Do You Need to Avoid Some Types of Cheese, Meat and Other Food Items While Pregnant
So, you love cheese, but are not sure if you can have it during your pregnancy period. Or, maybe, you enjoy sushi and have been wondering if it will be safe when you are expecting. Since pregnancy is a delicate period, it is important to stay aware of what kinds of cheeses, meats and other food items you can have. Some of these might have been your favourite before, but when you have a little one growing inside you, extra care is required to prevent any kind of infection. Also with a lot of novel western foods available in India now, sometimes we don’t even know what they are made up of or how they are made.
Therefore, here is a list of foods and reasons why you should avoid them during pregnancy:
- Unpasteurized milk: Make sure that you only drink pasteurized milk to avoid listeria infection. Fresh milk brought from the nearby doodhwala bhaiyya is unprocessed and unpasteurised and may contain microorganisms like Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, Campylobacter that can cause food poisoning.
- Raw eggs: Raw eggs are the breeding ground for salmonella. If the eggs are cooked, salmonella risk is reduced. Homemade raw egg based dressings, mayonnaise, homemade ice cream need to be avoided. Pregnant women are also often encouraged to drink milk with a beaten raw egg. This is a strict no-no due to potential food poisoning risk. Commercially manufactured ice cream, dressings and eggnog are alright to eat as they contain pasteurized eggs.
- Soft cheese: Imported soft cheeses like brie, Camembert, Roquefort, Feta, Gorgonzola, and Mexican style cheeses that are made from unpasteurized raw milk may contain listeria and should be avoided. Softcheeses made from pasteurized milk can be eaten during pregnancy.
- Raw and undercooked seafood and shellfish: Undercooked shellfish like shrimps, oysters, clams and mussels are usually the main sources of seafood-borne illnesses. Gastroenteritis, vomiting, abdominal pain, headache are some of the symptoms of seafood borne food poisoning. Hence this is not the time to try out dishes like seafood, sushi and sashimi. Stick to dishes that involve cooking the seafood well.
- Fish with mercury: Developmental delays and brain damage are direct effects of mercury consumption. Fishes like shark, ahi, kalava and bhekti have high amounts of mercury in them.
- Fish exposed to sewage and industrial pollutants: Fishes from lakes and rivers may be contaminated with high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls, sewage, mercury and should not be eaten. Formalin is another carcinogenic chemical that is used to preserve fish and is also harmful. Unfortunately, seafood contamination with these are very common in India. Hence avoid fish and seafood that you don’t know as to where they have orginated from.
- Deli meat: Deli meats are cured and precooked cold cuts of meat that are now available in upmarket shops. They are available in packaged form and can be directly eaten by the consumer. However, these can get contaminated by listeria and S aureus during processing. Listeria can move across the placenta, infecting the baby and leading to poisoning of the blood as well as miscarriages.
- Caffeine: Studies show that moderate caffeine intake is fine during pregnancy. It is however best to avoid caffeine in the first trimester to avoid the possibility of a miscarriage. The caffeine consumed should not be more than 200mg/day i.e. 1-2 cups, while you are pregnant. Caffeine is a diuretic which eliminates water from your body, thus resulting in calcium and water loss. Instead, have lots of water, milk and juices. Having more than the recommended amounts of caffeine is also associated with miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight, and withdrawal symptoms in infants.
- Alcohol: Alcohol in any quantity is not considered safe during pregnancy and has to be totally avoided. Prenatal exposure to alcohol can cause foetal alcohol syndrome or other developmental disorders. Alcohol should also be stopped when you are breastfeeding as alcohol does reach the baby through your milk.
- Unwashed vegetables: The soil in which vegetables are grown might be contaminated with toxoplasmosis. To prevent getting infected by it, wash vegetables thoroughly before you use them.
- Raw or uncooked greens and sprouts: Uncooked sprouts and greens can be contaminated with Salmonella or E. coli which can be potentially fatal during pregnancy. Use fresh sprouts and cook them thoroughly before eating them. Also avoid eating raw salads from a store deli as they may contain bacteria.
- Additives: Avoid food products that are highly salted and preserved, coloured or flavoured by artificial chemicals. Although health bodies generally accept these additives as safe and allow them to be used in foods, some individuals may be sensitive to some of these like MSG or ajino moto, tartrazine (colour) or aspartame.
The growing baby inside you needs all the essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals that he or she can get. Therefore, it is important to have a balanced diet during pregnancy. Make sure that you make a note of all the foods that you need to avoid during pregnancy for your own and your little one’s health.