The Nine-Month Diet

Pregnant? Say no to these six foods.

To help ensure a healthy pregnancy for mom and baby, it’s important for a woman to eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein. When women find out they’re expecting, concern for healthy eating should become a priority. Maybe they weren’t careful about their food and drink choices before, but now whatever mom eats gets passed through the placenta to the developing baby and can affect the baby’s health for the rest of his or her life.

If you’re pregnant, you not only need to be vigilant about what you do eat but also about what you don’t. Here are six foods that should remain off-limits for the nine months you’re expecting.

1. Alcohol

While there is some evidence that small amounts of drinking can be safe for developing babies, it is also known that in some cases, even small amounts of alcohol can harm the baby’s brain, spinal cord, and cell development. Heavy drinking can cause long-term serious birth defects, mental problems, behavioral issues, premature birth, or stillbirth. With that in mind, it’s best that all types of alcoholic beverages be off limits for the duration of the pregnancy.

2. Soft Cheeses

Unless the label clearly says, “made with pasteurized milk,” say no to cheese dips and spreads for a while. Soft cheeses such as feta, blue cheese, brie, queso fresco, and queso blanco are often made with unpasteurized milk, which may contain listeria, a bacteria that can infect the amniotic fluid, the placenta, and the baby. If left untreated, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, or premature birth. Babies born with a listeria infection may develop a blood infection, fever, breathing difficulties, skin sores, or meningitis. Symptoms may appear at birth or several weeks after delivery. Pregnant women with listeriosis will likely develop flu-like symptoms.

3. Fish with Mercury

Fish is a healthy way to get your recommended daily amounts of protein, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids, but you have to be picky about which fish you choose. Some fish, including king mackerel, shark, swordfish, and tilefish, are especially high in mercury, a metal that can cause brain damage or vision or hearing problems in a developing baby.

4. Raw or Undercooked Meat and Seafood

No more orders of meat or fish cooked rare or medium rare. For nine months, order your steak well done and hold off on eating oysters, clams, or sushi. Undercooked meat and seafood may contain bacteria that could cause food poisoning to mom and increase risks of dehydration, miscarriage, or premature birth. Some bacteria lurking in undercooked meat may even cause mental disabilities or blindness in the baby. Be sure to heat ground beef and pork to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, chicken to 165 degrees, and fish, beef, and veal to 145 degrees.

5. Deli Meat and Meat Spreads

Say goodbye to cold cuts, hot dogs, and pates that contain meat while you’re pregnant. Bacteria such as listeria may be hiding in ready-to-eat meats even when they’ve been carefully stored in a cool refrigerator. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Don’t put the health of your little one at risk for the convenience of a hot-dog dinner. If you do purchase these types of meats, eat them immediately after heating them to steaming hot.

6. Raw or Runny Eggs

Though rare, salmonella bacteria can be found in raw or undercooked eggs. Consuming salmonella can cause food-borne illness. Cooking the egg through kills any dangerous bacteria, so feel free to enjoy eggs for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Just steer clear of homemade eggnog, Caesar salad dressing, custard, mayonnaise, and cookie dough.