As soon as you find out you are pregnant, you start to worry about what to eat and what not to eat during pregnancy.
You and other pregnant individuals may begin their pregnancy journey by searching the Internet or asking friends or family about what foods to avoid while pregnant. More than yourself, you worry about your baby’s well-being, so you want to be careful with your diet.
While popular sources of information might help, none of those can replace guidance from a certified prenatal nutritionist. Why? Remember that when you conceive, you are now eating for two, and you and your baby’s health should be the top priority.
Healthy foods will no doubt provide your baby with proper nutrition, but a proper diet for a pregnant individual is often based on their health conditions, symptoms and lifestyle. To be sure that what you eat will benefit your offspring and get you through your pregnancy period with ease, a prenatal nutritionist or a dietitian will be your most reliable source and ally.
This article features dietary advice directly from our certified prenatal nutritionist and is a trusted source for information. You can determine the basics of what foods to avoid while pregnant and get explanations of how you can generally get the most out of your meal plan.
Factors That May Affect Your Pregnancy Diet
A balanced diet is composed of fruits, vegetables, healthy protein and dairies, plus grains. It’s recommended for everyone. However, expecting moms have special dietary needs and may be given food restrictions during pregnancy. Your nutritionist may strongly advise you against eating specific foods depending on your symptoms, lifestyle, health condition, allergies and several physiological changes.
For example, consuming fruits is healthy but if it aggravates your nausea, your nutritionist may suggest an alternative or a different serving size. Aside from symptoms, other factors may contribute to your dietary plan.
Weight loss and weight gain are a big deal
Weight gain or weight loss that is outside the recommended range is a cause for concern. If you gain too much weight, your baby could be born larger than expected. Just the same, losing too much weight puts your child at risk of being born smaller. Both instances may come with health complications.
Doctors and nutritionists will quickly advise you to eat more if they detect constant weight loss. Malnutrition will have adverse effects on you and your baby’s health. It weakens your body and may lead to low birth weight or premature labor. Doctors set a standard weight depending on your height. If you measure outside the recommended range, it’s important that you mind your eating habits and make sure your body is properly nourished.
Health conditions help determine what not to eat during pregnancy
Pre-pregnancy, you may already have an existing health condition like diabetes or hypertension. Your dietitian will take this into consideration before setting any food restrictions during pregnancy. For example, fruits are highly beneficial for your health, but you may have to take a break from some of them if your blood sugar spikes every time you eat one. The same goes if you develop an allergic reaction to other foods.
Nausea, vomiting, morning sickness and fatigue are common symptoms of pregnancy that occur during the first and second trimesters. Food may have something to do with the degree of these symptoms. They can be worse or almost non-existent. To know exactly how to alleviate them, it is important to talk to a certified prenatal nutritionist near you, who will provide you sound guidance on what to eat during pregnancy.
Depending on how your body reacts to your diet, your nutritionist will also suggest a healthy diet plan that includes the best food to eat during pregnancy.
Foods to Avoid While Pregnant
You may have already memorized the list of the best foods to eat during pregnancy. But, in terms of what foods to avoid while pregnant, the information you find can be confusing. A friend may tell you that coffee is harmless, while your mom may tell you to never have a cup.
Rather than turn to the internet, it is better to consult a certified prenatal nutritionist or dietitian near you for reliable information. Agnes Padernal, Prenatal Registered Dietitian and Lactation Consultant at Family Health Centers of San Diego, says, “In general, people should eat a balanced diet: a meal with fruits, veggies, dairy, proteins and grains. But, depending on how you are feeling, then we can talk about what you should eat.”
The foods you eat should be both beneficial and compatible with your condition. Prepare a balanced meal but remember the basic guidelines of types of foods to try to avoid during pregnancy.
Say no to solid fats, saturated fats and trans fats
By all means, take good fats in moderate amounts but, as much as possible, avoid solid, saturated and trans fats (hydrogenated fats). Solid fats are basically saturated and trans fats that solidify at room or low temperature. These fats are notorious for raising cholesterol levels, later putting you at high risk for heart disease and diabetes.
These fats can also put your baby at risk of metabolic defects and developing obesity later as a child, according to studies. When it comes to your baby’s health, you may want to think long-term as well. Here’s a list of fats you should avoid while pregnant:
- Lard (pork fat)
- Beef fat
- Chicken fat
- Cream cheese and some types of cheese (feta, brie, camembert, blue cheese, panela unless the label says ‘pasteurized’)
- Palm or kernel oil
- Heavy cream and sour cream
- Coconut oil
Some of these bad fats are also hiding in many desserts and other dairy products. Unless you are sure that these foods do not contain saturated fats or are cooked in healthy oils, cut back on the following foods:
- Sausages and hot dogs
- French fries
- Fried chicken
- Ice cream
- Pastries and other baked goods
Seafood high in mercury
If you think that seafood is harmless, think again. Some seafood types are on the list of what foods to avoid while pregnant due to their high mercury content. It is true that shellfish and fish provide good amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, iron, protein and zinc. But a select few are high in mercury. Mercury is relatively harmless for most adults, but not for pregnant individuals. Regularly eating large servings of seafood high in mercury can damage your baby’s nervous system and brain development. Here’s a list of seafood you should steer clear of:
- King mackerel
- Bigeye tuna
- Marlin shark
- Other predatory fish
- Consuming more than 12oz of fish and shellfish a week
Raw, processed and undercooked meats
The pregnant individual’s body is more susceptible to infections and illnesses caused by various types of bacteria and parasites. These could harm your baby’s well-being eventually even if you develop a simple fever. Bacteria and parasites can come from untidy places and the foods that you eat, such as raw, processed and undercooked meats. Put these on top of your what-not-to-eat-during-pregnancy list!
Toxoplasmosis, for example, is an infection caused by Toxoplasma parasite and can be found in raw or undercooked meats. It is usually harmless in non-pregnant people. In pregnant individuals, it can cause stillbirth, miscarriage or organ damage to your baby. As much as possible, stay away from raw meat, or make sure to wash and cook thoroughly before consumption.
If there is a list of what not to eat during pregnancy, there’s also a list of what not to drink. Your nutritionist will recommend drinking lots of water while cutting back, if not eliminating, the following:
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy should be completely avoided, as it can cause miscarriage and stillbirth, as well as mental, physical and behavioral disabilities. These disabilities are collectively known as FASDs or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
The alcohol in your bloodstream can be passed on to your child through the umbilical cord or during breastfeeding. Some people may tell you an occasional glass would be fine, but your prenatal nutritionist will strongly advise you against it, as it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Some claim that coffee is harmless for pregnant women, while others say it’s bad for your pregnancy. On the contrary, your nutritionist will tell you that a moderate amount of coffee per day is safe. Doctors recommend you limit your intake to one cup a day if you can’t completely avoid it.
Herbal teas also have high levels of caffeine. They may be healthy in general, but not recommended for pregnant individuals. Too much caffeine can cause miscarriage and low birth weight, as well as the possibility of your baby suffering from health problems later in their childhood.
Unpasteurized milk and fruit juices
The word ‘unpasteurized’ alone should serve as a red flag when consuming milk or fruit juices. Always check the label when buying these products. Freshly squeezed juices are usually unpasteurized. Stay away from them as much as you do from unpasteurized dairy products.
These products can contain various types of bacteria, including listeria, salmonella and E. coli. These can endanger your and your baby’s health. If eating out, carefully check the menu and don’t be ashamed to ask if you aren’t sure.
Energy drinks also contain high levels of caffeine and other ingredients that may be harmful to your baby. These drinks are considered food supplements and are not regulated by the FDA, so they may contain ingredients that are not indicated on the label.
Most energy drinks contain ginseng, which is not recommended during pregnancy. Because of the caffeine contents and other stimulants, your baby could suffer from tissue injury, high oxidative stress and anxiety later in life.
Better Safe than Sorry: Know Exactly What Not to Eat During Pregnancy with the Help of a Certified Prenatal Nutritionist
When pregnant, be careful and find out exactly what not to eat during pregnancy. If there is anyone who can tell you accurately what foods to avoid while pregnant, it’s a certified prenatal nutritionist and dietitian. Ensure the safe delivery of your baby with the help of a professional. This will also guarantee your baby’s long-term well-being. If you do go through your pregnancy eating the right way for you, you can be confident that your newborn will be safe from diet-related complications and enjoy their childhood in good health.
Relying on hearsay and the internet is not the best approach. It is true that there are websites that offer legitimate advice, but each pregnancy is different. The foods that you eat should match your current health status, age, symptoms and lifestyle.
To be 100% sure, talk to a professional nutritionist. Having one near you will make you feel confident and safe whenever you get confused about your pregnancy.
Family Health Centers of San Diego specializes in prenatal counseling, as well as complete prenatal care for expecting moms. We have a team of professional and certified nutritionists and dietitians who will guide you through your pregnancy. Our commitment is to help you get through your pregnancy and ensure the safe delivery of your baby through a comprehensive diet plan and regular prenatal consultations.
Let’s talk about you and your baby’s health. For more information, contact our staff at (619) 515-2428 or fill out the form below.