When you become pregnant, you’re no longer just looking after yourself. You have a little bundle of joy to look after and help develop. The food you eat can both help and hinder the development of the baby.
Eating during pregnancy is more than just focusing on a healthy diet and making sure you get the right nutrients. There are certain foods that can do so much harm that they are banned from your pregnancy diet. You’ll be encouraged to reduce a number of other foods you eat and avoid a few others where possible.
I remember going through the list and hating that some of my favourites were on the banned list. But then I had to remember that this is all about putting your little one first.
Here’s a look at 12 foods that you need to avoid once you become pregnant. I’ll also include the reasons why, so you can understand the list a little better.
Start Before Pregnancy
If you’re trying to conceive, it’s worth avoiding some of the foods on this list from the start. I know it will be hard—and I couldn’t have done it with all of them. The problem is that some of the foods can cause miscarriage in the earlier weeks, so you want to reduce the amount you consume them as early as possible—and of course, you won’t know you’re pregnant until you’re around five or six weeks on in most cases.
Following a good pregnancy diet will also help with fertility and improve the chances of getting the right nutrients from the very start. You’ll support your baby’s chance of getting enough folic acid to support the growth of the nervous system at the most crucial time.
So, now it’s time to move onto the 12 foods to avoid.
Avoid Those Blue and Mouldy Cheeses
Many midwives and doctors will say all soft cheeses are banned, but this is because of the way the majority of soft cheeses are made. Many are made with unpasteurized milk, which means they are more likely to contain bacteria like Salmonella, Listeria, and even E. Coli. All these bacteria put you at a high risk of miscarriage.
Look at the ingredients of the soft cheeses that you pick up to find out how they’re made. The ones that you’ll mostly want to avoid are mouldy or blue cheeses. You’ll want to watch out for the brie and camembert cheeses in the stores—those that tend to be in the foreign cheese aisle. It also includes feta, unfortunately.
Your spreadable cheeses that you usually get in the normal cheese aisle, like your Philadelphia. Most of the commercially made cheeses will tell you if they use pasteurised or unpasteurized milk. Pasteurised milk-made cheeses are perfectly safe to eat.
Cut Out the Deli Meats and Pates
Yes, these two common favourites are also on the list of foods to avoid. They’re there for very similar reasons as the cheeses above. Ready-to-eat deli meats tend to be full of Listeria, which puts you at risk of having a miscarriage. Even if you don’t have a miscarriage, you’re at a higher risk of getting food poisoning, which can put you and your baby at risk.
Cut out deli meats if you’re trying to get pregnant. The Listeria affects babies mostly in the first trimester before you even know you’re pregnant.
If you’re going to eat deli meat or cheeses, you need to make sure you heat them until steaming hot. This kills off the bacteria, so you are at less risk of damage.
The deli meat includes hot dogs and luncheon meat. You’ll also need to wipe down all surfaces that have had any of the meats prepared or cut on, as the bacteria can linger.
What about pates? Well, this isn’t actually due to the bacteria but due to the amount of animal form vitamin A in them.The animal form of vitamin A can be very harmful to babies, and do lead to the risk of a miscarriage. You will still need to get vitamin A, but you should get it in plant form instead.We’ll touch more on this a little later.
Make Sure Your Eggs are Fully Cooked
Sorry egg lovers, but runny eggs are a no-no during pregnancy. This was the one that I found the hardest when it came to my pregnancies.
Undercooked and raw eggs may be contaminated with salmonella. Remember that this can cause miscarriages. You can also end up very ill from this type of bacteria, and you’re already suffering from enough sickness because of the pregnancy.
It does not just egg on their own that you’ll need to watch out for. Cookie or cake dough shouldn’t be eaten unless cooked. Yes, that means you’ll have to let someone else in the house finish off the raw stuff. You’ll also want to avoid eggnog, carbonara, and hollandaise sauces. The only time you should eat them is if you know the eggs have been fully cooked.
When you do have cooked eggs, try to opt for organic as much as possible. They won’t be given the same growth hormones and antibiotics that other types of eggs end up with. These hormones and antibiotics can pass into your baby’s system.
The undercooked rule doesn’t just apply to eggs. You should make sure any meat produce is fully cooked to reduce the risk of bacteria problems.
Watch Out for Organ Meats
While organ meats like liver and kidney are full of nutrients for your baby, they are also harmful. Sure, they have iron, vitamin A and vitamin B12, but they have the wrong type of vitamin A. Getting too much animal vitamin A is going to be bad for the baby.
Animal vitamin A is toxic and can lead to liver toxicity in your baby and birth defects. The organ meats are also high in copper, which can lead to similar issues. Both can also result in miscarriages.
But this doesn’t mean you have to cut out all organ meats. You can have some, but keep the amount that you eat to a minimum. No more than once a week of these types of meats. You can get your nutrients from other sources. If you can cut out the meats, that’s even better.
High-Mercury Fish Isn’t Good for You or Your Baby
High-mercury fishes aren’t good for your normal diet, let alone for your pregnancy diet. This doesn’t mean you have to cut out all fish. Just make sure you keep a number of mercury fishes to a minimum. This does mean the fishes that are great for omega 3 fatty acids will be kept to a minimum.
Some of the worst offenders include shark, swordfish, mackerel, salmon, and tuna. You can have small amounts but stick to no more than two portions a week. If you can, opt for different types of fishes and even shellfish.
Too much mercury can cause birth defects in your baby. Brain and nervous system problems are the most common when babies have received too much mercury during development.
When you are going to eat fish and shellfish, make sure it is fully cooked. This could mean avoiding it completely when ordering out and only getting it when you have full control over the cooking. Avoid all sushi, as this is completely raw fish.
Why? Well, the raw fish brings the same problem as the undercooked meat and eggs. You get more bacteria that puts you at a risk of miscarriage.
You will also want to look at where the fish has been caught. There will be certain toxins and pollutants from water sources that can cause damage to the nervous system and brain in your unborn baby.
Avoid All Unpasteurised Milk Products
It’s not just the unpasteurised cheeses that you want to avoid. You’ll also want to consider your other milk product sources. This means checking the packaging on your milk, yoghurts, and other sources. It doesn’t matter if you’re getting cow’s milk or goat’s milk.
The pasteurisation process helps to take out all the bacteria within the milk. Most long-life milk sources won’t go through this process, as it means the milk doesn’t last as long. Some long-life milk sources will also add extra chemicals to make sure it lasts.
Unfortunately for McFlurry and McDonald’s ice cream fans, you’ll need to avoid this throughout pregnancy. The ice cream and milkshakes are made with unpasteurised milk sources. It’s worth it for your baby in the end, but I do know how hard avoiding these can be.
Never Take Flaxseed Oil
There are many websites that recommend taking flaxseed oil during pregnancy, but the real health experts will tell you the exact opposite. While flaxseed oil is excellent for omega 3, it is harmful to your baby. There is still research needed to find out the full effects on your unborn baby, but right now the problem is the levels of oestrogen in the oil.
High oestrogen levels have been linked to premature births, low-birth weights, and miscarriages. Women who have taken the oil during their last two trimesters have been the most affected.
The good news is that not all flaxseed has shown problems. It is just the oil, which is taken from the plant directly. The oil is untreated, whereas flaxseeds don’t have the same levels of hormone within them.
If you want to make sure you get enough omega 3, you should consider fish oil instead. There isn’t the same hormonal issue and fish oil has more omega 3 within it.
You’ll also want to avoid flaxseed oil while breastfeeding to keep your baby safe. There are still a lot of unknown side effects to your baby due to the hormone levels.
Don’t Eat Raw Sprout Vegetables
It seems strange reading that you should avoid some vegetables during your pregnancy. It’s the raw forms of certain vegetables that you should avoid, and only the sprout vegetables. These include the likes of radishes, mung beans, and clovers.
Like with many other foods on the list, the sprout vegetables are full of Listeria bacteria. You’re putting yourself at a much higher risk of having a miscarriage by eating them raw.
The great news is that if you cook them, you can eat them. The cooking process helps to kill the bacteria, so you’re at a much lower risk of problems.
Organic vegetables—whatever type of vegetable you have—is also going to be better for you and your baby. Organic options don’t have the same fertilisers and pesticides used during the growing period. Too many of these are harmful to our unborn babies and us.
If you’re trying for a baby, you will want to look at organic vegetables too. The pesticides and fertilisers can disrupt the normal menstrual cycle, making it harder to get pregnant.
Make Sure You Wash Everything
Whether you’re cooking food or eating it raw, make sure all the food you consume has been washed. I’d recommend washing it yourself, even if the packaging says that it has been washed and is ready to eat.
This is especially important with fruit, vegetables, and meat products. Eating anything unwashed means that you’re at the risk of consuming more bacteria and chemicals. Like with many of the foods above, you’re putting yourself at risk of having a miscarriage or causing birth defects to your baby.
Unwashed fruits and vegetables can also have parasites still living in them, and you’re at a higher risk of toxoplasmosis. This is a bacterial infection that is also common to those who have cats—make sure you get your partner or someone else in the house to empty the cat litter as much as possible! The contamination process on the fruit and vegetables can even occur during the retail process, which is why it’s worth washing even the pre-washed fruits and vegetables.
Both mother and baby are at risk if you get toxoplasmosis. You’ll likely not even realise as it carries no symptoms except for mild cold or flu-like symptoms. Babies can develop the infection while in the womb and be born without symptoms. However, they can develop problems like mental disabilities and blindness when they’re older.
Cut Out the Processed Junk Food as Much as Possible
You want to eat in the best way possible for your unborn baby. This means cutting out the junk food that offers no nutrition but lots of empty calories. This includes the deep fried products, microwavable meals, and fast food.
Getting the right nutrients is extremely important from the very beginning. The development starts from the very first day and is extremely rapid. You need to make sure you get enough iron, protein, folate, and much more. And no, you’re not “eating for two” really. You definitely don’t need twice the calories, so you don’t have an excuse for eating all that junk food.
Focus on healthy, whole grain food. Think about the best type of diet for your overall health, and you’ll be putting your baby first.
Cutting out junk food will also mean that you’re cutting out the unnecessary sugar. High amounts of sugar during pregnancy puts you at a risk of developing gestational diabetes, which has been linked to large babies and premature births. Having an overweight child means that the child is also more likely to be overweight as an adult, which puts them at other health risks.
Cut Down on the Caffeine
Okay, so you can have some caffeine during your pregnancy, but you want to cut down on it. You should actually cut down on caffeine when you’re trying to get pregnant, as the caffeine can actually disrupt your menstrual cycle.
This will mean cutting down on the amount of coffee, tea, and cocoa that you have. You’ll also want to cut down on sodas that contain the ingredients. Try to keep your caffeine intake to no more than 200mg a day. That means around 2-3 cups of filtered coffee a day. If you drink tea or green tea, you can have a little more since the caffeine levels are lower.
Caffeine will get to your growing baby very quickly and can cause problems. Babies don’t have the ability to metabolise the ingredient, which means that it builds up and causes various health issues. In earlier months if can cause miscarriage, but it can also lead to low birth weights since it stumps the growth of your little one.
If you need your caffeine fix, work it around your day. Opt for decaf as much as possible and figure out the best time of the day to have your regular cup of Joe.
Reduce Your Alcohol Limits
This will be one of the foods/drinks that you’ve heard about the most when it comes to pregnancy. There’s still little known about the damaging effects that alcohol has on the baby, so the general advice is to avoid it completely. It has been linked to stillbirths, miscarriages, and problems with the birth development.
Some experts recommend cutting it out completely during the first trimester and then keeping your allowance to a couple of units a week. This means just a drink or two on a weekly basis from the second trimester. Why from this stage? Most of the brain development takes place during the first trimester.
There are risks of foetal alcohol syndrome, which has been linked to facial deformities, mental disabilities, and heart problems. More research is needed into this, but it is very difficult as studies cannot be carried out on real pregnant women. Therefore, the advice is to avoid alcohol completely.
Eat Healthily for Your Growing Baby
You’re not quite eating for two, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t focus on the best diet for your growing little one. A baby can only get the nutrients from its mother’s system. That means getting all the vitamins, minerals, and food groups that your baby will require for the best chance of growth and development.
Many of the foods to avoid include bacteria that are harmful to your little one. The foods are going to be difficult to avoid for many women, which is why it’s worth thinking that it will all be worth it in the end.