Ah, pregnancy. It can be both a wonderful time, and simultaneously one filled with things that need special consideration. One of those things being the food that you should avoid during pregnancy.
During pregnancy, it’s especially important to take care of your prenatal health. And one of the biggest factors of your health is the food you eat.
But did you know that some pretty ordinary food can be dangerous to you and your baby while you are pregnant? When I was pregnant with my son, I was surprised at how many every day foods where on the list of food to avoid.
Don’t let it overwhelm you. Not only is it easier than it looks to find alternative healthy and beneficial food, it’s not as hard as it looks to avoid the ones that can dangerous during pregnancy.
This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure here. I am not a medical professional, and this is not medical advice.
Why It Matters What You Eat While Pregnant
If you’re anything like me, you might be lifting an eyebrow and wondering if it actually matters what you eat. How can pregnancy change your whole nutritional needs?
But if you’re also like me, you likely want what’s best for your baby. Even if that means giving some things up. After some research, I ended up being on board with ditching the food that needed to be avoided during my pregnancy.
Keep reading if you’re wondering if it actually matters, too!
What you eat affects your baby’s development
This is probably the most obvious reason that what you eat matters when you’re pregnant. You’re not just feeding yourself, you’re also feeding your growing baby.
If you don’t eat enough food that provide the right nutrition, your baby can lack the nutrients it needs to grow and develop properly.
Likewise, if there’s not enough to go around, you can get deficient in certain vitamins and minerals. Ultimately this can lead to a whole host of problems for yourself, as well as your baby.
But it doesn’t stop there. It’s not just about consuming enough vitamins and minerals to provide for both you and your baby. You also need to avoid foods that carry harmful substances that can actually harm and impair your baby’s development.
You’re more susceptible to sickness while pregnant
Did you know that you’re more susceptible to sickness while you’re pregnant? But even more than that, that sickness can be potentially detrimental for your baby?
For example, the reason you’re not supposed to hang out in hot tubs while you’re pregnant is because it raises your body temperature too much. When your internal temperature goes up too high, it can be harmful for your developing baby.
And that’s exactly what happens when you get a fever. Normally, fevers are actually a good thing, assuming it doesn’t get out of control. Fevers are your body’s natural way of fighting off sickness and infections.
You can probably see where it gets tricky, then. Some of your body’s natural defenses against sickness can potentially become dangerous for your growing baby. On top of that, many normal over the counter medicines for common sickness are very dangerous to take while pregnant.
For those reasons, it’s very important to be mindful of what food you eat, and avoid the things that can cause sickness. It’s also crucial to prepare foods properly to eliminate the risk of sickness and food poisoning.
What Food To Avoid During Pregnancy
Now, before I go into all the food that should be avoided while you’re pregnant, keep an open mind. I know when I first saw the list of things I wasn’t supposed to eat, I might have panicked slightly. I remember thinking something along the lines of, “What’s left for me to eat?!”
So, my first tip is to not freak out. Keep an open mind, and be willing to adjust your diet if necessary. And don’t worry, I won’t hang your out there to dry. After we talk a bit about what foods you should drop from your diet, I’m going to share with you some tips and resources to help you adjust and feed yourself well.
Alcohol is a big no no when you’re pregnant. Just like nutrients are passed on to your baby, your placenta will also pass on alcohol to your baby. And your baby is not even remotely close to being ready to process alcohol.
For that reason, alcohol can have serious effects on your developing baby. This is definitely not something you want to take a chance on. As soon as you find out your pregnant, stop any and all alcohol consumption.
While some fish, such as salmon, can be very beneficial for you, others can cause serious harm while you’re pregnant.
What you’re really looking to avoid is mercury content. Many large, deep sea fish such as shark have a lot of mercury in them. And mercury can seriously impair your baby’s development.
But don’t think you’re safe as long as you aren’t eating shark. Even some smaller fish, such as tuna, have some mercury in them. While very small amounts of tuna will probably not have a negative impact, it’s best to be safe and avoid any fish known to contain mercury.
All right, this might gross you out a bit (it grossed me out a bit…). But cold cut lunch meats are at risk to have a bacteria called listeria on them.
While many people consume this bacteria without any problem, pregnant women are at a higher risk to developing an infection from it. And we already talked about how you want to avoid being sick while pregnant!
During your pregnancy, it’s best to put lunch meat on the list of food you want to avoid. You might get by without getting an infection, but it’s not really worth the risk.
If you decide to take the risk, be sure to heat up your lunch meat in a microwave for at least a few minutes. This will help kill off any bacteria and lower the chances you get sick.
This may seem like a random food to avoid during pregnancy, but it’s on the list for the same reason as lunch meat.
Hot dogs often carry listeria, making them a potential outlet for infection and sickness while you’re expecting. As with lunch meat, better safe than sorry.
And if you absolutely can’t avoid them, be sure to cook them well to eliminate as much of the bacteria as possible.
Often pregnant women are told not to eat soft cheeses, but what you’re really trying to avoid is unpasteurized cheese. Pasteurization is a process that kills off bacteria present in the cheese, and the dairy that is used to make it.
Again, pregnancy makes you more prone to developing infections from bacteria in the food you eat. And that’s why it’s important to avoid unpasteurized cheese.
Avoiding soft cheese is a good rule of thumb if you don’t know whether it has been pasteurized or not. Soft cheeses are often unpasteurized, but a few are. Hard cheeses, on the other hand, are typically pasteurized and safe to eat.
Are you catching the trend of ensuring that any bacteria present in your food is eliminated as much as possible? The same goes for meat.
Uncooked meat can have harmful bacteria in it. While you may like your meat on the rare side and it not affect you, don’t take the risk while pregnant. You are far more susceptible to get an infection while you are pregnant.
And the consequences of getting sick affect not only you, but your baby as well. And those affects can potentially be detrimental.
Caffeine is one pregnancy food that should be avoided in large quantities, but does not necessarily need to be cut entirely. There is a common misconception that if you are pregnant, you shouldn’t have any caffeine at all. But that’s just not the case.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, pregnant women are encouraged to stay away from caffeine as much as possible. However, small amounts of caffeine are okay, and have not been shown to have any long term effects on the baby (source).
Typically, under 200mg of caffeine per day is considered to be a safe amount during pregnancy. But what does that mean practically? If you’re a coffee lover, you don’t necessarily have to stop drinking your daily cup.
Most coffee has a caffeine content well under the recommended amount. If you feel you should or are able to drop coffee until you give birth, great. But if you really can’t or don’t want to give up that one cup, it’s typically okay to drink just one cup a day.
Of course, always check with your doctor first!
I actually didn’t learn about this one until after I had my son, but some teas should be avoided while you’re pregnant. Guess it’s a good thing I’m not a tea person!
While teas are usually a good and healthy drink, some can be dangerous during pregnancy. Herbal teas in particular should be avoided unless recommended by your doctor or midwife. Some can be very beneficial, but others can have serious effects on your baby.
To learn more about which teas are safe during pregnancy, check out this article by the American Pregnancy Association.
How To Ensure You Avoid Harmful Foods, And Eat Food That Benefits Baby During Pregnancy
Sometimes the amount of food that you should avoid during pregnancy can feel a bit overwhelming. Especially when you know how important good prenatal nutrition is for you and your baby. Here’s some easy ways to help you maintain good prenatal nutrition.
Take a good prenatal vitamin
One of the first things you should do after finding out you’re pregnant is get a good prenatal vitamin. (I personally like Vitafusion’s prenatal vitamin)
Taking a prenatal is an especially important thing to do in the first trimester, when your baby is doing a lot of important development. Your prenatal will help ensure that your baby gets all the nutrients it needs. And you may find that it even helps ease some of your first trimester symptoms, such as morning sickness.
Focus on quality
One mistake many new moms make is thinking that they are literally “eating for two.” In reality, you don’t need any extra calories in your first trimester, and only a small extra amount in the later trimesters.
Instead of focusing on the amount you are eating, spend more time focusing on the quality of it. Stay away from food that can be harmful, such as the food we talked about in this post.
In place of those foods, eat more whole grains, fruits, and veggies. Eat more foods that are packed with nutrients, and less junk that only temporarily fills you up.
Use a pregnancy cookbook
Another great way to ensure you avoid harmful food and instead eat more healthy and beneficial food is to grab a good pregnancy cookbook. Pregnancy cookbooks are specifically designed to eliminate harmful food. They also focus on providing you with the nutrients that your baby needs to grow.
Personally, I highly recommend Mommy Labor Nurse’s Pregnancy Cookbook. It has over 50 recipes for healthy breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks. I know how hard it can be to have good variety when you’re pregnant—especially in the first trimester. This cookbook gives you lots of delicious recipes to choose from.
She also includes a ton of food safety tips, and general pregnancy nutrition education. The recipes are even catered to each trimester, with some targeting specific symptoms such as morning sickness. I know how sucky morning sickness is—I’m in favor of anything that eases it and lets me eat!
I also love that this cookbook comes with a meal plan and shopping list. It literally takes all the extra work out of it, and ultimately will save you time and energy, too.
Phew! That was a lot of information—but very important for your pregnancy! It’s really important to avoid food that can be harmful for your pregnancy, but you can only do that if you know what it is.
Honestly, I wish I had grabbed a pregnancy cookbook when I had my son. It would have saved me a lot of trouble trying to figure out what to eat for the following months.
But what about you? How are you handling your meals and snacks during your pregnancy? Leave a comment below and let me know what you’ve had to change, and how you’re handling it!