WHAT FOODS AND DRINKS SHOULD YOU AVOID WHILE PREGNANT?
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Congratulations, you’re a mom-to-be! Have you perhaps been having weird cravings? Or have you been surrounded by all kinds of advice on what you’re not allowed to eat while pregnant, you know, while you’re making a little human in there? Gosh, maybe you’ve even heard that old wives tale that if you drink cold water you might make the baby cold inside and cause them to be constantly moving just to keep warm!
So what foods and drinks should you avoid while pregnant, really?
Anything raw or unpasteurised
Seafood, meat and eggs that are not thoroughly cooked through contain the risk of bacterial contamination, salmonella or even toxoplasmosis which also comes from parasites on cat faeces. You might think, oh well I just won’t eat eggs then – but don’t forget just how many other food items might contain raw egg – a fresh Caesar salad dressing, mayonnaise, cookie dough, eggnog, tiramisu, lemon meringue pie, or even Hollandaise sauce (craving eggs benedict, perhaps?). Make sure all your milk is pasteurised and don’t eat soft cheeses that are mould-ripened such as brie, camembert or blue cheeses. Instead, stick to cheddar, parmesan, mozzarella and cheese spreads made from pasteurised milk.
Some types of fish
Uncooked sushi and sashimi and other raw fish also fall under the list of raw foods, but it doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to your favourite Japanese restaurant for 9 months, just opt for the cooked dishes. However, even some fully cooked fish might not be suitable for you while you’re pregnant. That’s because some types of fish contain a high amount of methyl-mercury, which can harm a baby’s nervous system. Swordfish, for example, is very high in mercury but also very popular in sushi places, so swop that instead for lower-mercury fish like salmon, cod, sardines, mackerel or canned light tuna – and no more than twice a week. The jury is still out on tuna so go with only the canned version instead of fresh tuna.
For meat like beef or chicken, it’s easy to make sure they’re cooked through – just watch out for no trace of blood and don’t even take a chance with pink (sorry but ask for “Well-done, please” in a steak restaurant!). But cold cured meats like ham, salami, pepperoni, chorizo and prosciutto are not cooked but rather cured, so it’s best to avoid these for the potential parasites altogether. But if you find yourself craving a taste of Italy, make sure you cook them thoroughly. You can also freeze them first for at least four days as freezing kills most parasites – keyword: most. A safer option would just be to eat these fully cooked in a meal, such as a pepperoni pizza. Michelangelo from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would approve!
Ah don’t we all head for the shellfish on ice at any buffet – mussels, clams, oysters, lobster, crab, prawns, shrimp, crayfish… Mm-mm. To be extra safe, make sure all shellfish you eat are fully cooked through so you skip painful food poisoning or listeria contamination while pregnant. Listeria monocytogenes is a bacteria that may even lead to miscarriage if transmitted to the unborn baby.
Wine and other alcohol
No alcohol is considered safe during pregnancy, and that’s because of the risk of foetal alcohol syndrome. The alcohol passes into the baby’s blood stream and can potentially cause birth defects, from physical abnormalities to mental retardation, which can stay in the child even as he or she grows. Since no studies have been able to tell how much exactly we should or shouldn’t drink, the best option is to skip all alcohol altogether.
Caffeine can cause irritability and nervousness in your baby, not to mention insomnia. Your baby really doesn’t need it, and too much caffeine has been linked to an increased risk of miscarriage and delivering an underweight baby. Unfortunately caffeine in not just in coffee, but also in teas, colas and energy drinks, so it’s best you stick to water, coconut water or fruit smoothies. However, studies have shown that you exactly have to go cold turkey. Most experts, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, recommend keeping your daily caffeine consumption under 200 milligrams to be safe. So go ahead and enjoy that latte macchiato every now and then!
Now that you know exactly what to avoid, you can satisfy your cravings with all things healthy for you and baby. Enjoy those 9 months knowing you’re doing a good job providing your baby with all the best nutrients and building blocks for his or her development!