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Foods to Avoid When You're Expecting

When youíre pregnant, everything you eat has the potential to either add to your baby's health or put him at risk. Fortunately, itís pretty easy to avoid foods that can be harmful to your baby. Check out the following list of some of the primary foods you should avoid.

During pregnancy, you should avoid alcoholic beverages as much as possible, as alcohol doesnít provide you or your baby with any nutrients. It can cause dehydration, and can pass through the placenta to harm your baby. Fetal alcohol syndrome is a serious condition that can cause your baby problems for life. If you must drink, limit your alcohol consumption to a half glass of wine each week.

Other beverages you should avoid include those containing caffeine and artificial sweeteners, or beverages which are unpasteurized. While small amounts of caffeine wonít harm your baby, there are no studies showing that artificial sweeteners are safe for babies. The larger danger is that consuming beverages with caffeine will limit your consumption of other healthier beverages, like water and milk.

You should also avoid unpasteurized beverages, such as unpasteurized fruit juice or raw milk, as these beverages may contain harmful bacteria. Also avoid any milk products made from unpasteurized milk, including all soft cheese, such as feta, brie, camembert, queso blanco, queso fresco and blue veined cheeses like bleu cheese and stilton. If these cheeses are specifically labeled as pasteurized, theyíre safe for consumption, but if not, stay away. Unpasteurized milk products may contain listeria, bacteria that can be fatal to pregnant women and their babies.

In addition, try to limit your consumption of organ meats such as liver or kidney. Also avoid any undercooked meat and never eat raw oysters or any sushi Ė all of these foods expose you to potential food borne illnesses.

On a similar note, you should not consume raw or partially cooked eggs unless theyíre pasteurized. However, eggs are a good food for pregnant women, so donít eliminate them entirely from your diet Ė just be sure theyíre cooked thoroughly. Raw eggs can be found in eggnog, cookie batter, some ice creams, some Caesar salad dressings, mayonnaise and even hollandaise sauce. When in doubt, itís better to pass on a dish than risk becoming ill.

Next up, processed foods may contain chemicals that can be harmful to your developing baby. Whenever possible, choose fresh sources of food, such as freshly cooked ham instead of over-processed versions, like deli ham. Always be cautious when dining at buffet style restaurants; look for food thatís kept steaming hot and frequently changed to avoid harmful bacteria.

Finally, cooked fish is a good source of lean protein and healthy essential fatty acids, but you must be careful to avoid fish that have been contaminated with mercury or other chemicals. Fish you should avoid include shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. Salmon and trout are usually good fish choices, but itís a good idea to talk with your health care provider to find out what kind of fish are safest to eat in your area. Donít automatically assume that just because a fish has been farm-raised that itís safe to eat Ė these fish may be even more contaminated than their fresh-raised brethren.

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