The food cravings of pregnant women are the stuff of stand-up comedy. Everyone knows someone who craved a bizarre concoction during pregnancy: peanut butter and pickles for breakfast, lasagna with chocolate sauce for dinner, or tiramisu in the middle of the night.
Most cravings, while revolting to other people, are perfectly normal—and even healthy. In many ways, cravings are simply the body's way of indicating that it needs more protein (if you crave hamburgers) or calcium (when you just have to eat a pint of ice cream in one sitting!).
While cravings usually don't pose a health risk during pregnancy, food choices often can. Doctors agree that some foods contain chemicals or bacteria that are dangerous to both you and your baby. They can interfere with fetal development or even cause serious infection.
Here is a list of foods to avoid during your pregnancy—no matter how much you may crave them!
Shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, and albacore tuna
Fish are low in fat and high in protein and essential Omega-3 fatty acids, which makes most fish an excellent nutritional choice during pregnancy. But the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns pregnant women to avoid fish that have high methylmercury levels. Methylmercury is a chemical byproduct of industry that finds its way into lakes and oceans—and into some of the fish we eat. Shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, and even albacore tuna are some of the fish on the EPA watch list because they contain the highest methylmercury levels of any fish. (You can check with your local fish market for an up-to-date watch list, or visit the Federal Food and Drug Administration webpage for updates and changes.) Even women who are trying to conceive should avoid these fish, because mercury can lurk in the bloodstream for a year or more after it's ingested.
Shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish all have lower mercury levels and are considered safer to eat, but the EPA recommends that pregnant women limit their consumption of these fish to 12 ounces (two average meals) or less per week (canned albacore, or "white" tuna, which has more mercury than light tuna, should be limited to six ounces per week).