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Which Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy


pregnant woman with hands on belly
Eating the right foods is vital for a healthy pregnancy,

Congratulations on your pregnancy!


There are so many fun things to think about from the nursery theme, to buying cute clothes, to names for your little one.


However, there are also the more serious things to consider along the way like your and your baby’s health.


As you start to budget for your pregnancy and beyond, consider budgeting for nutrition appointments. It may be the single most important decision you make as you nourish your baby, especially if you hit any bumps in the road like gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, constipation, nausea, heartburn, swelling, or problems with weight gain that need individualized attention. Unfortunately, most physicians don't receive nutrition education in their training.


Nutrition is likely the most influential factor that you can control for a healthy pregnancy. Based on the latest research, we list which foods to avoid during pregnancy. Knowing this important information can positively affect your baby’s birth outcomes.

 

Raw Foods


The main category of food to avoid during pregnancy is raw foods.


Avoiding raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs, and fish are non-negotiable. This includes burgers and other ground meat cooked less than well done, chicken cooked less than 165°F, sushi, sashimi, raw cookie dough, and Caesar dressing made from eggs that weren’t pasteurized. (You can eat sushi rolls that don’t use raw fish like California rolls and veggie tempura rolls.)   


Similarly, raw or unpasteurized milk, cheese, and juice are off-limits (foodsafety.gov). Even fresh-squeezed orange juice and cider may cause foodborne illness. A mother may not experience any symptoms of food poisoning, but harmful bacteria can still affect the growing fetus. Ensure juice is pasteurized or heated to a rolling boil.


Cheeses to avoid include queso fresco, brie, camembert, and blue-veined cheese as they are made with unpasteurized milk.


Unheated cheese sliced at a deli also presents risk. Either heat it to 165°F or slice it off a block of cheese at home.


Any powdered product like flour, protein powder, starches, herbal teas, or baking mix needs to be cooked or heated in boiling water.


The reason to avoid raw or undercooked foods is due to their high risk of containing bacteria and viruses that can harm a pregnant woman and her fetus. E. coli, Salmonella, Clostridium botulinum, Listeria, and Cronobacter sakazakii are the most common pathogens that are found in raw foods that can cause serious harm to all humans, but especially pregnant women, fetuses, babies, the elderly, and immunocompromised.


Miscarriages and death have been associated with eating raw foods contaminated with these pathogens.  (foodsafety.gov)


As long as food is cooked to the appropriate temperature, they are safe to consume. (See the CDC's food temperature guide)

 

Deli Foods

deli meats platter
Heat deli meats to steaming before eating.

Foods that come from the deli are at high risk of being contaminated with harmful bacteria as well.


Best practice is to heat deli meats and hot dogs to steaming before consuming. Simply heat sliced turkey, roast beef, chicken, pastrami, and hot dogs in a sauté pan until steaming and then add them to your sandwich.


Since deli salads like coleslaw, macaroni and potato salad can’t be safely heated, it’s best to avoid these store-bought salads. Instead, make your own at home. Eat them right away or refrigerate them to prevent bacteria from growing at room temperature. If a salad sits out more than 2 hours, discard it.  

 

Unwashed Fruits and Vegetables

Cantaloupe
Always wash fruit before slicing or eating it.

Always wash your fruits and vegetables under running water before cutting or eating them.


If you are eating melon like cantaloupe, watermelon, or honeydew, which have high concentrations of water and are commonly in the news for Salmonella and E.Coli outbreaks, ensure the rind is washed and once cut, is refrigerated within 2 hours.


Discard cut melon after 7 days.

 

Uncooked Sprouts


Finally, sprouts offer a lot of nutrition, however, they are also carriers of harmful spores. If you want to eat sprouts during pregnancy, they must be heated first. Like deli meats, heat them until steaming.

 

Summary of Which Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy


The good news is that there are only four categories of “which foods to avoid during pregnancy.” If you start here by avoiding raw and undercooked animal products, unheated deli foods, unwashed fruits and vegetables, and uncooked sprouts, your pregnancy is likely to be free of dietary pathogens. This is a great foundation for your growing baby’s health.


For information about fish, see our article “New Guidance on Eating Fish During Pregnancy.”

 

For additional questions on a healthy pregnancy, a nutrition plan for your pregnancy, guidance on navigating dietary restrictions during pregnancy, or creating a breastfeeding plan, make an appointment with our Registered Dietitian at ZESTNutrition.com.

 

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