It's strange, but when people see your pregnant belly they take it as a sign to give advice, tell stories, and basically tell you what to do without you even saying “hello”! With all of this - sometimes very unreliable - information floating around, it’s important to be informed about harmful food and drink choices during pregnancy.
Your body is going through lots of changes at a rapid pace, so you’ll want to be feeling your best for you and your baby. We’ve addressed some foods that are harmful and should be avoided when you’re pregnant for your safety and that of your baby.
No, you don't have to go vegetarian while pregnant, but there are some food safety rules in order to enjoy meat without sacrificing your health. The top reason to be careful when eating meat is that some types could be hosting a very harmful bacteria called Listeria. This bacteria is especially harmful to moms-to-be and fetuses and can result in a miscarriage if contracted.
To make safe food choices during pregnancy, it's suggested that you cook meat to 165℉. This means that all of those cold cut deli meats are off-limits, as well as cured meats like salami, Serrano ham, pepperoni, and pancetta.
You may want to reconsider booking that trip to France during your pregnancy because soft cheese is off the table. The types of cheeses that should be avoided are feta, Brie, Camembert, blue cheese, queso fresco, queso blanco, and panela. These cheeses, while delicious, are considered harmful foods during pregnancy because they are made with unpasteurized milk. Unpasteurized milk hasn't been heated to kill all of the bacteria, like Listeria or E. coli, that may be living inside. This can spell trouble for you and your baby’s health, so to be sure you are making a safe food choice, check all labels on cheese before consuming to make sure it's pasteurized.
Fish is a delicious source of protein, and with an abundance of essential fatty acids, it is normally considered a staple in a healthy diet. Keep in mind, though, that some types of fish have negative side effects during pregnancy because of their high mercury levels that are toxic and can be harmful to both mother and baby.
Harmful fish to eat during pregnancy:
- King mackerel
- Orange roughy
Another reason fish is an unsafe food during pregnancy is that any raw or undercooked fish or shellfish, unpasteurized, refrigerated, smoked, or pickled fish can contain dangerous parasites or harmful bacteria.
Don’t worry, you can still have 2-3 serving a week of certain fish with lower mercury levels. Be sure to cook them well to at least 145℉ so that you and your baby are safe.
Safe fish to eat during pregnancy:
- Canned light tuna
Raw or Undercooked Eggs
Another normally healthy and safe food to be wary of during pregnancy are raw or undercooked eggs, because they might contain the bacteria Salmonella. While an infection of this bacteria usually goes away after a few days, it can be more harmful to moms and babies whose immune systems aren’t so strong. When buying eggs at the supermarket, the safe food choice is to buy pasteurized eggs so that, when cooked, there is a very low chance of having harmful bacteria in your food. Eggs should be cooked to 160 ℉. Raw eggs are hiding in a lot of our favorite foods, so you’ll want to be on the lookout, especially at dessert time.
Raw or undercooked eggs can be found in:
- Poached or fried eggs with a runny yolk
- Lightly scrambled eggs
- Salad dressings that contain egg, such as Caesar dressing
- Artisanal or homemade ice cream
- Cake batter
- Cookie dough
- Hollandaise sauce
- Casseroles and other products containing eggs
Raw or Undercooked Salad Greens
While it's so much easier to buy the salad with pre-cut veggies at the grocery store, this is not a safe food for pregnant women because it can harbor harmful bacteria. Salmonella or E. coli can be found in these products, so it’s best to buy fresh produce and make salad from scratch. Also, be careful when eating out and be sure to ask if the salad is fresh or from a bag to ensure you are making a healthy food choice during pregnancy.
This is one of the most highly stipulated foods on the list. There have been many studies over the years to try to find out if it is okay to drink alcohol during pregnancy, but as of now, the definitive answer is: no. We just don't know what a safe level of consumption is, so it's recommended that you avoid harmful alcoholic beverages to keep you and your baby safe and healthy.
If you are pregnant, you can still wake up with a cup of joe, but limit it to only 12 oz a day. 200 mg of caffeine is the maximum amount that is safe for pregnant people to consume daily. The fetus can't metabolize the same amount of caffeine as you, so it’s best to keep intake to a minimum. Be aware that caffeine could be hiding in iced tea, soft drinks, chocolate, and even coffee ice cream.
Check the caffeine levels in some of these sources to make sure you’re keeping it under 200 mg.
- Brewed, 8 oz. | 95 – 165 mg
- Brewed, decaf, 8 oz. | 2 – 5 mg
- Espresso, 1 oz. | 47 – 64 mg
- Latte, 8 oz. | 63 – 126 mg
- Diet Coke (32 oz) 124 mg
- Coca-Cola (32 oz) 92 mg
- Baker’s chocolate (1 oz) 26 mg
- Green tea (6 oz) 40 mg
- Black tea (6 oz) 45 mg
Consult with Metro OBGYN about what to eat
This may seem like a lot of “no-no’s,” but there are plenty of safe foods that pregnant women can enjoy. It’s important to keep in mind the foods on this list, especially while out at restaurants or if you aren't preparing your own food. Remember to stick to the safe foods and you’ll be able to enjoy a varied diet with peace of mind about the health of your baby.