Pregnant women should avoid these seven foods and drinks

Pregnant women should be mindful of avoiding foods and drinks that could be harmful to a fetus. (Photo: DrGrounds, Getty Images)

The adage is true — when you’re pregnant, you’re eating for two.

And while this doesn’t mean you should eat twice as much, it does mean you should be mindful avoiding certain foods and drinks that could be harmful to a fetus. 

There are certain foods you should avoid when you’re pregnant. Pregnancy affects your immune system so you and your unborn baby are more susceptible to the bacteria, viruses and parasites that cause foodborne illness.

Your baby is also sensitive to toxins from the food you eat. In general, these relate to potential toxins or bacteria that could interfere with a healthy pregnancy and with your baby’s development.

Here are a few things to cross off your diet, at least for now:

1. Mercury-laden fish

Mercury is highly toxic and is most commonly found in polluted waters. It’s considered toxic to your nervous system, immune system and kidneys and can cause serious developmental issues in children. Large marine fish can accumulate high amounts of mercury, so it’s best to avoid the following types of seafood: mackerel, shark, swordfish and tuna.

2. Raw fish 

Raw fish, especially raw shellfish, can cause viral, bacterial or parasitic infections, which may adversely affect you and your unborn baby. One of those is listeria — and pregnant women are 20 times more likely be become infected than the general population. Listeria can be passed through the placenta and can affect your unborn baby, even if you aren’t showing any symptoms.

3. Deli meats and hot dogs 

Hot dogs, lunch meat and deli meat can become infected with various bacteria during processing or storage. You should avoid processed meat products unless they’ve been reheated until steaming hot.

4. Eggs Benedict 

That hollandaise sauce in eggs Benedict could contain raw eggs, a no-no for pregnant women. Raw eggs can be breeding grounds for salmonella, which can cause digestive distress, and, in rare cases, uterine cramping. While you’re not likely to down a raw egg, you do need to be aware of where raw egg might be lurking: lightly scrambled eggs, poached eggs, homemade mayonnaise, some salad dressings, homemade ice cream and cake icings.

5. Sprouts

Raw sprouts including alfalfa, clover, radish and mung bean sprouts are a breeding ground for bacteria, which is almost impossible to remove through washing. In general, you can minimize the risk of infection by thoroughly washing, peeling and/or cooking all fruits and vegetables. 

6. Caffeine

During pregnancy, you should generally limit your caffeine intake to less than 200 mg per day, which is the equivalent of about two or three cups of coffee. That might be just enough for some — but be aware if that doesn’t sound like much to you!

7. Alcohol

No level of alcohol has been proven safe while you’re pregnant, so give it up altogether.

In general, avoid foods on this list and ensure you’re vigilant about proper food preparation. For these nine months, your health and your baby’s health is paramount. These decisions are ones you’ll never regret.

Dr. Cathleen Harris is a maternal fetal medicine specialist and independent member of the HonorHealth medical staff.

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