Foods to avoid when you're pregnant

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The adage is true – when you're pregnant, you're eating for two. And while this doesn't mean you should eat twice as much, it does mean you should be mindful of not eating or drinking things that could be harmful to your baby.

"Most experts agree there are certain foods you should avoid when you're pregnant," says Dr. Cathleen Harris, a maternal fetal medicine specialist and independent member of the HonorHealth medical staff. "Because pregnancy affects your immune system, you and your unborn baby are more susceptible to bacteria, viruses and parasites that cause foodborne illness. Your baby is also sensitive to toxins from the food you eat. In general, these relate to potential toxins or bacteria that could interfere with a healthy pregnancy and with your baby's development."

Foods to avoid when you're pregnant

Here are a few things to cross off your grocery list, at least for now:

1. Avoid mercury-laden fish.

Mercury is highly toxic and is most commonly found in polluted waters. It's considered toxic to your nervous system, immune system and kidneys and can cause serious developmental issues in children. Large marine fish can accumulate high amounts of mercury, so it's best to avoid the following types of seafood: mackerel, shark, swordfish and tuna.

2. Skip the sushi.

Raw fish, especially raw shellfish, can cause viral, bacterial or parasitic infections, which may adversely affect you and your unborn baby. One of those is listeria – and pregnant women are 20 times more likely be become infected than the general population. Listeria can be passed through the placenta and can affect your unborn baby, even if you aren't showing any symptoms.

3. Bypass the deli counter.

Hot dogs, lunch meat and deli meat can become infected with various bacteria during processing or storage. You should avoid processed meat products unless they've been reheated until steaming hot.

4. Make sure your eggs are cooked.

Raw eggs are a breeding ground for salmonella, which can cause digestive distress, and in rare cases uterine cramping. While you're not likely to down a raw egg, you do need to be aware of where raw egg might be lurking: lightly scrambled eggs, poached eggs, hollandaise sauce, homemade mayonnaise, some salad dressings, homemade ice cream and cake icings.

5. Stay awake – without caffeine.

During pregnancy, you should generally limit your caffeine intake to less than 200 mg. per day, which is the equivalent of about two or three cups of coffee. That might be just enough for some – but be aware if that doesn't sound like much to you!

6. Wash your produce.

Minimize the risk of infection by thoroughly washing, peeling and/or cooking fruits and vegetables. Also, skip the sprouts – raw sprouts, including alfalfa, clover, radish and mung bean sprouts, are a breeding ground for bacteria, which is almost impossible to remove through washing.

7. Don't imbibe.

No level of alcohol has been proven safe while you're pregnant, so give it up altogether.

"In general, avoid foods on this list and ensure you're vigilant about proper food preparation," says Dr. Harris. "For these nine months, your health and your baby's health is paramount. These decisions are ones you'll never regret."

Explore maternity services offered through HonorHealth, including childbirth classes, prenatal tours. If you're preparing for pregnancy, find a doctor near you.