One of the first things many women want to know when they start trying to have children is a list of the foods that are unsafe during pregnancy. These can feel like a nuisance, since many of them can include daily or regular favorites. Still, the important thing is that the list of ingredients you can eat is exponentially longer than what you can’t. Moreover, when it all comes down to it, the safety and health of the baby are far more important than even your favorite dish for the next nine months.
Learning the Foods that are Unsafe During Pregnancy
While some foods that are unsafe during pregnancy should be eliminated from your diet altogether, others should be consumed only rarely or only when prepared in certain specific ways. By paying close attention to what you eat while you’re pregnant, you’ll feel confident that you’re safely nourishing yourself and your little one.
Helpful List of Foods that are Unsafe During Pregnancy (Even the Surprising Ones)
Your doctor can give you the best list of foods that are unsafe during pregnancy specific to you. That said, the following are some of the ingredients you may not have expected. While most of us know that drinking alcohol is just as much of a no-no as smoking while pregnant, many of the following options are just as important but not nearly as well known.
1 – Certain Types/Preparations of Fish
Fish overall isn’t considered to be among the foods that are unsafe during pregnancy. However, there are certain kinds of fish and certain ways of preparing it that will need to be skipped while you’re pregnant. Undercooked or raw fish, for instance, is a big one to set aside. This may be tough on sushi, raw oysters or rare tuna steak fans, but it will be very worthwhile.
Raw or undercooked fish, especially shellfish, can lead to a range of infections including bacterial, viral, or parasitic, such as Listeria, Salmonella, Vibrio, or norovirus. Though these pose a risk to an adult’s wellness, they can be very dangerous to the baby.
While you’re at it, paying attention to the specific type of fish is also important. High mercury fish is also among the foods that are unsafe during pregnancy. These are toxic to the immune system, nervous system and kidneys. They can lead to developmental problems in babies and kids. The risk is high enough that they should also be avoided during breastfeeding. Common high-mercury fish include:
- King mackerel
- Orange roughie
- Tilefish (sourced from the Gulf of Mexico)
2 – Raw, Undercooked or Processed Meat
Undercooked, raw and processed meats are considered to be foods that are unsafe during pregnancy because of the increased risk of bacteria and parasites such as Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli, and Toxoplasma. These can threaten your little one’s health or even life. They also increase the risk of epilepsy, intellectual disability, blindness and neurological diseases. As long as you’re pregnant, skip the rare meats in favor of those served at a notably higher temperature, and leave the deli meats, lunch meats and hot dogs aside unless they have been reheated until they have an internal temperature that will cook away pathogens.
3 – Raw Eggs
Raw eggs are consumed more commonly than you think and can easily cause a Salmonella infection, which can lead to uterine cramping which results in premature or stillbirth. Among the dishes commonly containing raw eggs are:
- Hollandaise sauce
- Poached eggs
- Fried eggs where the yolks aren’t cooked through
- Lightly scrambled eggs
- Homemade mayonnaise
- Certain homemade salad dressings (including Caesar)
- Homemade cake icing
- Homemade ice cream
4 – Organ Meats
Organ meats are often surprising among foods that are unsafe during pregnancy. The reason is that they are otherwise considered extremely good for you. They contain a wealth of nutrients that can be obtained cheaply. However, they also contain preformed vitamin A. Consuming too much of that while pregnant, particularly during the first trimester, can lead to miscarriage or congenital malformations. Though you don’t need to skip these ingredients altogether, it’s best not to have more than a few ounces per week.
5 – Caffeine
If you’re someone who has been drinking coffee or tea first thing in the morning for years, this may feel like a tough one. The fact is that too much caffeine is grouped with foods that are unsafe during pregnancy. This also include soft drinks, cocoa, and other caffeine-containing foods. While you can have a little while you’re pregnant, it’s best to keep it under 200 milligrams per day, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Essentially, that’s one and a half cups of average-strength coffee.
6 – Certain Veggies
The good news is that you can still eat most vegetables. This will make it much easier for you to keep up your nutrition throughout pregnancy. However, raw sprouts/microgreens, and unwashed vegetables are foods that are unsafe during pregnancy. They can be contaminated with Salmonella and other pathogens that can make you sick but that are dangerous to the baby.
Navigating Foods that are Unsafe During Pregnancy
Remember that while there are some foods that are unsafe during pregnancy, there are far more that are perfectly fine to consume. Focus on enjoying that vast range of options across the next nine months. That way, you’ll enjoy your meals as you nourish yourself and your baby.