Moms, here are some foods to avoid when you’re pregnant and living in the Philippines.
Your tummy rumbles and you’re looking to quell those hunger pangs. You pick out eggs and some seafood, hoping to whip up something quick.
But wait, could some of these foods be bad for your growing fetus? Can they affect your unborn child’s development?
Well, it’s not as simple as you think.
As your body continues to change and the baby in your womb continues to grow, your immune system is suppressed and your body becomes more susceptible to parasites, viruses, and other food-borne bacteria.
So aside from being informed on the kinds of food you need to nourish you and your growing baby, knowing what foods to avoid during pregnancy is also very important. This might be one of the best things you can do for your baby, to steer clear of any possible things that might cause harm to your pregnancy.
But before anything else, bear in mind that while the list of food you cannot eat may seem long and restricting, there are few absolute rules. So if you had these foods some days ago, don’t go rushing to the emergency room — if you’re not experiencing any weird symptoms, then your baby should be fine.
However, do try to limit the intake of these foods to avoid during pregnancy in the future, because they often contain harmful bacteria or environmental pollutants that may adversely affect the health of your baby.
Foods to avoid during pregnancy
Certain foods should only be consumed rarely, while others should be avoided completely. Here’s our list of foods and beverages to avoid or minimize when pregnant.
Foods that are prone to having food-borne bacteria
Dairy products like skim milk and mozzarella cheese can be a part of your pregnancy diet but unpasteurized products — which are usually made from raw milk — should be avoided.
Why? Because the raw milk can become infected with the bacteria listeria, which is known to cause about 2,500 illnesses every year, and up to 500 deaths a year. It may also increase the risk of stillbirth, miscarriage, or severe illness in newborn babies.
High levels of listeria are also occasionally found in the following so you should include them in your list of foods to avoid:
- Soft and blue-veined cheese such as camembert, brie, feta and stilton
- Potato salad or coleslaw
- All pâtes (including vegetable ones)
- Unpasteurized juice
- Deli meat
Another bacteria that may prove harmful to your unborn baby is salmonella. It causes a type of food poisoning and is found in the following:
- raw eggs
- unpasteurized milk
- raw poultry
- raw meat
Although salmonella food poisoning is unlikely to harm your baby, it is advisable to take the following precautionary measures:
- Avoid any food containing raw or partially cooked eggs. Eat eggs only when the egg white and yolk are cooked until solid.
- Ensure meat and poultry are cooked thoroughly until there is no ‘pink’ meat left.
- Take precautions when eating meats found at buffets and barbecues because bacteria can breed quickly in uncovered food placed in a warm environment.
- Avoid processed meats such as burgers, hotdogs, and deli meats (unless they are well-cooked).
- Always wash your hands after handling raw meat, and keep them separate from foods that are ready to eat.
In the Philippines, another obvious type of food to avoid are street foods because a) you don’t know how long they’ve been cooked, and b) you might increase your chances of getting food-borne diseases.
How about unwashed produce? Can you eat fruits from the market right away?
Here in the Philippines, it’s easy to get your fair share of fruits and vegetables from the supermarket or even from sidewalk vendors. However, experts warn against the danger of eating unwashed produce during pregnancy.
The surface of unwashed or unpeeled fruits and vegetables may be contaminated with several bacteria and parasites. Aside from Salmonella and Listeria, there are other types of harmful bacteria like E.coli and Toxoplasma, which can be acquired from the soil or through handling.
Contamination of these fruits can occur at any time during production, harvest, processing, storage, transportation, or retail.
Majority of people who get toxoplasmosis (from Toxoplasma) don’t experience any symptoms, while others may feel like they have the flu for a month or more.
Infants who are infected with Toxoplasma while still in the womb can have no symptoms at birth, but complications like blindness or intellectual disabilities can develop later in life. What’s worse, a small percentage of infected newborns have serious eye or brain damage at birth.
So while you’re pregnant, it’s very important to minimize the risk of infection by thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables with water, peel the fruits and cook your veggies to be sure.
Fishy foods to avoid during pregnancy
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Seafood is known to be a good source of iron, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids. It is also believed to help promote your baby’s brain development.
However, although seafood is generally good for you, it’s best to steer clear of some fish and shellfish that may contain high levels of mercury, which may damage your fetus’ nervous system. As a general rule of thumb, the older and bigger the fish, the more mercury it is likely to contain.
The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises women to avoid the following during pregnancy:
- King Mackerel
If you are concerned about your seafood intake, the FDA says that you can safely consume up to 12 ounces a week (which is about two average meals) of:
- Canned light tuna
Avoid raw fish and shellfish, and refrigerated smoked seafood as well. This means steering clear of sushi for the time being.
Also, remember to cook seafood at a temperature of about 60 degrees Celsius. Fish is well-cooked when it separates into flakes and looks opaque.
As for shrimps, lobster, and scallops, cook them until the flesh turns milky white. Cook clams, mussels, and oysters until their shells open.
Are vitamin-enriched foods included in the list of foods to avoid during pregnancy?
While pregnant women generally need a specific amount of multivitamins and minerals, high doses of Vitamin A have been said to cause damage in the development of fetuses.
Thus, foods that contain liver or liver products (including fish liver oil) are known to have high levels of Vitamin A and should be avoided.
To be on the safe side, always check with your doctor if your multivitamins contain a safe level of Vitamin A.
Should caffeine be avoided entirely when you’re pregnant?
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For women who were used to having coffee in the morning for energy, eliminating coffee from their diet while pregnant seem like a really difficult thing to do.
However, before you insist on taking your cuppa a day, you must know that caffeine slightly increases your blood pressure and heart rate and the amount of urine your body makes. It may cause you to feel jittery, have indigestion or have trouble sleeping.
If you’re pregnant, you may be especially sensitive to caffeine because it may take you longer to clear it from your body than when you weren’t pregnant. It can also aggravate pregnancy symptoms like morning sickness, nausea, and vomiting.
Not only does caffeine affect your pregnancy, but can possibly affect the development of your baby. It is because caffeine passes through the placenta which supplies nutrients to your baby.
Caffeine can be found in the following food or drinks:
- Coffee (brewed or instant)
- Coffee-flavored products, like yogurt and ice cream
- Some soft drinks
- Energy drinks
- Chocolate and chocolate products, like chocolate syrup and hot cocoa
If you simply can’t function without your coffee fix, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends limiting caffeine intake to less than 200 milligrams (mg) per day. That’s just about one cup of coffee a day. You can also try the decaffeinated version or other healthier substitutes.
Is drinking alcohol okay during pregnancy?
The answer to that is NO! Drinking alcohol during pregnancy is not okay. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that there is no safe amount of alcohol to consume during pregnancy as it can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs).
Which can cause lifelong physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities in the child. The risk of FASDs increases with the amount of alcohol consumed during pregnancy and can occur at any time during pregnancy, including before a woman knows she is pregnant.
Therefore, it is recommended that pregnant women avoid alcohol completely to ensure the health and safety of their developing baby.
Is canned food safe during pregnancy?
If handled and stored properly, canned food can be safe during pregnancy. Usually, canned foods are cooked at high temperatures to kill any bacteria making them safe to eat.
However, it’s important to be mindful of the sodium content in canned foods, as excessive sodium intake during pregnancy can lead to high blood pressure and other complications.
It’s also important to make sure that the can is not damaged, swollen, or expired, as these can be signs of contamination that could make the food unsafe to eat.
Additionally, pregnant women should avoid canned foods that contain high levels of mercury. Such as certain types of tuna, as excessive mercury intake can harm the developing baby’s nervous system.
As with any food, pregnant women should always practice good food safety habits, including washing hands and surfaces, cooking food to the appropriate temperature, and refrigerating leftovers promptly.
Eating salty and sweet foods during pregnancy
It’s generally safe to eat salty and sweet foods during pregnancy, but it’s important to do so in moderation. Consuming excessive amounts of salty foods during pregnancy can increase the risk of high blood pressure and swelling, which can be dangerous for both the mother and the developing baby.
Similarly, consuming excessive amounts of sugary foods during pregnancy can lead to gestational diabetes and other complications.
It’s important for pregnant women to maintain a balanced and nutritious diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products. If you crave salty or sweet foods, try to choose healthier options, such as whole-grain crackers or fresh fruit.
It’s also important to keep in mind that some salty and sweet foods may contain high levels of sodium or added sugars, which can be harmful in excess.
Pregnant women should read food labels carefully and choose foods that are low in sodium and added sugars. As with any dietary concerns, pregnant women should talk to their healthcare provider for personalized advice on their specific dietary needs during pregnancy.
Food poisoning in pregnancy
It’s very important to steer clear of certain foods during pregnancy to avoid the risk of food poisoning. As mentioned, your susceptibility to diseases increases when you’re pregnant and your unborn baby has an underdeveloped immune system too.
So while other people can probably experience it with minimum complications, food poisoning is extremely dangerous in pregnancy.
It can cause complications like malnutrition, low birth weight, long-term neurological development problems for your fetus and in some cases, stillbirth or miscarriage.
In addition to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, here are some common symptoms of food poisoning a pregnant woman should watch out for:
- abdominal pain or discomfort
- bloody stool
Because of the changes in your body that you usually experience in pregnancy, it may be difficult to tell if symptoms such as nausea and vomiting are normal or if they’re caused by food poisoning. If you’re unsure, it’s best to consult with your OB-gynecologist to rule out any infection or virus.
Everything in moderation
To err on the side of caution, eat everything in moderation and practice proper washing and cooking of food. Also, seek the advice of your doctor regarding specific foods to avoid. As every woman’s body is different, their reaction to certain types of foods may vary.
And before we let you go, here are some food and beverage brands that you can lean on when you crave for some cookie or milk during your pregnancy journey:
As you prepare for the arrival of your little one, boost your breast milk production with this almond milk powder from Mama’s Choice. It has DHA with galactagogues that help Mamas increase their breast milk production and improve the quality of their breast milk. It comes in two yummy flavors: Chocolate and Matcha
What we love about it:
- soybean, almond, dates, Katuk leaf, Fenugreek, DHA
- other features
- Vegan and Halal certified
Snack on the healthier way with these Malunggay cookies from La Familia. They say that they bake their cookies in order to ensure their freshness. If you want value for money, these are good, too. Imagine, it costs below Php 200 for 35 pieces. Aside from these, you can also try its Moringa Lactation Cookies.
What we love about it
- real malunggay leaves, rolled oats, flax seeds, chia seeds, nuts, chocolate chips
Always remember though that you should eat well-balanced and nutritious meals as much as possible. You and your baby will both benefit from it.
What foods do you usually avoid during pregnancy? Come share about them with us by leaving a comment!
Additional information from Marhiel Garrote
Here at theAsianparent Philippines, it’s important for us to give information that is correct, significant, and timely. But this doesn’t serve as an alternative for medical advise or medical treatment. TheAsianparent Philippines is not responsible to those that would choose to drink medicines based on information from our website. If you have any doubts, we recommend to consult your doctor for clearer information.