Dietary changes during pregnancy are already under your concern if you are expecting. Friends, family, and web might be showering you with all the instructions on what to eat and what not to eat. You might be into increasing your milk, fruits, vegetables, and sweets intake, whereas avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and meat. However, dietary modifications and reasons for changes are not well understood.
A healthy and balanced diet is essential during pregnancy to support the optimal growth of your baby and your own increased bodily needs and changes in the physiology of the body. If recommended dietary changes are not adopted, it may lead to adverse outcomes like low birth weight, pre-term birth, preeclampsia, and neuro-developmental problems.
Foods that you consume must meet your increased energy demands and sufficient nutrients to achieve appropriate weight gain, adhering to general and pregnancy-specific food safety recommendations, and avoiding ingestion of harmful substances.
Pregnancy is like a long exercise for 9 months that too with patience, not only you deal with your unexpected twists and turns of the body, but also instructions and opinions of others. There are a lot of misconceptions about dietary interpretations due to environmental and community factors. Well-analyzed and accepted concepts must be your ‘go-to guide’ for food during such a crucial phase.
Foods to avoid during pregnancy should have a structured reason behind it so that it does not leave you from gaining sufficient nutrients. Here is a list that will come handy to you.
Alcohol can reach to the baby via the umbilical cord. Abstaining from alcohol completely is recommended as many studies suggest that women who consumed up to 3 drinks a week were most likely to have babies with poor impulse controls, behavioural disabilities or Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), where the baby has abnormal facial features like shrunken eyes, inverted nose, extremely thin upper lip. It may even lead to low-birth-weight baby, pre-term baby, heart defects or even miscarriage and stillbirth.
Immunity is compromised during pregnancy, you are more prone to bacterial, fungal, or viral infections. Bacterial infections are rare, but if reach severity may cause miscarriage or stillbirths. Processed meats, bought from stores are more prone to listeria infections. Try avoiding it or use canned meats instead.
If your options are limited, use this heat chart to cook processed meats at appropriate temperatures to help kill microbial infestations, making your meat consumption safe.
Although many raw foods such as fishes in sushi are frozen, freezing is not a fool-proof method to combat the thriving of many parasites like worms. It also allows certain bacteria to grow such as Salmonella. Infections may lead to nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting leading to GI (Gastrointestinal) distress. It may prove harmful to you and your baby.
Pasteurization is a process of heating fluids and then quickly cooling it down to kill the microbes. Unpasteurized drinks like milk, juices, and many more can harbor bacteria like Salmonella, Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, and cause infections. Making sure to consume pasteurized milk and its products is a step closer to a safe pregnancy.
Processed cheese is high in sodium. If you have Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH), sodium intake has to be restricted. Just like unpasteurized milk, cheese can be a thriving ground for bacteria. Generally, softer and wetter cheese like Brie, Ricotta, Cream cheese, Camembert, Chevre, Roquefort, Gorgonzola, and Cottage cheese are more prone to infestation.
High amounts of caffeine is found in tea, coffee, chocolates, kola drinks, energy drinks, and athletic supplements. The clearance of caffeine during pregnancy slows down from the body and hence excessive consumption must be avoided or it can lead to low-birth-weight, pre-term babies, and the stillbirth of neonates. Accoring to WHO, caffeine intake should not exceed 300mg/day during pregnancy.
Raw papaya also known as unripe papaya or semi-ripe papaya contains latex that has shown uterine contraction in rats mimicking the action of oxytocin and prostaglandins in humans. It also contains pepsin and papain, which leads to birth defects in the fetus.
It’s safe to have pineapple when you are approaching your due date. But having it in your first and second trimester is a big ‘no’. Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelein that causes uterine contraction and induces labor, which may lead to miscarriage.
Eggs are a storehouse of numerous vital nutrients and help you in consuming good quality protein during pregnancy. But they should not be consumed in all forms. Boiled eggs should be preferred over raw eggs. Raw eggs are often infested with Salmonella bacteria, which may lead to food-borne illness.
Worried that you consumed something from the ‘FOODS TO AVOID’ list. Relax! if you find any symptoms of food poisoning like nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, or unusual cramping or bleeding, consult your doctor and a qualified nutritionist right away.
M. Sc. Gold Medalist