Eating for Two: Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy for a Healthy Baby

August 14th, 2023 | 6:50 am


A woman’s body goes through several hormonal and physical changes during pregnancy. To stay healthy and strong during pregnancy, you must consume enough pregnancy nutrition that can aid in the proper growth and development of the baby. This is because the food you eat is the main source of nutrition for your baby. Thus, it is essential to get all the necessary nutrients you need. Also, if the baby is malnourished due to a lack of nutrients, this will affect their health into adulthood. A malnourished baby has a higher risk of developing conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart diseases.

Understanding the Importance of Dietary Restrictions

Doctors usually advise pregnant women to avoid eating certain foods. This is because these foods can cause several health conditions, such as being overweight, toxicity, etc., which may lead to complications during childbirth. 

Doctors recommend avoiding raw and unprocessed foods because they may contain bacteria and parasites that can cause conditions such as toxoplasmosis, which might result in miscarriage. In addition, you might also have to give up your favourite sushi, steak, or coffee. Moreover, you will have to keep that old red wine bottle somewhere in the closet until your baby is born.

Doctors also restrict pregnant women from consuming any mercury-infused fish, such as tuna, sharks, etc. This is because too much mercury content in the bloodstream might damage the foetus’s developing nervous system and brain. There are other foods that we will discuss later in the article, which doctors do not recommend eating during pregnancy due to the health hazards they pose.

Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

There are certain foods that might be harmful during pregnancy. Thus, it is advisable to avoid the following foods:

A. Raw or undercooked meat and seafood – Consuming undercooked or raw meat increases the chances of contracting bacteria or parasites, which can harm the health of both the mother and the baby. While most germs are found on the surface of the meat, some may persist within the muscle fibres.

A pregnant woman can have sirloins, tenderloins, and ribeye from lamb, beef, and veal. However, this is only true if the meat is whole or uncut and has been thoroughly cooked on the outside. It is never safe to consume cut meat, uncooked or undercooked, including beef patties, minced meat, burgers, pork, and poultry. Hence, these options are not recommended for a pregnancy diet.

B. Unpasteurised dairy products – Raw milk and other unpasteurised dairy products may contain hazardous bacteria such as Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter. These bacteria can cause various diseases like food poisoning and uterine cramping, which can be fatal to the unborn baby. The bacteria may develop naturally or due to contamination during collection or storage. Therefore, it is essential to include only pasteurised dairy products in your pregnancy diet.

C. Raw or lightly cooked eggs – Raw eggs contain salmonella, a kind of bacteria that can cause fever, vomiting, nausea, stomach pains, and diarrhoea. Additionally, it could lead to uterine cramping, potentially resulting in stillbirth or preterm birth. Raw eggs are frequently used in the following foods:

  • Mild egg scramble
  • Tiramisu
  • Uncooked batter
  • Homemade salad sauces
  • Eggnog
  • Hollandaise
  • Handmade ice cream, mayonnaise, frosting

However, the majority of raw egg products are pasteurised and safe to eat. To be certain, always read the label and consult a doctor to determine if they can be included in the pregnancy diet.

D. Certain types of fish with high mercury content – Metallic mercury can contaminate waters and can be highly hazardous. It affects the kidneys, immune system, and brain if consumed in higher doses. During pregnancy, even at smaller doses, it may also cause damage to the mother, and the children might have significant developmental issues. A pregnant woman must avoid consuming large fish because they contain mercury in large quantities. The fishes mentioned below are said to have higher mercury levels- 

  • Shark
  • Swordfish 
  • King mackerel
  • Tuna, especially bugeye tuna 
  • Tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico 

E. Deli meats and processed meats – During manufacturing or storage, different bacteria can contaminate hot dogs, lunch meat, pepperoni, and deli meat. Since these meats are not cooked, they could contain bacteria or parasites. Furthermore, processed meats may be high in sodium and harmful fats. It is recommended to stay away from deli meats and make sure that processed meats you are consuming, like sausages, are well-cooked.

F. High-caffeine foods and beverages – It may be difficult to give up your second cup of tea or coffee, but during the next nine months, it’s advised that you monitor your caffeine intake. Large doses of caffeine impede foetal development. Be sure to carefully check nutrition labels because different meals and beverages contain varying amounts of caffeine.

G. Alcohol and tobacco – Alcohol raises the risk of miscarriage during pregnancy. It also causes stillbirth, foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), and pregnancy loss. It’s best to stay away from alcohol completely because there is no known safe amount to consume while pregnant.

IV. Substitutes and Alternatives

While you are pregnant, you would want to eat plenty of protein, iron, calcium, and other essential vitamins. These can be obtained by consuming lean meat, seafood, whole grains, etc. Additionally, you can obtain these nutrients from plant-based foods. Below are a few foods that you can eat during pregnancy for a healthy you and your baby:

  1. Legumes – Legumes are the best plant-based source of protein, fibre, folate, iron, and calcium. They are also high in magnesium and potassium. Folate is one of the most essential vitamin B, which is very important for you and your baby during pregnancy. You can add legumes to your diet with foods such as hummus, taco salad, or lentil curry.
  2. Sweet Potato – Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, a compound that the body converts to vitamin A, which is considered essential for a baby’s growth. However, too much vitamin A can cause toxicity. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of fibre, which helps a pregnant lady reduce blood sugar spikes and improve digestion. Try having sweet potatoes with toasted bread.
  3. Salmon – Salmon is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which aid in the baby’s growth and help build the baby’s eyes and brain. While it’s important to avoid some seafood due to the risk of mercury contamination, salmon and sardines are safe to eat. Opt for fresh sardines and salmon from your supermarket.
  4. Lean Meat and Proteins – Protein is one of the essential nutrients needed during pregnancy. Consume lean beef, pork, or chicken to ensure you are getting a good amount of protein. Pork and beef are high in choline, iron, and B vitamins, which are all required in high amounts during pregnancy. Red lean meat also helps increase iron intake.
  5. Eggs – Eggs contain a little amount of almost all nutrients you need during pregnancy. One large egg contains about 3.6 grams of protein, 71 calories, fats, and several vitamins and minerals. Eggs are also a great source of choline, which aids in the baby’s brain development and helps prevent any abnormalities in the brain and spine.
  6. Dark Leafy Vegetables – Dark leafy vegetables contain fibre, vitamin C, K, and A, along with calcium, folate, potassium, and iron. Consuming leafy green veggies also reduces the complications of constipation, thus promoting good bowel movement and reducing the risk of low birth weight.
  7. Whole Grains – Whole grains are packed with vitamins, fibre, and other plant compounds. Opt for quinoa, oats, and brown rice instead of bread, pasta, and white rice. Oats and quinoa contain a good amount of vitamin B, fibre, magnesium, and protein.

V. Balanced Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy

A balanced nutrition during pregnancy is much needed by the mother. It includes foods from the five groups – fruits, protein, dairy, grains, and vegetables. The additional nutrients help the baby grow and develop. A healthy diet throughout pregnancy can guarantee that your baby has the best possible start in life. The meal plan is well-balanced and includes plenty of:

  • Fluids and fibre
  • Complex carbohydrates and proteins
  • Vitamins, minerals, and good fats

A balanced pregnancy nutrition that you can eat during pregnancy consists of similar amounts of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients found in a general healthy diet. The only difference is that you require larger amounts to make up for the extra effort your body is making and the needs of the baby. Below are some of the nutrition you would need for a healthy pregnancy:

  • Complex Carbs – Complex carbs are found in whole grain foods such as whole grain wheat, beans, vegetables, and legumes.
  • Protein – Protein is much needed during your third trimester. To ensure you are consuming enough protein, you can include eggs, chicken, oats, fish, beans, cheese, and yoghurt, etc., in your diet.
  • Iron – Iron helps the red blood cells deliver oxygen to the foetus. It is vital to include red meat, dried beans, tofu, spinach, potatoes, etc.
  • Vitamin A – Carrots, sweet potatoes, dark leafy green vegetables, etc., are great sources of vitamin A and are beneficial for your baby’s healthy growth, including skin, eyesight, and bone growth.
  • Vitamin B (B6, B12) – Vitamin B6 and B12 help in red blood cell formation. You can find vitamin B6 in animal and plant-based products such as whole grain cereals, and bananas, whereas B12 can be found only in animal products such as liver, fish, meat, milk, and poultry.
  • Vitamin C – Vitamin C can be found in broccoli, citrus fruits such as oranges, tomatoes, strawberries, etc. It promotes healthy teeth, gums, and bones, and also helps the body absorb more iron.
  • Vitamin D – Vitamin D can be found in foods like fortified milk and fatty fish such as salmon. Additionally, exposure to sunlight can also be a great source of vitamin D.
  • Folic Acid (Folate) – Folate is a type of vitamin B that helps in the production of blood and protein, and also minimises the risk of birth defects in the spinal cord and brain. Try including orange juice, liver, leafy vegetables, legumes (peas, beans, lentils, etc.), and nuts in your diet.
  • Fibre – Fiber helps keep constipation and haemorrhoids away. Foods such as oats, nuts, berries, and chia seeds are rich in fibre. Also, increase water intake with fibre-rich foods for best results.
  • Fat – Omega-3 fatty acids are among the essential fatty acids that are significant. Even saturated fats, formerly thought to be unhealthy, are now understood to be crucial for prenatal growth (source). Walnuts, olive oil, chia seeds, etc., are rich in good fats.
  • Salt – Salt is important for the growing baby, and restricting salt intake can be harmful to the baby. Thus, you can add almost all nutrients during pregnancy.

Consulting with a Healthcare Provider

Sometimes, it can be very overwhelming to decide on a pregnancy diet. Therefore, it is advisable to consult a doctor and let them guide you on what you can eat during your pregnancy. This is crucial because you need sufficient protein, calories, good fats, calcium, and various other nutrients for the baby’s growth. Additionally, if you are not getting enough nutrients from your regular diet, the doctor might prescribe some supplements to ensure adequate nutrition during pregnancy.

It must be noted that pregnant women should never take supplements or medications without consulting a doctor. Moreover, it is essential to always seek advice from the best gynaecologist in Hyderabad to ensure proper checkups and receive guidance on pregnancy nutrition.


Intaking proper nutrition during pregnancy is crucial because the food you eat contributes significantly to the baby’s growth and development. Therefore, making informed choices about your diet and avoiding potential risks to the baby’s health is essential. 

A healthy diet is important for all stages of life, but it becomes even more vital during pregnancy. There is no need to go on a special diet, but it is also not advisable to indulge every craving. Strive to maintain the right balance of nutrients in the food you eat every day to promote better health and proper growth of the baby.

Try having a nutritious breakfast with nuts, whole grains, vitamin C-rich fruits, and leafy green vegetables every morning – this will help you avoid snacking, which often leads to weight gain. Additionally, inform your doctor if you are lactose intolerant, as it might cause lactic acidosis, which is harmful to both the mother and the baby. Vary your diet throughout the day to prevent getting bored with what you eat and never consume anything unusual without consulting a doctor. If you are searching for the best gynaecologist in Hyderabad, visit Giggles Hospital for a comprehensive pregnancy checkup. Book your appointment today.