Eating for Two - Nutrition During PregnancyWhat foods or substances should I avoid?
Caffeine: Caffeine crosses the placental barrier into the baby's blood
when you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Limit your caffeine intake to less
than 300 mg in one day. (One cup of coffee contains about 150 mg of
caffeine, one cup of strong black tea contains about 100 mg of caffeine,
and one 355 mL can of cola contains 36 to 46 mg of caffeine.) Watch
out for the new "energy" drinks - while some contain only as much
caffeine as a cup of coffee, others may contain much more. Energy drink manufacturers
are not required to list caffeine on the drink label unless the caffeine is
added as a separate ingredient. However, caffeine in energy drinks usually comes
from natural sources, such as guarana or yerba mate, so the label may not tell
the whole story about how much caffeine is in the drink. If you need a soothing
cup of something warm, choose citrus, ginger, or lemon herbal teas (no more
than two or three cups per day), soup, warm milk, or the occasional cup of hot
chocolate. Consume caffeinated beverages in moderation, and drink them between
meals, as they may interfere with the absorption of iron at meals.
Alcohol: Alcohol crosses the placental barrier and can cause fetal alcohol
syndrome and permanent birth defects, especially if consumed in high quantities.
The Motherisk Program states that most organ development is completed a few
weeks after the first trimester. Brain development continues throughout pregnancy
and after birth. Exposure to alcohol any time during pregnancy can affect the
The Canadian Health Network states that researchers are unsure if a "safe"
level of alcohol consumption exists during pregnancy. The harmful effects of
alcohol vary with the stage of pregnancy and the amount consumed on each occasion.
However, research does show that all types of alcoholic beverages have the same
negative effects during pregnancy. Avoid all alcoholic beverages if you are
planning a pregnancy and while you are pregnant.
Nicotine: Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of a baby being
born prematurely and underweight. Stop smoking if you are considering getting
pregnant; if you are pregnant, never smoke. Because of the health risks associated
with second-hand smoke, avoid any smoky environments.
Medications: Illicit drugs, inhalants, prescription and over-the-counter
medications, and even certain herbal products can affect the unborn baby. Check
with your doctor or pharmacist before using any medications and herbal products.
Some artificial sweeteners: Aspartame, sucralose, and acesulfame-potassium
are used in many foods such as soft drinks, desserts, yogurt, fruit spreads,
salad dressings, chewing gum, and candy. Although evidence shows that these
artificial sweeteners are safe for pregnant women, use them moderately. Avoid
using saccharin or cyclamates.
Fish and shellfish: Certain fish may contain high levels of mercury,
which can affect the baby's developing nervous system. Avoid swordfish, marlin,
and shark. Limit your intake tuna or salmon to two medium-sized cans of salmon
or light tuna, one medium-size can of albacore tuna, or one fresh tuna steak
per week. Avoid raw or undercooked shellfish such as oysters, mussels, prawns
(shrimp), and crab. These may cause severe food poisoning if contaminated by
Milk and milk products: Avoid unpasteurized milk and cheese. This includes
cheeses such as feta, brie, Camembert, blue cheeses, and goat cheese. These
foods may contain bacteria called listeria, which are harmful to unborn
Raw sprouts and unpasteurized juices: Avoid raw vegetable sprouts (such
as alfalfa, clover, and radish) and unpasteurized fruit and vegetable juices,
as these may contain bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli.
These bacteria can cause serious illness in pregnant women and may also be passed
on to the baby.
Raw or undercooked meats, poultry or eggs: Undercooked meat, poultry,
and eggs can contain bacteria and parasites that can harm an unborn baby. Be
sure to cook ground beef and pork to at least 160° F (71° C), roasts
and steaks to 145° F (63° C), whole poultry to 180° F (82° C),
and eggs until the yolk and white are firm, not runny.
Certain meats: Avoid meat patés, and all liver products because
of the risk of listeria. Liver and liver products are rich in vitamin
A, and high levels of vitamin A may also be harmful during pregnancy.
Prepared foods: Avoid ready-to-eat meats such as deli meats, patés,
and hot dogs. Also avoid ready-to-eat dressed salads (e.g., potato salad or
coleslaw) and packaged salads. These foods may contain listeria.