Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

As dietitians, we generally do not like to say “don’t eat this” or “don’t eat that.” We believe that most foods fit into a healthy diet. However, pregnancy is a little different.

It is important that you stay away from foods that might cause undue illness or even have bad effects on your developing baby. So, err on the safe side and avoid these risky foods and drinks.

Foods Fostering Excessive Bacteria. Since our bodies are hyper focused on growing a human body (or more with multiples), pregnancy is a time when a woman is more vulnerable to illness. So when you are thinking about consumption of foods, you want to think bacteria minimization. I am not suggesting that you become obsessive, but I am recommending some caution. Any foods that might have more opportunities for bacterial growth are best to be avoided. These include undercooked meats and seafood; underpasteurized milks, juices and cheeses; and sprouted raw vegetables (radishes, bean sprouts, alfalfa).

Alcohol. It is unknown how much alcohol causes fetal alcohol syndrome. Most experts agree that it is recommended to abstain from all alcohol in pregnancy.

Oversupplementation. While a basic prenatal vitamin is recommended to ensure adequacy of vital nutrients, oversupplementation can have equally dangerous effects. Do not believe more is better in pregnancy. Avoid any megadosing on vitamins, herbal supplementation or any other alternative supplements unless you first get approval from your physician or dietitian.

Seafood High in Mercury. The FDA says that it is safe for pregnant women to consume up to 12 ounces of low mercury fish each week.  Shark, tilefish, king mackerel and swordfish generally have higher amounts of mercury while wild salmon, shrimp, canned white tuna, catfish and tilapia have lower amounts. Fish actually contain great amounts of protein and omega-3 fats that may assist in cognitive and brain development for your baby.

There has been so much discussion about mercury intake in pregnancy that I wonder how many pregnant women are avoiding fish altogether.  I encourage pregnant women to eat fish regularly during pregnancy, staying within the FDA guidelines.

Caffeine. Caffeine levels over 200mg per day have been shown to increase a woman’s risk for miscarriage – particularly in the first trimester. A typical 8-ounce cup of home brewed coffee contains anywhere from 95-200mg. Dark caffeinated colas contain 25-44mg per 12-ounce can. The best rule of thumb is to minimize caffeine during pregnancy for optimal outcome. If you are currently drinking large quantities of caffeine, wean off slowly to avoid uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

Allergy Foods. Foods that are highly allergenic should only be avoided if you have a family history of a certain allergy. There is some evidence that shows avoidance during pregnancy can help lower your baby’s chances of having that allergy. High allergenic foods include peanuts, shellfish and eggs to name a few. If there is no history, allergenic foods do not need to be avoided.

Angela Lemond, RD, CSP, LD

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