- August 25, 2020
- Michael Allibone
- Posted in Resources
As an expectant first-time mom, you know that what you eat is more important than ever. You and your baby need nutritious foods to keep you both healthy and strong. There are also foods you need to avoid during pregnancy. Some might surprise you.
Many potentially harmful foods — like deli meat and fresh produce — are consumed on a regular basis without much thought. When pregnant, these foods must be handled differently or consumed in smaller amounts to not at all. Since many of these foods are commonly consumed, it can difficult to know what is safe for pregnant women to eat.
To make it easier for you, we've made a list of the most common foods that you should avoid or minimize in your diet to keep you and your baby as healthy as possible.
As a first-time mom, you may have heard that eating fish during pregnancy is good for your baby because of the omega-3 fatty acids. This is true, but the fish must be low in mercury.
An article in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health notes that high levels of mercury are harmful to your baby. Mercury is a neurotoxin, which means it can cause physical disabilities and even brain damage.
To be at risk, a pregnant woman would need to eat high-mercury fish every day. Limiting yourself to one or two servings of fish per week is recommended. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, high-mercury fish varieties include swordfish, ahi and bigeye tuna, marlin, shark, tilefish, orange roughy, and king mackerel.
Raw Fish and Undercooked Meat
For a first-time mom who loves to eat sushi, avoiding raw fish is hard. Luckily, many sushi restaurants offer cooked options, which are safe for pregnant women to eat.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, exposure to mercury is the main concern when eating raw fish. There is also a risk for bacteria and parasites that are present on the fish. You definitely don't want to get food poisoning during pregnancy!
Rare and undercooked meat carries the risk of food poisoning, too, so pregnant women need to make sure their meat is cooked thoroughly to the recommended internal temperature.
Having a turkey sandwich may seem like a healthy choice during pregnancy, but it does come with risks. According to a Canadian Family Physician article, deli meat may contain listeria. This is a type of bacteria that causes listeriosis.
Listeriosis primarily affects pregnant women, their babies, and people with compromised immune systems. Contracting listeriosis while pregnant could cause a miscarriage.
While the risk of listeria infection is relatively low, there are still some precautions that should be taken. Wipe down any surfaces that come in contact with deli meat. Store your deli meat at the proper temperature (below 40°F) at all times. Eat all deli meat promptly, and remember that opened packages only last 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator.
You can also heat any food you're concerned about to steaming (internal temperature of 165°F). That will kill any listeria bacteria.
Cheese can be a delicious and healthy food choice during pregnancy. As a first-time mom, it's surprising to find out that soft cheeses should be avoided. Soft cheeses carry the same risk as deli meat. They may contain listeria bacteria.
Soft cheeses include camembert, Roquefort, feta, brie, gorgonzola, blue cheeses, and Mexican-style cheeses like queso blanco and queso fresco. According to an FDA study, soft cheeses are sometimes made from unpasteurized milk, which increases the risk of listeriosis.
If the cheese package says it was made from pasteurized milk, this makes the cheese safer to eat. You can also heat soft cheese until it melts, and this will kill any bacteria present.
Unwashed Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are great sources of vitamins and minerals during pregnancy. However, it's important to wash them thoroughly before eating. Unwashed fruits and vegetables carry the risk of toxoplasmosis.
Toxoplasmosis is a parasite that can cause an infection in pregnant mothers that may be passed to their babies. In babies, it can cause blindness and mental disabilities.
The threat of toxoplasmosis seems frightening when you're a first-time mom. Don't let that stop you from eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables during your pregnancy, though. Just be sure to properly wash your produce to lower your risk.
It's important to eat a balanced diet during pregnancy to keep you and your baby healthy and strong. Still, even nutritious foods — like fish, fruits, and vegetables — may pose a danger to pregnant women and their babies. Be sure to talk with your OB about any concerns you have with foods to avoid during pregnancy.
As a first-time mom, were you surprised to see any of these foods on the list? Let us know in the comments below!
- American Pregnancy Association. (n.d.). Mercury Levels in Sushi. American Pregnancy Association. https://americanpregnancy.org/is-it-safe/mercury-levels-in-sushi/
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Parasites – Toxoplasmosis (Toxoplasma Infection). Center for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/toxoplasmosis/epi.html#food
- Einarson, A., et al. (2010). Food-borne Illnesses During Pregnancy. Canadian Family Physician, 56(9), 869–870. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2939108/
- Farber, J., Peterkin, P. (1991). Listeria monocytogenes, a Food-borne Pathogen. Microbiology Reviews, 55(3), 476–511. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC372831/
- Food and Drug Administration. (2003). Interpretive Summary: Quantitive Assessment of the Relative Risk to Public Health from Foodborne Listeria monocytogenes Among Selected Categories of Ready-to-Eat Foods. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/media/77947/download
- Menon, S. (2016). Mercury Guide. National Resources Defense Council. https://www.nrdc.org/stories/mercury-guide
- Taylor, C., et al. (2016). Blood Mercury Levels and Fish Consumption in Pregnancy: Risks and Benefits for Birth Outcomes in a Prospective Observational Birth Cohort. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, 219(6), 513–520. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4970655/
The information provided represents the general opinions of NTD Eurofins and is not intended to be used as specific advice for any one individual. Individuals should always consult with a physician to obtain specific advice and to receive answers to any and all questions or concerns related to health, wellness, pregnancy, and birth.
Pursuant to applicable federal and/or state laboratory requirements, Eurofins NTD, LLC has established and verified the accuracy and precision of its testing services. Tests are developed and performance characteristics determined by Eurofins NTD, LLC. The methods and performance characteristics have been reviewed and approved by the New York State Department of Health.