Key foods to avoid while expecting a child

Once you find out you're expecting, you might be able to pinpoint why you've been craving foods you've eaten sparingly in the past. Pregnancy can cause you to seek out certain foods on a whim, whether they be donuts or peanut butter - but which ones are right for you and your baby?

Taking the time to decipher which foods and nutrients are beneficial to baby development can help you ensure your child gets off to the right start. Similarly, you'll want to familiarize yourself with which foods you should avoid in order to prevent pregnancy complications.

You might already know that certain medicines can pose a threat while you're expecting, but did you know that the food you eat can be just as dangerous? Here are some of the main items to avoid when you're dining out and shopping for groceries.

Swordfish and king mackerel
Most women have heard stories of raw fish being dangerous to eat while pregnant (specifically sushi), but cooked fish can be just as hazardous. Specifically, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration encourages pregnant women to stay away from swordfish and king mackerel, which are known to have traces of mercury in them. Instead, expectant moms can chow down on cooked shellfish, canned fish and other smaller ocean varieties to quell any seafood cravings they have while pregnant.

Undercooked or raw fish
This one should be obvious, but just to further stress the point, it's a good idea to stay away from raw or undercooked fish while you're pregnant - sorry, sushi lovers! Raw fish can contain bacteria and parasites, which can cause pregnancy complications. Ideally, all fish should be cooked completely through before consuming while the varieties listed above should be avoided during all nine months.

Raw sprouts
Another hazard that you might not be aware of is raw sprouts - clovers and radishes, for example. It's possible for bacteria to become caught within the fibers of raw sprouts, which can then be consumed along with them. Even intense washing may not remove all the bacteria beforehand, which is why it's important for you to avoid eating them. To be safe rather than sorry, you should make an effort to inspect all of your sandwiches and salads before taking a bite - vendors may incorporate raw sprouts into these items.

Soft cheeses
Soft cheeses might be some of your favorite foods, but it's in your (and your baby's) best interest to avoid them during the nine months that you're carrying. Imported soft cheese has been linked to listeria, which can pregnancy complications. Brie, queso fresco and feta all fall into this category.

If you're a die-hard cheese fan, you don't have to cut cheese out of your diet altogether! You can still put solid cheeses in your meals, such as cheddar and Swiss, to get your fix. If you do, you'll want to make sure the cheese is pasteurized, which can reduce the risk of bacteria lingering in the food.

Unpasteurized juice
While you might think that consuming juice gets you the nutrients you need, it's important that you read the labels beforehand to ensure they're safe for pregnant women - specifically, to confirm that they're pasteurized. Unpasteurized juices can contain bacteria such as E. coli. Be mindful of this fact when you dine out as some vendors may offer you fresh-squeezed (unpasteurized) juice as a beverage option.

Which of these foods did you already know to avoid? Did any of these items surprise you? Leave your answers in the comments section!