Being pregnant means that whatever you eat, your baby eats also. In addition to helping you stay well, a healthy diet during pregnancy is an important part of your baby’s development and growth.
How do you know which foods are best — and which might actually be harmful?
“Certain foods that sound healthy, such as some types of fish, should be avoided when you’re pregnant,” says Scripps Coastal OB/GYN Kari Lynn Purcott, MD.
“Understanding which foods to bypass during pregnancy can help you make smarter choices for you and your baby.”
1. Avoid seafood high in mercury. Fish can often be a great source of iron, protein and good fats such as omega-3 fatty acid; however, high levels of mercury can harm your baby. Do not eat swordfish, shark, king mackerel or tilefish. Ask your doctor which fish are safe to eat during your pregnancy.
2. Avoid raw, undercooked or contaminated seafood. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers further guidelines on eating seafood during pregnancy.
3. Avoid undercooked meat, poultry and eggs. This includes processed meats such as hot dogs or deli meats, all of which should be thoroughly cooked until steaming hot. If not, avoid them altogether.
4. Avoid unpasteurized foods including milk and soft cheeses such as brie, feta and blue cheese.
5. Avoid large quantities of liver which can have too much vitamin A. Liver in small quantities is acceptable.
6. Avoid caffeine, which has been associated with low birth weight. Caffeine in moderation is fine. Talk with your doctor about how much caffeine is safe for you and your baby.
7. Avoid alcohol. Alcohol consumption during pregnancy has been shown to have damaging effects on an unborn baby including facial defects, heart problems, low birth weight and miscarriage or stillbirth.
While fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of vitamins and nutrients for you and your baby, be sure to wash them thoroughly – including produce that has been pre-washed – to remove bacteria, dirt and pesticides.
A healthy diet will help you feel better during your pregnancy and improve the health of your baby. If you have gestational diabetes, your diet may be more restricted in order to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Talk to your doctor about any dietary concerns you may have.