I know that you have heard it all before – don’t drink, don’t smoke and don’t sit in hot tubs while pregnant. All those rules are a good place to start, but there is more to a healthy pregnancy than just these few restrictions. There are some pretty specific foods to avoid during pregnancy if you want to improve the chances of a healthy baby.
Raw Meats or Dairy – It doesn’t matter if you have a taste for sushi, steak tartare or oysters, this is the time to stop eating them. With modern practices, the chances are that the foods you encounter will not contain any parasites, harmful bacteria or food borne pathogens, but the risks are not worthwhile.
Something as simple listeria, which can be found in raw milk, can lead to miscarriage, even if it has no significant effect upon you when you aren’t pregnant. Many fish contain parasites, and although most sushi fish are frozen and that can kill pathogens, you have no guarantee.
Farmed Fish and Fish that Contain High Levels of Mercury – These are two very specific subsets of fish in general. To find out which fish contain excessive levels of mercury, you can check online. Farmed fish need to be avoided for different reasons.
Mercury is harmful to brain development and is found in largest quantities in fish that are on the top of their food chain. Shark, some species of tuna, orange roughy and king halibut are the worst offenders. There are many other species that are not in the “dangerous” category for all, but are still not advisable, especially for pregnant women.
One way to limit the risk is to minimize eating even fish that are border line. There are plenty of fish that are safe – stick to those because they seem to provide other benefits. Some studies indicate that women who eat 12 ounces of fish or more each week actually seem to have smarter kids – and fish is just good for you.
There are several reasons to avoid farmed fish as well. First, they don’t contain the same amounts of those heart healthy fats that make eating fish so advisable. Second, they are raised in very limited areas where fecal content is high and PCB levels are elevated. Finally, from an environmental perspective, they are a complete nightmare.
Sugar Laden Foods and Simple Carbohydrates
Are these dangerous? Not technically. On the other hand, they are really not very good for you. Gestational diabetes causes a slew of health problems for both mom and baby. For the mom, gestational diabetes can trigger Type 2 diabetes later on but during pregnancy it increases the risk of preeclampsia and early delivery.
For the baby, it can mean a larger baby and such babies can have more complications after birth. These can include low blood sugar until the baby adjusts to less sugar and better insulin response, respiratory distress if delivered early, jaundice and an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes later in life.
The real problem with loading up with such foods is that you will inevitably sacrifice other, more nutritional foods that are better for you and your baby. If you fill up on white bread, cookies and chocolate, chances are that you won’t be eating enough protein, greens and whole grains. There is only so much you can eat in a day, after all.
Another aspect of the problem is that if you do get all your necessary nutrients as well as your unneeded simple carbohydrates, you are probably overeating. That is going to catch up with you when you deliver your baby and have all that extra weight to lose.
Knowing which foods to avoid during pregnancy is only half of the equation; make sure you also learn what to eat to ensure a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.