Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy
By Maureen Connolly
Eating for two doesn't mean you need to double your calories (you
need only an additional 300 calories per day in the second and third
trimesters), but you'll definitely want to double your efforts to avoid
potentially harmful foods for you and your baby. "Everything you eat
and drink you share with your baby, so it makes sense to be extra
careful about the foods and drinks you choose during this time," says
Bridget Swinney, M.S., R.D., author of Eating Expectantly: A Practical and Tasty Guide to Prenatal Nutrition (Meadowbrook).
Here's a rundown of certain eats you should stay away from if you're pregnant:
- Large fish
Shark, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel
all contain dangerously high levels of methyl mercury, a poison found
in fresh and salt waters thanks to industrial pollution. At high
levels, mercury can cause damage to the nervous system -- especially to
children and unborn babies. Low amounts can also affect the central
nervous system, creating things like learning deficits. Since mercury
builds up in the body, it's also wise to stay away from these fish if
you're planning to become pregnant or are nursing.
on where you live, there may be other types of fish and seafood you'll
want to avoid. For a listing by state, visit the Environmental
Protection Agency's fish consumption advisory Web page. You can also check out "A Woman's Guide to Eating
Fish and Seafood.
- Imported soft cheeses
These cheeses can contain a
bacteria called Listeria which can cause miscarriage. Types to avoid
include: brie, camembert, roquefort, feta, and gorgonzola, as well as
Mexican-style cheese like queso blanco and queso fresco. Soft
non-imported cheeses made with pasteurized milk are safe to eat.
- Deli fare
Cold-cuts and cold salads (like tuna and
egg) from a deli can also be contaminated with listeria. Swinney
advises reheating meats in a microwave to steaming to help kill any
potential bacteria, or skipping them altogether.
- Undercooked eggs
Raw or undercooked eggs (such as
poached, sunnyside up, and over-easy) don't reach high enough
temperatures to kill off the harmful salmonella bacteria which can be
found in egg yolk. A good rule of thumb is not to eat anything with a
runny yolk. Alternatively, use egg substitutes, which are pasteurized.
Also beware of souffles since they contain undercooked eggs, and
traditional Caesar salad dressing made with raw eggs.
- Raw or undercooked meats
To prevent the risk of E.
coli bacteria poisoning or toxoplasmosis, which is harmful to a fetus,
make sure meat reaches a temperature of 160 degrees. If you're ordering
a burger out, ask for it be cooked well-done and check that there's no
pink once it arrives; steaks are fine cooked to medium well (which
means they may be a little pink in the center.)
- Herbal teas
"We just don't know enough about the
effects of herbs during pregnancy, so it makes sense to play it safe
and stick with decaf black tea or flavored teas," says Swinney.