11 Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy to Keep Your Baby Safe!
13 mins read
Prenatal Health for Pregnancy
Pregnancy brings with it a rush of hormones, luscious hair and glowing skin. But do you know what else it brings? Truck loads of advice on what to eat, what to drink, where to go and what not to do. This only makes decisions harder than they already are. But since nutrition is one of the top priorities during pregnancy, we've brought to you, an extensive list of foods NOT to eat. Don't worry we've got all the reasons why!
Pregnancy is full of excitement, a phase you've never experienced before. Just when you are getting used to all the bodily changes and cravings, you'll find that you are already concerned about the healthy growth of your unborn baby. You'll want to eat an entire chocolate cake, but you may think twice about what it will do to your little one.
This is why it is important to keep a tab on what you eat, keeping in mind what is good and bad for you and your baby at this stage. To make it easier, we've collated a list of foods that are actually bad for pregnant women.
List of Foods to Avoid When Pregnant
Pregnancy diet is one of the most crucial parts of the gestation period. The foods you consume during this time determine how healthy your baby will be and how your foetus develops. It also dictates your chances of falling prey to gestational diabetes or other complications. Needless to say, a woman has to be very careful with food habits.
Here are some foods to AVOID during pregnancy strictly.
Why: Mercury is toxic to consume and can lead to birth defects.
Fish, albeit healthy, could contain traces of mercury. There are safe levels of mercury present in most fish but it is best to avoid the ones that contain higher levels of it. The fish containing high levels of mercury are shark, tuna, mackerel (bangda) and swordfish. A pregnant woman should limit her consumption of these fish to not more than 1-2 servings per month. This is because excess consumption could lead to toxication of the nervous system, kidneys and immune system, which could be even more dangerous during pregnancy. Conversely, consuming low-mercury fish like salmon, shrimp and cod during pregnancy is actually really healthy. These can be consumed even twice a week. They are high in omega-3 fatty acids which help the baby's eyes, skin and hair in developing.
Why: Shellfish, and other raw fish like raw salmon or sushi could cause infection due to bacteria present on them.
Raw or undercooked fish could contain norovirus, salmonella, listeria and other parasites. Some of these infections only affect the mom and leaves her weak or dehydrated. This is turn, will also affect the growing foetus as it could pass through the placenta. It could lead to premature delivery, still birth or other complications. Pregnant women are easily susceptible to Listeria-borne infection. This bacteria thrives on contaminated water and plants too.
Undercooked or Raw Meat
Why: Raw undercooked meat could contain bacteria like Toxoplasma, E. Coli, Listeria or Salmonella.
Most bacteria lie on the surface of meat and will probably wash off but some also thrive in the muscle fibers of meat and may not be so easy to get rid of if not cooked well. These types of bacteria may threaten the baby's health and could lead to neurological problems, including blindness, epilepsy and mental retardation. Meat patties, burgers, mince and other poultry and red meat dishes should never be eaten undercooked or raw. Processed meats like sausages, salami and ham are also best to stay away from as they could pick up bacteria during the processing and packing stage.
Why: Raw Eggs could contain salmonella that causes cramps, fever, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. The foods that contain raw eggs are:
Lightly Scrambled eggs
Certain Salad Dressing
Hollandaise sauce(usually in lasagna)
Salmonella may only affect the mother but in certain cause the cramps may be caused in the uterus, leading to premature or still birth. It is best for pregnant women to cook eggs thoroughly or use only pasteurized eggs.
Why: Caffeine during pregnancy can stunt foetal growth and lead to low birth weight in infants.
Caffeine is mainly found in coffee, tea, soft drinks and in cocoa too. Pregnant women are asked to limit their caffeine intake to only 200 mg per day. This is equal to 2-3 cups of coffee. The issue with caffeine is that it is absorbed easily and passed on to the placenta and the foetus. At this fragile stage or development, the foetus does not have the enzyme required to metabolize caffeine. It is for the same reason that newborn babies cannot have caffeine. It could lead to low birth weight which is associated with the risk of infant deaths and chronic diseases and heart diseases in adulthood.
Why: The seeds of raw sprouts can be contaminated by bacteria, specifically salmonella.
Unlike with other veggies, raw sprouts like moong, alfalfa and clover sprouts can be infected with salmonella not on the surface but inside the seeds, making them difficult to wash off. However, these can be cooked and safely eaten by pregnant women.
Milk, Cheese and Fruit Juice That is Not Pasteurized.
Why: Multiple types of Bacteria like Listeria, E. Coli, Campylobacter and Salmonella could be present in unpasteurized dairy and fruit juice at one time, leading to fatal conditions in a developing fetus.
This bacteria could occur naturally or also be picked up during storage or collection. Pasteurization is the one way to kill harmful bacteria while still preserving the nutritional content.
Why: Alcohol in pregnancy leads to the increased risk of miscarriage or even stillbirth. Even in small amounts, alcohol could affecr your baby's brain development.
Alcohol is strictly prohibited in pregnancy for the simple reason that it could affect your baby's brain negatively. It can also lead to an miscarriages. Foetal Alcohol Syndrome is caused by intake of alcohol during pregnancy. It could cause facial deformities, mental retardation and also heart problems and defects.
Processed Junk Foods
Why: Processed foods contain sugar which could lead to gestational diabetes and other complications. This could also harm the unborn baby in the long run. Processed food is usually high in calories, sugar and added fats and lower in nutritional value. Extra sugar intake could lead to heart disease and type 2 diabetes and weight gain. While weight gain is actually healthy in pregnancy, excess and unhealthy weight gain could lead to many complications during birth. This could also lead to an overweight baby. During pregnancy your body needs increased nutrition. This means that you will need more iron, protein and folate. People say “you're eating for two” but in truth that means you need more nutrition, not necessarily twice the calories. You may need just 350-500 extra calories per day. This is only in the second and third trimester.
Why: Organ meat is actually a good source of vital nutrients. However in a pregnancy excess organ meat intake could lead to Vitamin A and copper toxicity.
Organ meat contains Vitamin B12, Vitamin A and copper, which are good for a pregnant woman and her child too. However the source of organ meat is from an animal. Animal based vitamin A is preformed and not recommended during pregnancy because it could lead to Vitamin A toxicity and high copper levels. This could lead to birth defects and liver toxicity. Limit organ meat to only once a month when pregnant.
Unwashed Fruits and Veggies
Why: Fruits and vegetables that aren't washed are contaminated with harmful bacteria like E. Coli, Toxoplasma, Salmonella, Listeria which could affect the unborn baby by causing fatal complications.
The contamination of fruits and vegetables could happen during production, harvesting, storage, processing, transportation or even during retail. Toxoplasma is a bacteria present on fruits and vegetables which is dangerous during pregnancy. One reason is dangerous is that the symptoms go unnoticed most of the time. The symptoms could be mistaken for the flu. Toxoplasma could lead to blindness or intellectual disabilities at birth or later in life. It is vital to wash everything you eat well, peel it and cooking it properly when pregnant.
Indian Pregnancy Diet Myths Busted
India, at one point in time, was known as the land of superstitions. Even with pregnancy diet, there are quite a few superstitions and myths that are prevalent today. Knowing the myths from the facts is extremely important as your diet during pregnancy directly affects your child’s nutrition and development. Some pregnancy diet myths to be mindful of include:
Pregnancy means you start ‘eating for two’
We often are advised to ‘eat for two’ during pregnancy and while it weight gain during pregnancy is required for the baby’s healthy development, eating for two isn’t exactly the way to go. In fact, overeating and gaining excess weight could increase your chances of hypertension and gestational diabetes while also increasing the risk of complications during labour and delivery. During the first trimester, your calorie intake should remain more or less the same as before pregnancy. It's during the second and third trimesters that a woman should increase her calorie intake by about 300 more healthy calories daily. The amount of calories will change depending on whether you were overweight or underweight and your BMI (Body Mass Index) at the time of pregnancy. It will also vary based on whether you are expecting twins or multiple babies. Consult your doctor to understand the best for your body.
Eating plenty of ghee during the lats trimester will ease delivery
A popular belief is that ghee helps in lubricating the vagina for an easier delivery while another belief states that it helps in stimulating contractions naturally for overdue woman. However, no concrete evidence is available to support this. However, ghee does have numerous benefits and can be included in your pregnancy diet after taking a doctor’s consultation on the same.
Your cravings define your child’s gender
While every parent is excited to know their child’s gender, some Indian ‘gender prediction’ tips take it a bit too far. One of these tips is dependent on the type of cravings you have where cravings for salty food indicate a boy and cravings for sweet food indicate a girl. But there is no scientific proof supporting this myth and only promotes the gender bias towards boys that is rampant in the country.
Watch: Other Gender Prediction Myths Busted
Key Takeaway: Understand the different misconceptions about gender prediction during pregnancy.
For fair-skinned babies, eat saffron & oranges and drink milk
No matter how progressive we have become, the preference for fair babies still prevails in India. Before the baby is even born, moms start to worry about their baby’s complexion. They look for ways to ensure a fair baby and keep trying different tips to make their baby fair even after they are born! One tip that moms-to-be are told to follow is to eat saffron & oranges and drink a lot of milk to get a fair-skinned baby. While these foods do have health benefits, there is no proven link between consumption of these foods and the complexion of the child. The complexion of the child is entirely dependent on genetics and the level of melanin in his skin but often, moms-to-be are overfed these specific foods which can be harmful for the mother and child.
Morning sickness means my baby is probably not getting enough nutrition
Morning sickness is an expected and dreaded part of most women’s pregnancy and often women worry about its effect on their baby’s nutrition. While this worry is valid, it’s a comfort to know that most woman face morning sickness during their pregnancy and give birth to completely healthy babies. Some women even lose a little weight due to morning sickness in the first few months but it's completely normal. However, if you’re facing extreme morning sickness or other signs like dehydration & extreme weight loss, consult a doctor immediately.
How Your Diet During Pregnancy Affects Your Baby
Now you know the pregnancy diet myths to stay away from but there are quite a few ways the food that you consume affects your baby. Understanding how the food that you eat can impact your child’s health in the long term will help you make better dietary choices during this precious time.
The intelligence levels of the baby
A study conducted on 688 children at the University of Alberta (1) found that every additional daily serving of fruit consumed by pregnant women can lead to a direct increase in their baby's cognitive power after birth. Another study conducted over a period of five years (2) states that omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish can have a positive impact on reading abilities of the child. In fact, there are a range of pregnancy super foods to make your baby healthy and intelligent.
The risk of allergies
Recent research on the impact of sugar intake (3) during pregnancy suggests that a diet high in sugar during pregnancy can increase the risk of allergies and allergic asthma in the baby-to-be.
The baby's preference in food
The flavour of the food that a mom-to-be eats reaches the amniotic fluid, which the baby is consuming continuously. By seven months, the foetus has completely developed taste buds and the olfactory senses too are functional. This, according to a study conducted at Monell Chemical Senses Center (4) in Philadelphia, results in the baby developing a preference or taste for foods and flavours that the mother consumes in the third trimester. You can use this time to develop healthy habits in your baby-to-be.
The child’s inclination towards obesity
While it is a known fact that a your diet is a factor that determines the birth weight for your baby, research published in the British Journal of Nutrition (5) suggests that it also affects your child’s susceptibility to obesity as he grows older.
Risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes & cancer
A study published in Breast Cancer Research (6) suggests that a woman with an unhealthy diet that is high in sugar and fat during pregnancy can pass genetic abnormalities to three future generations and increase risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes as well. The same diet also increases risk of breast cancer in three generations of female offspring.
Risk of behavioural problems and disorders
In addition to the above mentioned diseases, a high fat and high sugar diet also increases risk of behavioural problems and disorders like ADHD. Additionally, another study conducted on 273,107 mothers (7) and their children found that, if the pregnant woman takes multivitamins early on then it reduces the risk of Autism by half. While knowing what to avoid during your pregnancy is important to ensure that your baby is healthy, having a balanced diet will not only further your child’s development, but also aid him in the long term. A few months of caution can go a long way in giving your child the priceless gift of health.