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Home » 14 Foods To Avoid When Pregnant

14 Foods To Avoid When Pregnant

Foods To Avoid When Pregnant

Pregnancy is a special time in life that brings many changes. During this time, what you eat is very important for your health and that of the baby. You may have to refrain from some of your favorite foods like deli meats, soft cheese, or alcohol during pregnancy.

When pregnant, it becomes essential for you to know what foods to eat and what to avoid. Consuming nutritious foods during pregnancy could keep you healthy and help nourish the unborn child.

Confused, what foods should be avoided during pregnancy? This article contains a list of 14 food sources to avoid during pregnancy to ensure the well-being of both the mother and the baby.

Foods To Avoid When Pregnant

Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

  1. Raw or Undercooked Meat

    Consuming raw or undercooked meat during pregnancy may increase the risk of developing food infections from parasites or bacteria infestating the meat. It might lead to potential health risks for both the mother and the developing baby.

    You should avoid consuming uncooked seafood and undercooked beef or poultry due to the risk of contamination with coliform bacteria, toxoplasmosis, and salmonella. These bacterial strains may linger in the meat cuts and cause potential health complications if ingested.

    It is recommended to ensure that meat reaches specific temperatures to kill harmful bacteria:

    • At least 145°F for whole cuts
    • 160°F for ground meats like hamburger
    • 165°F for chicken breasts
  2. Alcohol

    During pregnancy, you should completely avoid alcohol consumption to safeguard the health of the developing baby. There is no safe amount of alcohol that has been identified during pregnancy.

    When consumed during pregnancy, alcohol could easily pass through the placenta to the baby, causing multiple developmental issues. Prenatal exposure to alcohol may lead to lifelong behavioral, physical, and intellectual disabilities in the child, known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs).

    Alcohol exposure during pregnancy may result in various adverse effects on the baby. These may include low birth weight, learning disabilities, speech and language delays, vision or hearing problems, and abnormal facial features. The risk of these issues may increase with the frequency, timing, and amount of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

  3. Undercooked Eggs

    Raw eggs, commonly used in dishes like mayonnaise, homemade Caesar dressings, homemade ice cream, or custards, may contain harmful bacteria.

    Ensuring that eggs are cooked thoroughly until the yolk is firm might reduce the risk of salmonella contamination.

    You should refrain from consuming raw cookie dough that contains raw eggs to avoid any potential health hazards. Taking proper care during the preparation and consumption of raw eggs (during pregnancy) may safeguard your health and that of your unborn child.

  4. Deli Meats

    Deli meats, also called cold cuts, are pre-cooked meats that have undergone processing to last longer. These cold cuts may be infested with Listeria bacteria that could travel the placenta, potentially infecting the fetus.

    Infection with Listeria during pregnancy may result in severe consequences like blood poisoning and even life-threatening conditions for both the mother and the baby.

    You may reduce these risks by thoroughly heating the deli meat until it is steaming hot before consuming it. The process might help eliminate any potential listeria bacteria present in the meat, reducing the chances of infection.

    Opting for freshly cooked meats instead of cold cuts, hot dogs, or deli meats that have not been adequately heated may be a safer choice during pregnancy.

    You must stay aware of potential sources of harmful bacteria in deli meats to safeguard both maternal and fetal health.

  5. Unpasteurized Milk

    Pasteurization is a process that involves heating the milk to kill harmful bacteria. Unpasteurized milk may contain harmful bacteria like Listeria, which could lead to foodborne illnesses.

    Listeria infection during pregnancy may pose serious risks to both the mother and the developing fetus. It may potentially cause miscarriage, premature birth, or severe health issues for the newborn.

    Opting for pasteurized milk could minimize the risk of listeria contamination and ensure food safety. Choosing pasteurized dairy products may help prevent exposure to pathogens that could jeopardize the health of both the mother and the baby.

    You should carefully read labels when purchasing dairy products and opt for those that explicitly state they are pasteurized. Doing so can help you make informed choices, reduce the likelihood of foodborne illnesses, and support a healthy pregnancy.

  6. Soft Cheese

    Soft cheeses like Brie, Camembert, and Feta may contain listeria bacteria, posing a risk to pregnant women. Imported soft cheeses, especially those made from unpasteurized milk, are more likely to contain these harmful bacteria.

    The concern with soft cheeses lies in their production process, where the cheese is not typically heated enough to kill off bacteria like Listeria. You should remain vigilant and always check labels to ensure the cheese you are consuming is pasteurized.

    Pregnant women should refrain from consuming soft cheeses like Roquefort, Brie, Feta, Gorgonzola, and Mexican varieties like Queso Fresco and Blanco unless they are clearly labeled as being procured from pasteurized milk.

    Consuming hard cheeses like Cheddar, Swiss, or Parmesan may be a safer choice during pregnancy. These hard cheeses are typically made using pasteurized milk and undergo aging processes that help eliminate harmful bacteria.

  7. High-Mercury fish

    High-mercury fish may include varieties like shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish. Mercury is a neurotoxin that may affect the developing nervous system of the fetus. It might lead to cognitive deficits, delays in motor skills, and other neurological problems.

    Mercury consumption during pregnancy may be associated with developmental delays and brain damage in the unborn child. The FDA recommends pregnant women should avoid consuming these high-mercury fishes and opt for safer choices like salmon, shrimp, and pollock.

    Although canned, chunk light tuna contains lower amounts of mercury than other types of tuna. However, it is still advised to consume chunk light tuna in moderation.

    High-mercury fish should be strictly avoided, and pregnant women should refer to the FDA fish chart for guidance on which fish are safe to consume.

  8. Raw Sprouts

    Harmful bacteria may become trapped in the seeds of raw sprouts during the sprouting process. This could make it challenging to remove them through washing alone.

    Common pathogens like Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli have been linked to raw sprouts. These pathogens may cause severe foodborne illnesses, which might be particularly dangerous during pregnancy.

    Ensure that raw sprouts are not included in sandwiches or salads, whether prepared at home or purchased from a deli. Cooking sprouts thoroughly before consumption might help reduce the presence of harmful bacteria, making them safer to eat during pregnancy.

    Expecting mothers may lower the chances of exposure to foodborne illnesses associated with raw sprouts by taking these precautions.

  9. Unpasteurized Juices

    Pasteurization involves heating the juice to eliminate harmful pathogens, ensuring its safety for consumption. Opting for pasteurized juices may provide a safer option for pregnant women and reduce the likelihood of exposure to harmful bacteria.

    Unpasteurized juices may pose a health risk to pregnant women due to the abundance of harmful bacteria. These bacteria may lead to foodborne illnesses, which could have severe health consequences during pregnancy.

    Fresh-squeezed juice in restaurants, juice bars, or farm stands may not be pasteurized to protect against harmful bacteria. Some markets also sell raw, unpasteurized juice in refrigerated cases.

    You should read labels carefully when purchasing juice to ensure that it has undergone pasteurization. When making fresh juice at home, ensure proper washing of produce to minimize potential contamination.

  10. Too Much Caffeine

    Excessive caffeine intake during pregnancy may be a cause for health concerns due to its potential impact on maternal and fetal health.

    Moderate caffeine consumption is generally regarded safe; some studies suggest a link between excess caffeine intake and miscarriages. Pregnant women should avoid caffeine, especially during the first trimester, to minimize the risk of miscarriage.

    Caffeine functions as a diuretic, promoting fluid loss from the body. The general recommendation is to reduce caffeine intake to less than 200 mg per day throughout pregnancy, equivalent to a 12-ounce cup of coffee.

    Pregnancy may heighten sensitivity to the effects of caffeine, potentially leading to complications like preterm birth. Various products like soda, chocolate, and energy drinks also contain caffeine, so monitoring overall caffeine consumption is essential.

  11. Herbal Tea

    Herbal teas may pose potential risks to both the expectant mother and the developing fetus. The table below outlines three herbal teas you should avoid during pregnancy:

    Herbal Tea Potential Risk
    Chamomile Tea Drinking chamomile tea regularly during pregnancy might increase the risk of miscarriage, preterm labor, or low birth weight
    Ginger Tea It might induce heartburn, indigestion, and increase stomach acid production. It could also cause nausea and vomiting
    Mugwort Tea Mugwort may cause potential side effects, including uterine bleeding and contractions in pregnancy
    Peppermint Tea It may relax digestive tract muscles, causing acid reflux and heartburn. It could also irritate the stomach lining, resulting in nausea and vomiting

    These teas may contain components that could potentially harm both the mother and the unborn child. Therefore, you should consult a doctor before consuming any herbal teas during pregnancy.

  12. Canned Foods

    Many canned foods are safe for pregnant women, but there are some key items to avoid. Canned meats, fish, and soups may potentially contain high mercury levels, which might be harmful to the developing fetus.

    You should opt for fresh alternatives to canned food products or thoroughly check labels for mercury content information before consumption.

    Besides mercury concerns, pregnant women should be wary of canned foods high in sodium. Products like canned vegetables, beans, and fruits may contribute to dehydration and potentially increase the risk of hypertension during pregnancy.

    Expectant mothers should steer clear of canned foods stored in lead-lined cans. Exposure to lead (even in small amounts) may result in developmental problems for the baby. If uncertain about the safety of a specific canned food product, seek guidance from a healthcare provider.

  13. Licorice

    Licorice root contains glycyrrhizin, a substance that might increase the risk of preterm birth during pregnancy. Consuming licorice may also trigger early labor, leading to potential health concerns for both the mother and the baby.

    Another risk associated with licorice consumption is the potential for low birth weight in newborns. It could pose health challenges for the baby during and after birth, requiring special medical attention.

    Pregnant women should completely avoid licorice and any products containing licorice root to mitigate such risks. It includes items like licorice candy, licorice tea, and chewing gum with licorice flavoring.

  14. Smoked Seafood

    You should avoid consuming smoked seafood during pregnancy, especially if it is refrigerated and labeled as lox, nova style, kippered, or jerky. It may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, a bacteria that may cause severe health concerns for the mother and baby.

    Pregnant women are at a higher risk of contracting listeriosis, making it vital to steer clear of smoked seafood varieties that may harbor the pathogen. Smoked seafood undergoes refrigeration, which may not always eliminate harmful bacteria like Listeria.

    Canned or shelf-stable smoked seafood might be safe for consumption during pregnancy. However, the refrigerated versions may pose a higher risk due to the potential for bacterial growth.

    If you are craving smoked seafood, you should thoroughly cook it in a manner that eliminates any bacteria before consumption. Being mindful of the food choices and preparation methods may reduce the risks of exposure to harmful pathogens in smoked seafood.

Why You Should Avoid Specific Foods During Pregnancy?

During pregnancy, you must avoid certain foods because they may cause infections and health problems for both the mother and the baby.

  • Risk of Infections: Certain foods like soft cheeses, deli meats, or seafood carry a higher risk of containing harmful bacteria, parasites, or toxins. These pathogens may cause infections like Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli. They may cause severe health complications for the mother and potential developmental issues for the baby.
  • Impact on Fetal Development: Consuming foods like high-mercury fish, unpasteurized products, or raw sprouts may negatively affect the brain development, overall growth, and organ formation of the fetus. It might potentially lead to long-term health concerns for the baby.
  • Complications and Birth Defects: Excessive intake of certain foods high in vitamin A, raw or undercooked meats, and processed meats may be detrimental to the health of the unborn child. It might increase the risk of congenital disabilities, miscarriages, preterm birth, and other pregnancy-related complications.

Also Check: Natural Ways To Check Pregnancy At Home

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is It Safe to Consume Sushi During Pregnancy?
    You should avoid consuming sushi made with raw fish during pregnancy, as uncooked fish may be contaminated with parasites or bacteria. If you are craving sushi, go for cooked sushi or vegetarian options to enjoy the cuisine safely.
  • What Foods to Eat During Pregnancy?
    Adding foods like eggs, Greek yogurt, sweet potatoes, legumes, whole grains like oats and quinoa, and berries to your diet might support a healthy pregnancy. You could also consume leafy green veggies like spinach, kale, and broccoli.
  • Are Artificial Sweeteners Safe During Pregnancy?
    Most artificial sweeteners, like aspartame and sucralose, may be safe to consume during pregnancy if consumed in moderation. However, it’s best to avoid saccharin, as it could bypass the placenta and may remain in fetal tissues.
  • Is It Safe to Eat Organ Meats During Pregnancy?
    Organ meats, like liver, are filled with vitamins and minerals. Still, they are also high in vitamin A. Consuming too much vitamin A might be harmful to the developing baby, so it’s best to eat organ meats in moderation.


When you are pregnant, it becomes essential to avoid certain foods or beverages that may harm your health or that of your unborn child. Some of these food items to avoid during pregnancy may include raw/deli meats, alcohol, canned foods, licorice, or soft cheeses.

You may consume a nutritious diet with whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice, or barley during pregnancy. Vegetables and fruits like carrots, spinach, apples, sweet potatoes, or broccoli may also be safe to consume during pregnancy.

If unsure what foods to consume and what foods to refrain from during pregnancy, seek advice from a registered health professional or a dietitian. They could provide you with an appropriate diet plan and discuss the foods you should avoid to ensure a healthy pregnancy.

  • This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.
  • It is not recommended to disregard/delay seeking professional medical advice or treatment because of what you read or accessed through this article.
  • The results may vary from individual to individual.
  • Consult your doctor for any underlying medical conditions or if you are on any prescribed medicines before following health tips or instructions.
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This project was supported in part by NSF Grant IIS-03-25867 (ITR: An Electronic Field Guide: Plant Exploration and Discovery in the 21st Century) and by the Washington Biologists' Field Club.
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