If you are a food lover, you might be relieved to hear that most foods continue to be safe during pregnancy. There are, however, some exceptions, so keep reading to find out which foods to avoid during pregnancy.
You will probably make some dietary changes during pregnancy. You might find you choose to eat a healthier diet that includes a wider variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, and greens as you avoid unsafe food. You might also be more mindful of how much junk food you’re consuming.
Pregnancy sickness could influence the types of food you feel like eating. Pregnancy hormones can cause nausea and food aversions, which might make eating foods tricky, especially during the first trimester.
If you’re struggling to eat a healthy, balanced diet while battling pregnancy sickness, try not to beat yourself up. When the nausea passes, you’ll be able to choose a healthier diet again. In the meantime, focus on foods you can keep down.
Although people might start to ‘police’ your diet during pregnancy, it’s up to you what you choose to avoid during pregnancy. Listed below are the foods experts recommend you avoid and the reasons why, so keep reading to help you make informed choices about your pregnancy diet.
Why are some foods unsafe during pregnancy?
Some foods are considered high-risk during pregnancy because of the risk of bacterial contamination. Listeria is a harmful bacteria that can cause listeriosis, a type of food poisoning. Pregnant women are more likely to suffer from listeriosis and the results can be very serious. Listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth and preterm labor.
Mercury and other toxins should also be avoided during pregnancy, which means you’ll need to be mindful of your fish consumption. Some fish are considered safe, whereas others should be avoided during pregnancy. Look at the list below to find out which seafood you should skip during pregnancy.
Which foods are unsafe while pregnant?
The foods considered unsafe to eat during pregnancy are those with an increased risk of food poisoning bacteria and those containing harmful toxins. It’s up to you to decide what you can and can’t eat during pregnancy but the following list will help to inform your decision.
Unsafe food to avoid while pregnant
Unsafe Food Choice #1. Raw or undercooked animal foods
Uncooked seafood or meat should be avoided during pregnancy. Cooking shellfish can help to prevent certain infections but there are still risks associated with raw fish, seafood and meats, including oysters, clams, mussels and sushi.
Raw or undercooked meat carries a risk of salmonella infection and is considered as unsafe food for pregnancy. Salmonella can be passed to your unborn baby, presenting a risk of serious infection after birth. For this reason, you should avoid raw meat during pregnancy and ensure all meat is well-cooked. Use a food thermometer to test that your meat is thoroughly cooked right through before eating.
During pregnancy, you should skip anything made with unpasteurized eggs. Raw eggs should be avoided during pregnancy because of the risk of infection. You should avoid unpasteurized eggs, Hollandaise sauces, homemade salad dressings, homemade mayo, unpasteurized ice cream, and raw cookie or cake dough.
Unsafe Food Choice #2. Deli, smoked products, refrigerated meat spreads, and unpasteurized dairy foods
Uncooked deli products such as hot dogs, frankfurters, deli ham, and salami should be avoided during pregnancy. Deli meats is considered unsafe food as it can contain Listeria, which can cause listeriosis in pregnant women.
Although, according to Dr. Michael Lu, UCLA professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and public health, “Luncheon meats and frankfurters are OK to eat if you reheat them until they are steaming hot.”
Dr. Lu, author of Get Ready to Get Pregnant: Your Complete Pre-Pregnancy Guide to Making a Smart and Healthy Baby, advises pregnant women to avoid getting the fluid from hotdog packages on utensils, food preparation surfaces, and other foods. He also advises hand washing after handling hotdogs and deli luncheon meats to reduce potential contact with Listeria.
Refrigerated smoked processed products or seafood such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, trout, cod, and whitefish may also contain listeria. Though they are safe to eat cooked, they should be avoided as they are considered unsafe food until properly cooked.
Raw milk and dairy products made from unpasteurized milk are prone to Listeria. Soft cheeses such as Brie, Camembert, Cottage Cheese, Ricotta, Feta, Roquefort, and blue-veined cheeses should be avoided during pregnancy Don’t worry; you’ll be able to eat soft cheeses to your heart’s content after the birth.
Refrigerated pates and meat spreads are also prone to Listeria bacteria. Avoids these foods to reduce your risk of contracting Listeriosis during pregnancy and should be avoided.
Unsafe Food Choice #3. Fish containing high levels of mercury
Pregnant women should try to limit their intake of mercury. Mercury has been linked with child developmental delays and brain damage (you can find out more about the risks of consuming mercury during pregnancy in Mercury In Fish: What You Need To Know.)
Large fish such as shark, marlin, southern blue-fin tuna, orange roughie, king mackerel, swordfish, and tilefish all contain high levels of mercury, which are unsafe foods while pregnant.
Unsafe Food Choice #4. Some fruits and vegetables
Yep, even wholesome fruits and veggies can carry some risks. Unwashed fruits and vegetables can contain harmful bacteria and pesticides, so it’s especially important to wash your fresh fruits and veggies during pregnancy.
Some raw sprouts are considered as unsafe food during pregnancy. Clover, radish, alfalfa, and mung bean sprouts can carry bacteria that it’s impossible to wash out. Raw sprouts are out, but it is perfectly safe to eat these vegetable sprouts once they’ve been thoroughly cooked.
Unsafe Food Choice #5. Unpasteurized juices
Unpasteurized juices can be bought from roadside stands (e.g. apple cider), farms or stores. While some people prefer this because it is natural or organic, unpasteurized juices are prone to germs, including E. coli, and should be avoided during pregnancy.
Unsafe Food Choice #6. Alcohol
No level of alcohol consumption is known to be safe during pregnancy. Alcohol prevents normal fetal development by robbing developing cells of oxygen and nutrients. The baby’s mental and physical development while in the womb is known to be permanently affected by alcohol. For this reason; pregnant women are advised to avoid alcohol for the duration of their pregnancy.
To find out more about the risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy, take a look at Alcohol & Pregnancy: is It Safe To Drink Alcohol During Pregnancy?
Unsafe Food Choice #7. Caffeine
Caffeine in coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, and chocolate may increase the risk of low birth weight and miscarriage. So caffeine can be considered as an unsafe food, experts advise pregnant women to limit their caffeine consumption.
Is caffeine safe during pregnancy?
Current guidelines recommend caffeine is limited to 200 mcg per day. A 2021 research study titled Maternal caffeine consumption and pregnancy outcomes: a narrative review with implications for advice to mothers and mothers-to-be, however, found that caffeine can be harmful during pregnancy even at low levels. Whether you add caffeine to your list of foods to avoid is up to you, but at the very least, you should moderate your intake.
Why you shouldn’t eat for two during pregnancy
Eating for two is a popular myth that continues today, despite experts warning against doubling your portions during pregnancy. Though your well-meaning nana may be trying to pile extra food on your plate, it could actually be bad for your health to overeat during pregnancy.
A research study titled The impact of maternal gestational weight gain on cardiometabolic risk factors in children found that children born to mothers who gained more weight than is recommended during pregnancy faced increased risks. Over 900 mother-baby pairs took part in the study that compared pregnancy weight gain with the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) weight gain recommendations for pregnancy.
The researchers found that babies born to mothers who gained over the recommended weight allowance were more likely to:
- Suffer from high blood pressure
- Develop insulin resistance
- Be large at birth
- Have an above-average BMI
To find out more about this interesting study, take a look at ‘Eating For Two’ Comes With Serious Risks For Mum & Baby: Study.
How much should I eat during pregnancy?
We know eating for two is outdated advice, but how much additional food should you be eating during pregnancy? The average, healthy pregnant woman (with a healthy BMI) won’t need to eat any additional calories until the third trimester. In the third trimester, that woman will require only an extra 200 calories per day. This might equate to a small bowl of porridge, a slice of toast with peanut butter, or a small bowl of bran cereal with milk.