When you’re expecting, what you eat and drink influences your child’s health, possibly forever. Everyday foods and beverages take on new meaning, as some may present a danger to your developing baby.
Whole and lightly processed foods, such as whole grains, lean meats, fruits and vegetables, legumes, and low-fat dairy should form the basis of your pregnancy diet.
Raw or Undercooked Food of Animal Origin
Undercooked animal foods — such as rare meat, raw oysters, clams, sushi, unpasteurized eggs, raw cookie or cake dough, and homemade eggnog), may contain an array of bacteria, viruses, and parasites. To reduce your risk of foodborne illness, test the doneness of meat, poultry, and fish with a food thermometer, cook eggs until they are no longer runny, and follow baking instructions — don’t eat raw dough.
Hot Dogs, Luncheon Meats, and Unpasteurized Dairy Foods
These foods are prone to Listeriamonocytogenes, a bacteria that causes listeriosis, which may result in miscarriage, stillbirth, or other serious health problems.
Pregnant women should avoid getting the fluid from hot dog packages on other foods, utensils, and food preparation surfaces, and wash their hands after handling hot dogs, and deli luncheon meats, to further decrease potential contact with listeria, Lu says.
Unpasteurized dairy foods are also prone to listeria.
Avoid raw milk and dairy products made from unpasteurized milk, such as Brie, feta, Camembert, Roquefort, blue-veined, queso blanco, queso fresco, and queso Panela.
Certain Seafood and Fish
Large fish — such as swordfish, shark, tilefish, and king mackerel — harbor higher concentrations of mercury, compared to other fish. Mercury is a byproduct of coal-burning plants that interferes with the normal development of a growing child’s brain and nervous system.
Pregnant and nursing women may eat up to 12 ounces weekly of seafood low in mercury, including salmon (farmed and wild), shrimp, canned light tuna, pollock, sardines, tilapia, and catfish. Because albacore (white) tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna.
Fish caught for sport in rivers, lakes, ponds, and streams may also contain industrial pollutants that play havoc with a developing nervous system.
Drinks to Limit or Avoid
Alcohol (beer, wine, or spirits) robs developing cells of oxygen and nutrients, preventing normal fetal development. The effects of alcohol exposure in the womb on intellectual abilities and physical growth are permanent.
Lead is linked to low birth weight, preterm delivery, and developmental delays in children. If you have an older home with pipes made of lead, it can leach into your tap water, and home filtration systems may not prevent it from reaching you.
If you’re in doubt about your tap water, have it tested.
Bottled water isn’t necessarily purer; it’s often repurposed municipal water.
Caffeine from coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy beverages, and other sources may increase the risk of miscarriage, reduced birth weight, and stillbirth, but the research is conflicting.