Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

lifestyle nutrition pregnancy

food to avoid while pregnant

Now that you're eating for two, you need to be careful about what you eat. A healthy diet is always recommended since it promotes the growth and development of your little one. But changes to your immune system make you and your baby vulnerable to harmful bacteria and food-born illnesses. Most foods are safe, but there are some foods that you should avoid during pregnancy.

But how do you know which foods are safe to eat and which ones you should stay away from? To help you out, here's a guide to foods and drinks to avoid during pregnancy.

plate of swordfish

1)  Certain Fish & Shellfish

Some fish such as king mackerel, swordfish, shark and tilefish, contain high levels of mercury. Consuming mercury during pregnancy is dangerous for the baby's health and can lead to brain damage and developmental delays.

What to do?

You can eat up to 12 ounces a week of freshly cooked fish & shellfish that are low in mercury, such as shrimp, salmon, pollock and catfish. But limit albacore tuna to 6 ounces a week since it contains more mercury than light canned tuna.

2)  Raw, Smoked or Undercooked Seafood

Unfortunately, you'll have to give up sashimi for 9 months but you'll survive. Undercooked fish and shellfish may contain bacteria and parasites. Similarly, smoked seafood, usually labeled lox, novastyle, jerky or kippered (or salted), may also be contaminated with bacteria.

What to do?

Fish and shellfish should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145° F. Fish usually flakes and appears opaque throughout when thoroughly cooked. Shrimp, lobster and scallops should be cooked until they are milky white. Clams, mussels and oysters should be cooked until their shells open and throw away any that don't open. 


raw egg
3)  Undercooked Eggs

Raw or undercooked eggs may contain salmonella and other bacteria that are harmful to you and your baby.

What to do?

Cook eggs until the yolks are firm. Dishes that contain eggs, such as casseroles and omelets, should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160° F. Avoid eating sauces, such as hollandaise sauce or Caesar dressing that contain raw eggs. Also stay away from raw cake batter, cookie dough and homemade desserts like custards or mousse.


sliced pieces of steak on a plate
4)  Undercooked Meat & Poultry

Although meat is a great source of protein during pregnancy, you have to be careful how it is cooked. Raw or undercooked meat may contain E.coli, listeria bacteria and parasites, which can cause severe food poisoning.

What to do?

First of all, meat & poultry should always be refrigerated properly and not left out in room temperature. When preparing meat, cook it to an internal temperature of 160° F.


ham sandwich
5)  Deli Meats, Meat Spreads & Pâtés

Cold cuts, hot dogs, luncheon meat, fermented or dry sausages, refrigerated meat spreads and pâtés may contain listeria bacteria, which may lead to a miscarriage or premature birth.

What to do?

It's usually recommended to stay away from these foods completely if you're pregnant. But if you're considering eating deli meats, make sure that they're reheated to at least 165° F.


bowl of salad
6)  Pre-Made or Ready-to-Eat Salads

As a general rule, you should stay away salad bars while you're pregnant because the food has probably been sitting out for a while. But you should especially avoid pre-made salads, such as chicken salad, tuna salad, egg salad, macaroni or potato salad, since they may contain listeria and other harmful bacteria.

What to do?

Make salads at home, where you can safely wash, cook and refrigerate them.


plate of cheese
7)  Unpasteurized Dairy Products & Soft Cheeses

Unpasteurized dairy products, such as milk and ice cream, and unpasteurized cheeses can contain bacteria including salmonella, E.coli and listeria, which may cause birth defects.

What to do?

As a rule of thumb, only buy and consume pasteurized dairy products. Stick to hard pasteurized cheeses, such as cheddar or Swiss.


fork holding raw sprouts
8)  Raw Vegetable Sprouts

Yes, sprouts are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals so you shouldn't stay away from them completely. But raw or undercooked sprouts, such as alfalfa, clover, mung bean and radish, may contain E.coli bacteria, which can cause food poisoning.

What to do?

Cook sprouts thoroughly or shallow fry before eating them. They will still taste delicious.


tomatoes on the vine
9) Unwashed Fruits & Vegetables

Even though they're an essential part of a balanced diet, fruits & veggies that aren't properly washed may contain dangerous pesticides and parasites that could harm your unborn child.

What to do?

Practicing cleanliness and hygiene is especially important when you're pregnant. Always thoroughly wash any fruits & vegetables and peel them, if you want to be extra careful. Before you eat leafy vegetables, such as lettuce and cabbage, cook them first.


tin can
10)  Canned Foods

The lining in many cans contain Bisphenol A (BPA), which affects fetal endocrine activity. These foods may also be sitting on the shelf for an extended period of time so they may contain harmful bacteria.

What to do?

Choose fresh or frozen foods instead. They have more nutrients and taste better too!


11)  Leftover Foods

Even if leftovers are stored properly in the refrigerator, they may still attract harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning.

What to do?

Eat freshly prepared foods. But if you have leftovers from a home-cooked meal, they can be eaten within 24 hours, assuming that they're properly sealed and refrigerated (below 40° F).


glass of fresh squeezed orange juice
12)  Unpasteurized Juices or Ciders

Juice is a delicious way to get healthy nutrients. But unpasteurized or fresh-squeezed juice may contain E.coli and salmonella so you have to be careful.

What to do?

Stick to packaged, pasteurized juices. Even better... just eat fresh fruit!


cup of coffee
13)  Caffeine

Too much caffeine is never good for you. But drinking a lot of it during pregnancy can affect your baby's heart rate, lead to a low birth weight and even cause a miscarriage.

What to do?

Limit your consumption to a maximum of 200 ml or 2 (8 oz.) cups of coffee a day or just stay away from it completely until your baby is born.


glass of white wine
14)  Alcohol

This one is pretty much a no-brainer. Any amount of alcohol, even a sip, has not been proven to be safe during pregnancy. Expecting mothers who drink alcohol have a higher risk of a miscarriage or stillbirth. Depending on the amount of alcohol consumed, it can also lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which may cause deformities, heart defects and developmental disorders.

What to do?

It's best to avoid drinking alcohol during your pregnancy. Some even recommend that you avoid it the entire time you plan on breastfeeding.

Don't worry. Although it seems like there's a lot of food you can't eat, the list of foods that you CAN eat is much much bigger. So enjoy your pregnancy. 9 months go by quickly!



Use your discretion when following pregnancy advice. We recommend that you talk to your doctor about food options and nutrition during your pregnancy before diving into this.

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