12 Foods to Avoid in Pregnancy

One of the most common questions asked of OBs is what to eat and what foods to avoid in pregnancy. Pregnancy is a very important time in a woman's life to ensure she is getting all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients necessary for her body and for her growing baby. A wide variety of healthy foods should make up the majority of a pregnancy diet to include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy and healthy fats.

Cravings are a normal part of any pregnancy and, in most cases, it’s OK to indulge (just not at every meal). While you are "eating for two" that does not mean double the calories. Most doctors recommend an average of 300 extra calories to fuel your changing body. When thinking about what to eat for a healthy pregnancy, it is also important to remember what foods and drinks to avoid while expecting your little one.

Here is a list of foods to avoid in pregnancy (or decrease):

1) Alcohol – There is no known safe threshold for alcohol consumption in pregnancy. It is best to avoid all forms of alcohol which include wine, beer, liquor, wine coolers and traditional eggnog.

2) Caffeine – A moderate amount of caffeine is safe during pregnancy. Limit consumption to 200 milligrams a day, or one 12-ounce cup of coffee a day. Remember that caffeine is also found in soda, tea, chocolate and energy drinks.

3) Unpasteurized milk and cheese – Listeria, a type of bacteria, can grow in unpasteurized dairy products, and can be dangerous for both mom and baby. Always check the label and buy only milk and cheese that state they have been pasteurized. When dining out, ask before you eat.

4) Deli meats, pate and hot dogs – Once again, Listeria is the culprit here since it can continue to grow in your fridge. You can make these foods safe by heating them until steaming hot and eating them right away.

5) Fish with mercury – Overall, fish is an excellent protein source in pregnancy, but avoid fish that have a tendency for high amounts of mercury. These include swordfish, tilefish, shark and king mackerel. You can safely eat up to 12 ounces of seafood a week when you pick low mercury sources such as salmon, cod, catfish, tilapia, flounder and light canned tuna. If eating albacore tuna, limit it to six ounces per week.

6) Raw or undercooked meat – Now is not the time to eat raw steaks and burgers as they can harbor Toxoplasmosis. When eating out, meat should be steaming hot and cooked thoroughly. At home the temperature for whole cuts should be 145 degrees F, 160 degrees F for ground meats like hamburger, and 165 degrees F for chicken breasts.

7) Raw seafood and shellfish – Raw sushi is off limits in pregnancy as it can be a source for harmful bacteria and parasites. Skip the raw oysters, but as long as oysters are cooked thoroughly, they are safe to eat. When eating oysters, clams and mussels, make sure the shells are open before eating. If the shells don't open, don't eat them.

8) Smoked seafood – Similar to deli meats, refrigerated smoked seafood is vulnerable to Listeria. It is best to avoid the smoked salmon, trout, lox, tuna or mackerel unless it is in a cooked meal.

9) Unwashed fruits and veggies – Now is the time to eat lots and lots of fruits and veggies, however, be sure to wash them well under running water to avoid toxoplasmosis. Don't use dish soap; instead, scrub the surface with a small fruit/veggie brush. Cut away any damaged or bruised areas. When eating melons, wash and dry before cutting.

10) Raw sprouts – Bacteria can grow in the seeds before the sprouts begin to grow, and they are nearly impossible to wash away. Avoid raw alfalfa, clover and radish sprouts.

11) Fresh-squeezed juice – Some of these juices can harbor E. coli and salmonella. When buying juice, make sure it is pasteurized.

12) Raw eggs – Unless the eggs say they are pasteurized, do not eat anything with raw eggs due to the risk of salmonella. Common foods with raw eggs include homemade mayo, Caesar dressing, hollandaise sauce and, yes, even raw cookie dough.

If there are any other foods that seem questionable to you, please ask your OB if they are safe. Happy eating!

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