaves. You could brew or steep tea for a shorter time

Here is the amount of caffeine in some common foods:

  • one mug of instant coffee: 100mg
  • one mug of filter coffee: 140mg
  • one mug of tea: 75mg
  • one can of cola: 40mg
  • one can of energy drink: up to 80mg
  • one 50g bar of plain chocolate: most products on the UK market contain less than 25mg
  • one 50g bar of milk chocolate: most products on the UK market contain less than 10mg

Note that some herbal teas also contain caffeine. Check through the list of ingredients to be sure.

Drinking Alcohol during Pregnancy

How much alcohol is too much during pregnancy? There is not much to go by on what’s the safe amount when it comes to drinking alcohol during pregnancy. To avoid being caught up in all the uncertainties and controversies, it is best to avoid it altogether. It is actually recommended to steer clear of alcohol when you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.

However, if you choose to drink, limit yourself to NOT MORE THAN TWO UNITS (an equivalent of two small glasses of wine) of alcohol once or twice a week. It is however not as hard to stay off alcohol as you may think. Most pregnant women will naturally get off alcohol once they become pregnant. You are likely to find yourself vomiting when you drink while pregnant.

Alcohol and Pregnancy

Alcohol and Pregnancy

What are the effects of alcohol on unborn baby? Alcohol easily crosses the placental barrier to your baby. The baby’s liver doesn’t mature until the last stages of pregnancy. Your unborn baby cannot process alcohol as well as you can. This can adversely affect their development leading to problems such as learning difficulties and behavioral problems. Consuming alcohol especially in the first trimester increases the risk of a miscarriage, low birth weight and premature birth.

Heavy drinking to more than 6 units per day while pregnant can cause a serious condition known as fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Fetal alcohol syndrome symptoms include; poor growth, physical abnormalities, learning difficulties and behavioral abnormalities.

Find out more about alcohol units in different types and brands of milk to be sure. It is important to get professional help if you find it difficult to get off heavy drinking during pregnancy.

Green Tea- Is It Safe To Drink Herbal Tea In Pregnancy?

Herbal/ green teas are safe and healthy drinks that one would not think they’d make to this list. While they are loaded with antioxidants and considered healthy, pregnant women should refrain from taking green tea. According to the, metabolism is quite high during pregnancy and green tea may increase it further. Green tea may also have some caffeine in it.

Green Tea in Pregnancy

Green Tea in Pregnancy

Excessive consumption of green tea can lead to reduced absorption of folic acid making you sufficient to deficiency diseases.

Drinking Milk during Pregnancy

Milk is a sure healthy choice during pregnancy. It is a healthy source of calcium and protein. It is however not safe for pregnant women to consume milk and milk products that are unpasteurized. Consumption of any dairy products that are not pasteurized puts at a risk of severe food poisoning.

Always make sure you drink only fresh boiled milk. Dairy products such as ghee, ice cream and cottage cheese that use pasteurized milk. You can opt for organic non-dairy products such as rice milk, oat milk, almond milk or soy milk. They are safer options with the same nutrients- even better for those who are lactose intolerant.

Health Bit on Foods and Drinks during Pregnancy

Eating for two? How much food is too much? While it calls for careful consideration on what you eat and don’t drink during pregnancy, good and enough nutrition is very important during pregnancy. Although nausea and vomiting may be an issue in the first months of pregnancy, you should eat 300 more calories more than what you did before you became pregnant.

Eat a variety of foods to get all the nutrients required giving priority to iron rich foods and foods with high fibers. Make sure you get enough vitamins and minerals not forgetting prenatal vitamin supplements. Choose a good source of folic acid and vitamin C every day.

How many ounces of water should you take in a day? Drinking water is most important during pregnancy. Make sure you are drinking enough not forgetting to make sure that you drink only water from safe sources. Aim to get at least 12 glasses of clean water every day.

Most women have a difficulty drinking water due to the metallic taste that is a common symptom of pregnancy. Try to space out your sips and steadily keep them coming throughout the day.

Sources and References

23 Foods to Avoid during Pregnancy:

Foods to Avoid in Pregnancy:

Foods to Avoid during Pregnancy:

8 Drinks or Beverages to Avoid during Pregnancy: