The Mum Shun: Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

When you find out you’re going to be a mother, you want to do what’s best for your baby’s wellness as soon as possible. You start taking care of your wellbeing by adding healthy foods to your diet, but do you know the nutrition nightmares to avoid? Here’s our list of foods you should steer clear of during pregnancy.


1. High-mercury seafood: Too much mercury could damage your baby’s developing nervous system, and you’ll find high levels of the toxin particularly in big and old fish. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), pregnant women should avoid swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish. You’re OK to eat up to 12 ounces (340 grams) of tuna a week.


2. Raw, under cooked or contaminated seafood: These kinds of seafood are likely to contain harmful bacteria or viruses, so avoid raw fish and shellfish, especially oysters and clams. You are fine to eat smoked seafood if it’s canned, shelf-stable or an ingredient in a cooked dish, but you should avoid refrigerated smoked seafood, such as lox.


3. Under-cooked meat, poultry and eggs: Pregnancy increases your risk of bacterial food poisoning, gives you more severe reactions than you might experience when not pregnant, and, in rare cases, food poisoning affects the baby, too. Cook all meats, poultry and eggs properly and avoid refrigerated pates, meat spreads and pre-stuffed raw poultry.


4. Unpasteurized foods: While low-fat dairy products – like skimmed milk, mozzarella cheese and cottage cheese — can be a healthy part of your diet, foods containing unpasteurized milk could cause you to develop foodborne illnesses. Unless clearly labelled as otherwise, don’t eat brie, feta, camembert, blue cheese or Mexican-style cheeses, such as queso blanco, queso fresco and panela. You should also consider pasteurized eggs.


5. Unwashed fruits and vegetables: It’s vital that you eliminate any chance of harmful bacteria by thoroughly washing all your fruits and vegetables, as well as cutting away any bad or damaged bits. Raw sprouts — including alfalfa, clover, radish and mung bean — might also contain disease-causing bacteria so don’t eat them raw but be sure to cook the sprouts thoroughly.


6. Large quantities of vitamin A: Although this vitamin is essential for eye health, too much vitamin A can lead to your baby developing birth defects. If you’re pregnant and over the age of 19, it is the recommendation of The Institute of Medicine that you get 2,565 international units (IU) of vitamin A daily. This sounds like a lot, but bear in mind that cooked beef liver contains 27,185 IU in three ounces and cooked chicken liver has 12,325 IU per three ounce portion.


7. Excess caffeine: Not only does caffeine interfere with your baby’s heart rate, research suggests that it may actually increase your risk of miscarriage. While this is yet to be fully proven, doctors recommend pregnant women to consume no more than 200 milligrams of caffeine a day. To work that out in terms of your daily drink needs, in an eight-ounce cup of brewed coffee there are about 95 milligrams of caffeine, the same-sized brewed tea contains about 47 milligrams and a 12-ounce caffeinated cola soft drink contains roughly 29 milligrams.


8. Herbal tea: Data on the effects of specific herbs on developing babies is thin on the ground – even the types of herbal tea marketed specifically to pregnant women – so it’s best to avoid herbal tea unless your doctor tells you it’s OK.


9. Alcohol: While one drink probably won’t harm your baby, no level of alcohol has been proved safe during pregnancy so your best bet is to avoid alcohol entirely.

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