Chances are you already know that good nutrition is key to a healthy pregnancy – we even wrote about it in a previous blog post. Eating a well-balanced diet during your pregnancy helps to make sure both you and your baby are growing and developing properly throughout each trimester.
But just as it’s important to choose wholesome foods during your pregnancy, knowing what not to eat and drink during this time is just as essential. Many of the foods on the list of what to avoid are meant to protect pregnant women from food-borne illnesses like listeriosis. Because the immune system is already working overtime to keep your baby healthy, pregnant women are much more susceptible to these types of illnesses, which could affect both you and your babe.
9 foods and drinks to avoid when pregnant:
You’ve likely heard a lot of different opinions on whether or not you can drink alcohol during pregnancy, but the safest choice is to stay sober. We don’t know how much drinking causes fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), or at what point in your pregnancy drinking can cause FASD, so you’re best to stay on the safe side and pass on the booze. Time to mix up some mocktails or try out the newest sparkling waters available!
Oh, but don’t panic if you had a drink or two shortly before finding out that you were pregnant. This happens to many moms, and experts say it’s not a concern.
Due to the risk of listeria, you should avoid any unpasteurized dairy when you’re pregnant. Fortunately, all milk sold in Canada is safe because they must be pasteurized by law. Soft and semi-soft cheeses are more complicated though – even if they’re pasteurized, they’re still considered to be a listeria risk, so you’re going to want to skip goat cheese and cottage cheese. These cheeses are higher in moisture and lower in salt and acids, meaning that bacteria can grow and cause illness if the cheese is contaminated after pasteurization
Too much caffeine:
Can’t get through the day without your morning caffeine hit? The good news here is that you can still have caffeine – just not too much, because it could cause low birth weights. The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that pregnant women limit their caffeine intake to 300mg a day. For context, an 8oz cup of brewed coffee contains between 95-200mg of caffeine. Beyond coffee, pay attention to other sneaky sources of caffeine such as chocolate, energy bars, or coffee-flavoured desserts, to ensure you don’t accidentally slip over the limit.
Raw or undercooked seafood:
If you’re a sushi lover, you’ll likely have to change up your regular order while you’ve got a baby on board. Uncooked or even seared seafood are at high risk for listeria, so it’s time to say “no” to those spicy salmon rolls and tuna sashimi. The good news is that most Japanese restaurants have delicious vegetarian or cooked seafood options as well, so it’s a good time to branch out and find a new fave.
Rare or undercooked meat:
Prefer a medium-rare steak? Unfortunately now’s not the time to be seeing pink or red when it comes to your meat. Undercooked meat can harbour bacteria like E. coli, Trichinella, and Salmonella, all of which can cause a bad case of food poisoning that you’re more susceptible to during pregnancy.
Hot dogs and cold deli meat:
Both deli meat and hot dogs are typically preserved with nitrates and nitrites, chemicals that are used in food preservation, aren’t healthy (in high amounts) for your developing fetus. Like many of the other foods on this list, they also run the risk of carrying listeria. If you’re really craving a deli-style sandwich, however, you can make a safer lunch at home by buying nitrate-free meats and heating them up until they’re steaming to eliminate the bacteria risk.
Raw or undercooked eggs:
Like with undercooked meats, raw or runny eggs run the risk of exposing you to Salmonella. Try to avoid eating any foods where raw eggs might be in the recipe, such as homemade ice cream or mousse, raw cookie dough, homemade mayonnaise, or homemade eggnog. And remember to make sure your breakfast omelettes are cooked thoroughly!
While fish is loaded with brain-boosting omega-3s and is generally a very healthy choice when you’re pregnant, Health Canada advises expectant mamas to avoid fish that are higher in mercury, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, orange roughy, and bigeye tuna. Typically, the bigger the fish, the higher up it is on the food chain and the higher the mercury content, which in larger doses, can be toxic to the baby’s central nervous system.
Alfalfa and bean sprouts have been linked to E. coli and Salmonella outbreaks, so better skip adding some to your salad or sandwich while you’re pregnant. If you’re looking for a crunchy green, try adding in some baby spinach or arugula instead.