Foods to avoid during pregnancy

Foods to avoid during pregnancy

Learn about which foods to avoid during pregnancy so that you and your baby will be healthy and safe.

Eating right during pregnancy

Not sure about which foods to avoid during pregnancy? Read on to find out!

Your tummy rumbles and you’re looking to quell those hunger pangs. You pick out eggs and some seafood, hoping to whip up something quick.

But wait, could some foods be bad for your growing fetus? Can they affect your unborn child’s development?

Well, simply put, yes. Knowing what foods to avoid during pregnancy is very important as your immune system is suppressed, and your body is more susceptible to parasites and other food-borne bacteria.

Now take note though that while the list of food you cannot eat may seem long and restricting, there are few absolute rules. So if you had these foods some days ago, don’t go rushing to the emergency room — your baby should be fine.

However, do try to limit the intake of these foods to avoid during pregnancy in the future, because they often contain harmful bacteria or environmental pollutants that may adversely affect the health of your baby.

Foods that are prone to having food-borne bacteria

Dairy products like skim milk and mozzarella cheese can be a part of your pregnancy diet but unpasteurized products — which are usually made from raw milk — should be avoided.

This is mainly because the raw milk can become infected with the bacteria listeria, which is known to cause about 2,500 illnesses every year, and up to 500 deaths a year. It may also cause stillbirth, miscarriage or severe illness in newborn babies.

High levels of listeria are also occasionally found in the following so you should include them in your list of foods to avoid during pregnancy:

  • Soft and blue-veined cheese such as camembert, brie, feta and stilton
  • Potato salad or coleslaw
  • All pâtes (including vegetable ones)
  • Unpasteurized juice
  • Deli meat

Another bacteria that may prove harmful to your unborn baby is salmonella. It causes a type of food poisoning and is found in unpasteurized milk, raw eggs, raw poultry and raw meat.

Although salmonella food poisoning is unlikely to harm your baby, it is advisable to take the following precautionary measures:

  • Avoid any food containing raw or partially cooked eggs. Eat eggs only when the egg white and yolk are cooked until solid.
  • Ensure meat and poultry are cooked thoroughly until there is no ‘pink’ meat left.
  • Take precaution when eating meats found at buffets and barbecues because bacteria can breed quickly in uncovered food placed in a warm environment.
  • Avoid processed meats such as burgers, hotdogs and deli meats (unless they are well-cooked).
  • Always wash your hands after handling raw meat, and keep them separate from foods that are ready to eat.

Fishy foods to avoid during pregnancy

Seafood is known to be a good source of iron, protein and omega-3 fatty acids. It is also believed to promote a baby’s brain development.

In addition, studies have shown that not having enough seafood in your diet during pregnancy may lead to your child having poor verbal skills and other developmental problems.

However, although seafood is generally good for you, it’s best to steer clear of some fish and shellfish that may contain high levels of mercury, which may damage your fetus’ nervous system. As a general rule of thumb, the older and bigger the fish, the more mercury it is likely to contain.

The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises women to avoid the following during pregnancy:

  • Swordfish
  • King Mackerel
  • Shark
  • Tilefish
  • Marlin

If you are concerned about your seafood intake, the FDA says that you can safely consume up to 12 ounces a week (which is about two average meals) of:

  • Catfish
  • Pollock
  • Salmon
  • Shrimp
  • Canned light tuna

Avoid raw fish and shellfish, and refrigerated smoked seafood as well. This means try and keep away from sushi through the course of your pregnancy.

Also, remember to cook seafood at a temperature of about 60 degrees Celsius. Fish is well-cooked when it separates into flakes and looks opaque.

As for shrimps, lobster and scallops, cook them until they turn a milky white. Cook clams, mussels and oysters until their shells open.

Are vitamin-enriched foods included in the list of foods to avoid during pregnancy? 

While pregnant women generally need a specific amount of multivitamins and minerals, high doses of Vitamin A have been said to cause damage in the development of fetuses. Thus, foods that contain liver or liver products (including fish liver oil) are known to have high levels of Vitamin A and should be avoided.

To be on the safe side, always check with your doctor if your multivitamins contain a safe level of Vitamin A.

Should caffeine be avoided entirely when you’re pregnant?

If you’re a caffeine junkie, don’t worry because you can have coffee through your pregnancy. However, the American Pregnancy Association says, “the less caffeine you consume, the better.”

A moderate amount, ranging from 150mg to 300mg a day, should be enough. 300mg of caffeine is roughly equivalent to:

  • 3 mugs of instant coffee,
  • 3 cups of brewed coffee,
  • 6 cups of tea,
  • 8 cans of regular cola, or
  • 8 standard bars of chocolate.


Nonetheless, if you can avoid it, do so. Or consult your doctor about your caffeine intake.

Everything in moderation

To err on the side of caution, eat everything in moderation and seek the advice of your doctor regarding specific foods to avoid. As every woman’s body is different, reaction to certain types of foods may vary.

Always remember though that you should eat well-balanced and nutritious meals as much as possible. You and your baby will both benefit from it.

What foods do you usually avoid during pregnancy? Come share about them with us by leaving a comment!

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