Foods to avoid

Here’s the lowdown on food precautions you should be aware of during your pregnancy.

Deli meats/hot dogs

Avoid these unless they’re properly reheated. This means warming your sliced turkey or ham until steaming, reaching an internal temperature of at least 71°C.

Anaphylaxis Canada suggests pregnant and nursing women at “high risk” try to avoid peanuts and nuts. Those at high risk include women who have a close relative with a peanut allergy (a previous child, a sibling or parent, for example).

Protein bars/shakes
A no-no because of how much protein the average bar or shake can pack. One can contains up to 35 g, about half the amount of protein an average pregnant woman needs in a day. (On average, women need about 45 g of protein a day. A pregnant woman needs an additional 25 g a day.) Moreover, protein is something of an appetite suppressant, and the risk of eating too much is that you’ll neglect other important nutrients because you’re too full of protein. You’re much better off getting your daily recommended 60 to 70 g from protein-rich foods, such as meat and eggs.

Soft cheeses
This is confusing because some “soft” cheeses are perfectly fine. These include cottage cheese and cream cheese. However, a mental stop sign should go up when faced with brie, Camembert, feta and blue-veined cheeses. These are generally unpasteurized and could carry the bacteria listeria, which has been associated with miscarriage and preterm labour. And if there is nothing on the label to indicate it has been pasteurized, you should assume it has not. Hard cheeses, such as mozzarella and cheddar, are safe.

Raw eggs
You’re thinking: Why would I eat raw eggs? But it’s important to consider because they can be found in unexpected places and they’re important to avoid as they can cause food-borne illness. Take Caesar salads, for example, the dressing is usually made with raw egg. Same goes for certain sauces and even non-alcoholic eggnog is sometimes made with unpasteurized eggs.

Fish and seafood
Stay away from refrigerated smoked salmon. Same goes for raw fish like sushi or oysters. Also, Health Canada advises pregnant women to limit shark, swordfish and fresh and frozen tuna to no more than once a month. Canned salmon is considered safe. However, Health Canada says canned white tuna should be limited to 150 g a week because of concerns about high levels of mercury in large ocean fish. Fish likely to have relatively low mercury levels include light tuna, farmed trout, haddock, farmed tilapia and flounder.

Artificial sweeteners
Here’s where accurate label-reading is a must. Some are OK, while others Health Canada recommends that you avoid. For example, in moderation, NutraSweet and Splenda, which contain aspartame, are considered safe. 

Here is a list of herbs determined “unsafe” during pregnancy by Motherisk, a research program that provides prenatal and infant health information at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto: aloe vera, black cohosh, burdock, calendula, chamomile, chaste tree, dong quai, feverfew, goldenseal, hops, juniper, licorice, ma huang, passion flower, peppermint and slippery elm.

Bad news for java junkies. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, too much coffee “increases your risk of miscarriage and having a low-birth-weight baby.” Just how much coffee is OK depends on who you ask. Health Canada and the CAMH approve up to 300 mg a day (about two to 21/2 cups). But Motherisk advises that you drink no more than 150 mg of caffeine a day.

Just say no. Your best course of action is to avoid alcohol altogether, as a safe amount of alcohol in pregnancy is not known.