A balanced diet that includes all the food groups is vital during the course of pregnancy. However, there are certain foods that are best avoided or restricted when you are pregnant.
The toxic effects of alcohol can cause serious damage to the foetus. Alcohol consumption also leads to poor appetite and malnutrition in pregnant women. It is advised that pregnant women completely avoid alcohol consumption.
Caffeine in excess can reach the foetal circulation and affect the growth of the baby. It is therefore advisable to restrict the consumption of tea, coffee, colas and cocoa during pregnancy. It is ideal to stay within the limit of 200mg of caffeine a day. One cup of brewed coffee contains 95mg-200mg of caffeine. One cup of black tea contains about 47mg of caffeine. One cup of green tea contains 25mg of caffeine.
Raw milk or milk that has not been pasteurised carries the risk of being infected with the parasite toxoplasmosis, which can cause miscarriage or birth defects. Food products made with unpasteurised milk, including curd, paneer and cheese, carry the same risk. Blue cheese, which is a mould-ripened cheese, is also best avoided. However, pasteurised milk and its products are completely safe for consumption and are an important part of the pregnancy diet.
Raw or undercooked eggs are considered a risk because they can sometimes be infected with salmonella, which can cause serious stomach infections. Make sure you cook the egg until the yolk is solid. Always make sure to wash your hands after handling eggs.
Food products that contain raw egg, such as mayonnaise, should also be avoided.
Although fruits and vegetables are fundamental ingredients in a healthy diet, they can pose a risk to you and your baby when consumed without washing with safe water. Therefore, when there is any doubt about the cleanliness of such products, it is advisable to eat the cooked form of this essential food group. Inadequately washed raw fruits and veggies can cause a host of infections in the body.
Street food typically comes in contact with contaminated water, which makes it unhygienic. Pregnant women should avoid eating street food that contains water, such as golgappas or chaat. You should also avoid street food that contains raw ingredients.
Fish is a healthy food, but pregnant women should exercise some caution before including it in their diet.
Large oily fish such as shark, swordfish, mackerel, herrings, sardines and tilefish can be eaten in limited amounts of 180-240 g per week. Large fish have a higher concentration of mercury buildup in them, which can damage the baby's developing nervous system.
Fish should always be cooked well before consumption. Raw fish, oysters and sushi are best avoided during pregnancy.
Shellfish such as prawns, crab and lobsters should be thoroughly cooked to achieve a reddish tinge. High cooking temperatures will kill all the harmful bacteria. When eating fish, make sure that the flesh is flaky and opaque, which indicates that it is well cooked.
When eating tandoori items, kebabs and barbequed meats, make sure that the preparations have been cooked adequately. In the case of poultry, lamb and pork preparations, make sure that they are free of any traces of blood. When cooked well, the colour of the meat should change from pink to red. Ham and salami are best avoided because they carry the risk of listeria. Cooking thoroughly kills off the e-coli bacteria and campylobacter bacteria, which can lead to serious infections. Liver and its products should also be avoided because it is high on Vitamin A. An excess of Vitamin A is known to be toxic in pregnancy.
Approved by Neelanjana Singh, President, Indian Dietetics Association, Delhi Chapter
Registered Dietician & Certified Diabetes Educator