What not to eat

Quite a few foods are banned during pregnancy. Moumita Chaudhuri tells you why

By Moumita Chaudhuri
  • Published 1.11.17

No pineapple or raw papayas in your diet anymore," said the doctor with a smile as he wrote up Supriya Patra's prescription. She was pregnant and that was only the first in a long list of dietary strictures

Eating right during pregnancy is essential for the healthy development of the foetus. Sheryl Salis, registered dietician and founder of Nurture Health Solutions, which provides nutrition, diabetes and lifestyle consultation services, says that appropriate nutrition both before and during pregnancy has a long-term impact on the growth and development of the foetus as well as the health of the mother. "The nutrient needs of a pregnant woman are high. Foetal growth and development is primarily dependent upon the nutritional, hormonal and metabolic environment provided by the mother. Thus optimum nutrition is extremely important."

It is even more important to not eat the wrong things. Take carbohydrates, they supply the same percentage of calories in expectant mothers and women who are not pregnant. One should, however, keep in mind that the type of carbohydrate consumed also has a great impact on maternal health and foetal weight. "There is a direct relationship between maternal blood glucose levels and size of the infant at birth. High glycaemic carbs change postprandial glucose and insulin responses in pregnant women," says Salis. Thus avoid foods with a high glycaemic index (GI) such as refined wheat products, honey, french fries and even high GI fruits such as watermelon and pineapple. High GI foods provide a rush of sugar, disrupting the blood sugar balance. Opt for whole grains and pulses, legumes, vegetables and low GI fruits like apples, oranges and bananas.

Anindita Bose, consultant paediatrician at ILS Hospitals in Calcutta, adds: "Avoid aerated drinks, alcohol, junk food, soft cheese, undercooked meat, raw eggs and, of course, cigarettes. Have lots of fruits, vegetables, milk products and protein. On an average, an Indian woman requires about 300 extra calories during pregnancy."

While eggs are a good source of protein, only well-cooked eggs are safe. Salmonella bacteria found in raw or undercooked eggs can cause severe food poisoning and lead to dehydration in expectant mothers.

Avoid all processed food, cold meats, food sold loose and salads. These may contain the listeria bacteria, which is the main cause of food poisoning. Listeriosis in pregnancy increases the possibility of miscarriage and, sometimes, stillbirth. Also, it may cause serious infection in the newborn baby.

It is best to eat only home-cooked food during pregnancy. If you must eat out, "avoid having Chinese food as it has monosodium glutamate [ajinomoto]. That affects both the mother and the foetus," says Salis.

The one thing you do not have to give up is your morning cup of coffee. Experts allow up to four cups of instant coffee, or six cups of tea a day. Studies suggest that higher doses of caffeine are linked to low birth weight and a higher risk of miscarriage.

Make sure each meal has the correct balance of proteins, carbs and fats. "Fad food can give rise to low birth weight babies and premature labour," says Dr Bose. Along with proteins, calcium, iron, folic acid, iodine, vitamins and other minerals are required for the physical and mental growth of the baby. "If any of these are missing, the growth of the foetus gets affected and the baby might end up with low IQ and other physical disabilities."

Talking of IQ, make sure to include food that has omega 3 fatty acid (DHA) in your diet. It is mostly found in seafood and fish and helps in brain development.

Use your common sense to eat healthy during pregnancy and see the good effects all through the life of your child.

Good food


Apart from high value proteins, they have vitamins A, D, B6, B12, zinc, iron, selenium and copper that helps tissue formation


The tryptopan reduces stress and induces sleep while the potassium reduces fluid retention and relieves muscle cramps


The amino acids and fibre keep gastric issues in control. The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology say dates also reduce the duration of labour

Indian Rawas

The rui is packed with proteins and omega 3 — vital for brain and eye development. It also contains many B complex vitamins


They are loaded with fibre, folate, calcium, iron and zinc, which are all important for the growing foetus