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19 Foods To Avoid During Pregnancy

Blame it on the pregnancy hormones, but you certainly cannot ignore those extreme food cravings during these 9 months. From ice creams, chocolates, sour items to exotic mouth-watering foods, you never know what your hormones can demand for. But no matter what, you will have to control your crazy hormones and maintain a diet that will provide the best nutrients that you and your baby need, as whatever the mother eats have direct impact on the baby’s health. While it is alright to satisfy your cravings once in a while, there are a few foods to avoid during pregnancy that we have listed out for you below.

Maintain a pregnancy food chart or pregnancy diet chart month by month and mainly focus on the intake of nutrient-rich foods. Refer to the following list of foods to avoid when pregnant and opt for the best natural food alternatives instead.

Table of Contents:

1. High-mercury fish and seafood

2. Raw or under-cooked meat and fish

3. Raw eggs

4. Alcohol

5. Sugary foods

6. Caffeine

7. Raw sprouts

8. Unwashed produce (fruits and vegetables)

9. Unpasteurised milk, cheese and juices

10. Castor oil

11. Processed junk food or street food

12. White flour products

13. Ajinomoto

14. Fennel and fenugreek seeds

15. Restaurant-made salads

16. Herbs

17. Canned foods

18. Nitrate-rich foods

19. Artificial sweeteners

1. High-mercury fish and seafood:

Fishes are an important source of nutrients as they are rich with omega 3 fatty acids, low fat proteins, vitamins, essential minerals such as iron etc. But not all fishes should be included in your pregnancy food chart. Large fishes found in sea, streams and lakes or polluted water such sharks, swordfishes, king mackerel, tuna, tilefish etc contain high levels of mercury due to the exposure to industrial waste dumped into the water bodies.

Mercury converts to Methylmercury inside the human body, which is a neurotoxin known to be harmful to the fetus as it can cause damage to the brain, kidney, nervous and immune system etc. thereby placing high-mercury fish and seafood among the foods to avoid during pregnancy.

Limit your fish intakes to maximum 2-3 servings per week and opt for freshwater fishes like salmon, shrimps, cod, catfish etc. Even though you can benefit equally from omega 3 supplements, try to incorporate at least 1-2 servings of fish into your pregnancy diet to avail the goodness of other nutrients.

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2. Raw or under-cooked meat and fish:

Raw or under-cooked meat and fish as well as processed meat is probably the last thing you’d wanna have during pregnancy, especially once you know about its harmful aspect. Raw meat or fish contains bacteria and parasites that are harmful for the baby that only dies when the meat is properly cooked.

Parasites and bacteria such as Toxoplasma, E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella which are commonly present in raw meat and fish may expose the unborn baby to Toxoplasmosis, Listeriosis, stillbirth, food-poisoning, neurological illnesses such as mental retardation, blindness, epilepsy etc.

Meat and fish, safe however when properly cleaned and cooked, provides a high quantity of nutrients important for the mom as well as the fetus. Therefore, it is very important to - clean the meat properly before cooking, cook it well and thoroughly, and store the raw meat well separated from other foods in the freezer.

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3. Raw eggs:

Eggs are the super-foods stuffed with a bag full of nutrients such as proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals highly essential for a pregnant woman and the growing baby in the womb. However, you must steer clear of adding raw, under-cooked or even soft-boiled eggs into your pregnancy diet chart.

Raw or undercooked eggs contain a bacteria called Salmonella known to cause food poisoning, diarrhea, headache, vomiting etc. Even though it doesn’t directly harm the baby, but seriously deteriorates the mother’s immune system thereby affecting the smooth development in the baby.

Therefore, take a little precaution these 9 months and go for properly boiled eggs (for 5-7 mins) or poach with opaque white part and firm yolk. You can stick to 1-2 eggs a day but if you are on the overweight side, limit to 3- 4 eggs per week.

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4. Alcohol:

Has alcohol been your companion for the good times and/or bad times? You may want to breakup with your companion at least for a year, once you get to know that you’re expecting. Alcohol has been proved to cause serious health issues for the unborn baby making it susceptible to premature birth, stillbirth, miscarriage, low birth weights, birth defects and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs).

However small, as no amount of alcohol has been proved to be safe for the fetus, it would be wise to completely abstain yourself from alcohol at least until the baby is safely born.

[Read more: Is low consumption of alcohol safe during pregnancy]

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5. Sugary foods:

As tempting as they may be, when it comes to a healthy diet for pregnant women, excessive sugar and sugary foods will always be included in the list of what not to eat when pregnant. There is a good chance that your pregnancy hormones will go bonkers for those yummy ice creams, pastries or chocolate cakes quite frequently.

No matter how hard it gets, you will have to limit your sugar intakes to absolute minimum during pregnancy, especially if you fall in the heavier side of the weight line. Limit yourself to small doses of these sugary food items with almost no nutritional value and rather switch to food with natural sugar such as fruits, milk etc to satisfy your sweet tooth.

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6. Caffeine:

Are you one of those caffeine-worshippers who cannot function properly in the morning until they have their cup of strong coffee or tea? Well, now that you are expecting, you will have to cut down on those big cups of energy boosters.

Coffee, tea, cocoa or even those energy drinks, contain high level of caffeine which runs down through the placenta into the baby’s bloodstream and affects the development process. Although you may be able to process the caffeine, your underdeveloped baby cannot, for which caffeine is counted among the foods to avoid during pregnancy.

Try to limit your caffeine intake during pregnancy to absolute minimum of less than a 200 mg per day. But if you can control yourself, stay away from that one cup of coffee for these 9 months.

[Read more: Why coffee or tea is a bad option during pregnancy]

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7. Raw sprouts:

Oh, this one might have puzzled you good! How can sprouts, which is full of nutrients and a favourite munchy of the fitness buffs, is counted among foods to avoid during pregnancy? Well, bacteria such as Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli can easily get into the sprout seeds such as alfalfa, mung, beans, clover etc. through its cracks and eating them raw can lead them to your body and baby.

You can still eat sprouts but only if you cook them well until 165 degrees Fahrenheit, to ensure that all the bacteria are dead. Otherwise, the bacteria can significantly hamper your immune system and cause nausea, diarrhoea, abdominal cramping, cold, fever and other serious illnesses which may get transmitted to the fetus.

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8. Unwashed produce (fruits and vegetables):

Well, this one you probably already know. It is very important to thoroughly wash the fruits and vegetables before cutting them to cook or consume. Not only they may contain preservatives or chemicals but also bacteria and parasites such as toxoplasma etc. that can cause toxoplasmosis and affect the unborn child. Wash them thoroughly under running water and remove the peel or cut away any bruised area, before cooking them properly.

Make a list of fruits to avoid during pregnancy and control the urge of eating papaya, grapes, pineapple, dates etc no matter how much you love eating them as these are proven to be harmful for the unborn baby.

Also, some vegetables such as brinjal or eggplant, cabbage, lettuce etc. need to exclude from your pregnancy diet chart as they may have adverse effects on the mother as well as the fetus.

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9. Unpasteurised milk, cheese and juices:

Ladies, steer clear of raw or unpasteurised milk, milk products and juices during these pregnancy months for the sake of your little one. Pasteurisation is done to ensure that disease causing microbes present in raw milk are thoroughly killed by the high temperature.

But raw, unpasteurized milk and products made from that milk contains a bacteria named Listeria monocytogenes, cause of an infection called Listeriosis leading to premature birth or fetal death. Also, always stay away from unpasteurized juices as they may contains harmful pathogens transferred from the fruits and vegetables used to make them.

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10. Castor oil:

This amazing golden liquid extracted from castor beans is popular among the ladies for its incredible health and cosmetic benefits. But sadly, it is considered among the foods to avoid when pregnancy because of the strong laxative properties present in it which give rise to multiple side effects such as dehydration, inducing labour, reduction in breast milk production, premature delivery, Meconium Aspiration Syndrome etc.

So it is best to avoid the intake of castor oil and reduce the use to bare minimum at least during the pregnancy months.

[Read more: Why it is not safe to use castor oil during pregnancy]

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11. Processed junk food or street food:

Well, processed foods or street foods anyway don’t fall into the healthy food category and should be consumed in a limited amount once in a while. But when it comes to pregnant women, they need to be particularly careful while gulping down those delicious mouth-watering chaats, panipuris and what not.

Processed foods or street foods not only contains no particular value but instead may be the carriers of germs and bacteria that can cause severe issues for the would-be mom and her unborn baby.

But of course, when it becomes utterly impossible to hold down those chaat cravings, choose a reputed chain of hotels and ensure their process of making those foods are very hygienic and clean. Also, strictly avoid eateries by the roadside with flies, mosquitoes, pests all around.

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12. White flour products:

No, white flour or maida products aren’t really harmful during pregnancy but they also do not have much nutritious value. Eating too much of white flour products such as white breads, pizzas, burgers etc will only add up to your pregnancy weight, too much of which is eventually going to be problematic.

Instead, switch to whole grains or multigrains flour products such as brown bread etc. which makes a much healthier alternative to white flour products.

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13. Ajinomoto:

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) in Ajinomoto, a well-known taste enhancer commonly used extensively in our favourite Chinese foods, noodles, soups, canned foods, processed foods etc., causes pancreas to produce insulin which in turn makes us crave for more food, thereby leading to overeating and obesity.

Excessive intake of Ajinomoto during pregnancy leads to not only being overweight but also exposures the baby to all there is in your bloodstream (acidic foods, germs and bacteria) by disrupting the placental barrier which acts as a filter.

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14. Fennel and fenugreek seeds:

Even though there are no concrete evidence that fennel and fenugreek seeds are harmful during pregnancy but it is advised to take these seeds in moderate amounts.

Fennel seeds are known to make the clotting properties of blood slow. The antispasmodic, phytoestrogenic and anti-inflammatory properties of fennel and fenugreek seeds can stimulate the uterus leading to premature contractions. Excessive intake of fenugreek can also lead to indigestion, trigger allergies and miscarriages etc. Therefore it is advisable for a pregnant woman to avoid fennel and fenugreek seeds during the pregnancy months.

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15. Restaurant-made salads:

From regular vegetable salads to those yummy Greek and Caesar chicken salads, try to avoid any restaurant-made salad during pregnancy. You never know how well they may have washed and cooked the vegetables, meat etc and what food additives they may have used.

It is better to not take any risk of exposing yourself and your baby to harmful germs and bacteria that may have retained in those salads because of not washing and cooking them properly.

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16. Herbs:

Ahan! This one is a bit tricky. While not all herbs are harmful, some do manage to create problems for our would-be mommies. Avoid herbal or green tea as it contains some of the herbs that can cause issues and instead opt for regular tea.

Try to keep herbs like ephedra, angelica, kava kava, yohimbe, black and blue cohosh, dong quai, borage oil, pennyroyal, mugwort, comfrey, black walnut, cascara sagrada, fenugreek, echinacea, goldenseal, horsetail, licorice root, saw palmetto, senna, motherwort, St.John’s wort, shepherd’s purse, wormwood, tansy, and uva ursi etc in your list of foods to avoid during pregnancy for they act as uterine stimulants and may eventually lead to miscarriage.

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17. Canned foods:

Studies have found that staying away from eating canned foods, foods with added preservatives and meals heated up in plastic containers can prove beneficial for pregnant women.

Chemicals such as bisphenol-A (BPA) from these products can leak into the food and drink, go into the mother’s system and lead to an 80 per cent increase in the risk of miscarriage.

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18. Nitrate-rich foods:

Nitrates are added to food (especially processed meat) as preservatives to protect the food from the growth of harmful bacteria. Even though nitrates aren’t directly harmful for us, but once it gets into the body nitrates convert to nitrite. Nitrites combine with amines (products of protein breakdown in meats) to form nitrosamines, potentially harmful substances that have been linked to cancer.

Add a slice of lemon next time you munch on those yummy bacon or hot dogs, as Vitamin C-rich foods can help prevent the formation of nitrosamines.

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19. Artificial sweeteners:

Artificial sweeteners are the ingredients that add sweetness to foods such as soft drinks, desserts, candies and pastries. In moderate amount, sweeteners do not possess any threat to the mom or baby but excessive use may lead to pregnancy weight gain.

Try to stick to natural sweeteners and add artificial sweeteners such as saccharin, cyclamate etc. to your list of foods to avoid during pregnancy, as they may increase the risk of bladder cancer in the unborn babies.

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Also, definitely stay away from any food that gives you allergies to keep your health strong and the baby protected. Don’t worry moms! If any of your favourite items is included in this list of foods to avoid when pregnant, you can take a bite or two once in a while. Just take a little precaution and you’re good go.

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