7 Foods You Shouldn’t Eat When Pregnant and 6 You Should
You are what you eat, so give your growing baby the nutrition she needs to come out healthy and strong
When you’re pregnant, what you put on your plate — and what you don’t — will have a direct impact on the tiny baby growing inside you. Good nutrition during pregnancy feeds your baby’s development, helps you maintain a healthy pregnancy weight and may even help keep post-pregnancy depression at bay.
At the same time, it’s wise to say “no thanks” to risky foods that could expose your baby to bacteria and toxins. Here’s the latest expert advice about foods to avoid and foods to eat during your pregnancy.
What not to eat
High-mercury fish. Don’t eat tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, shark, swordfish or king mackerel, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends. Limit white (albacore) tuna to six ounces a week. These fish are highest in mercury, a metal linked with developmental delays and brain damage, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Fish from contaminated lakes and streams may contain toxins called polychlorinated biphenyls, so check with your health department before eating locally-caught fish like bluefish, striped bass, salmon, pike, trout and walleye.
Raw meat. Uncooked seafood and rare or undercooked beef or poultry may contain coliform bacteria, toxoplasmosis and salmonella.
Deli meats, pates and store-made meat salads (like chicken or ham salad). All could contain listeria, according to the U.S. government. This bacterium can cause a miscarriage. It also can cross the placenta and infect a fetus or cause life-threatening food poisoning.
Refrigerated, smoked fish. Salmon, white fish, sable and other fish labeled “lox, nova, kippered or jerky” that’s smoked and refrigerated may contain listeria, too. Canned versions and smoked fish heated to 165 degrees F are safe, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Raw and undercooked eggs. Don’t sample raw cookie dough or cake batter, and steer clear of homemade goodies that may contain raw eggs like Caesar dressings, mayonnaise, ice cream or custards, eggnog and Hollandaise sauces. Raw eggs may contain salmonella, which causes food poisoning. Use pasteurized egg products for these. And cook egg dishes until the yolks are firm or until the casserole or other food reaches 160 degrees F, HHS recommends.
Soft cheeses. Imported soft cheeses may contain listeria. Skip brie, camembert, Roquefort, feta, gorgonzola and Mexican-style cheeses such as queso blanco and queso fresco, unless the label states that the cheese was made from pasteurized milk.
Unpasteurized milk. Raw or unpasteurized milk may also contain listeria. Stick with pasteurized milk and dairy products.
Raw sprouts, unwashed produce and unpasteurized juice. Wash and dry fruits and vegetables before eating or cooking to avoid exposure to toxoplasmosis, a bacterium that may have contaminated the ground where the produce was grown. And skip unpasteurized or “fresh-squeezed” juice and cider, as these may contain the bacteria E. coli. Stick with pasteurized juices. Raw or undercooked sprouts (like alfalfa, mung bean or radish sprouts) could contain E. coli or salmonella.
What you should eat
Safe seafood. The FDA recommends 8 to 12 ounces of seafood a week during pregnancy. Choose types low in mercury such as salmon, shrimp, pollock and catfish. Seafood delivers protein as well as beneficial omega-3 fatty acids that fuel the development of your baby’s brain and eyes. Getting plenty of omega-3s during pregnancy may also lower your risk for depression during pregnancy, say Columbia University maternal and fetal medicine experts. Many women skip or skimp on fish during pregnancy due to fears about mercury. The FDA offers more details about seafood safety during pregnancy.
Produce. The American Pregnancy Association suggests two to four servings of fruit and four or more vegetable servings daily. Among the important nutrients your baby will need:
- Vitamin A for eyes and bones (found in carrots, sweet potatoes and greens)
- Vitamin C for bones, teeth and iron absorption (found in citrus, strawberries, broccoli, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts)
- Folate for protection against neural tube defects (found in dark leafy greens and beans such as black beans and lima beans)
Dairy products or other calcium-rich foods. Aim for at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day from milk, yogurt, cheese, canned sardines, canned salmon with the bones or plenty of leafy greens like spinach and kale. Calcium builds strong bones and is important for the healthy functioning of nerves and muscles. Fortified dairy products also deliver vitamin D, which helps with calcium absorption and bone-building.
Whole grains. Six to 11 servings a day of whole-grain bread, oatmeal, brown rice and barley will provide iron, B vitamins for the formation of red blood cells, fiber so you feel full, carbohydrates for energy and even a smidge of protein.
Protein. Shoot for three servings of meat, poultry, fish, eggs and/or beans a day. Babies need protein for growth, especially in the second and third trimesters. The iron found in many protein sources helps, too, by transporting energizing oxygen in your bloodstream to your baby.
Good fats. Fat helps your baby store energy. Good fats, found in olive and canola oil, nuts, avocado and recommended fish types, help your heart stay healthy.