Foods To Avoid During Pregnancy And Why

One way to ensure a healthy pregnancy is by being mindful of what you eat. But while most foods are safe for pregnancy, there are some foods to avoid during pregnancy because of the dangers they pose to your unborn baby.

It’s not easy being pregnant. From steering clear of harmful chemicals to making sure you take your prenatal vitamins, pregnancy entails a small level of sacrifice and discipline. One area that requires pregnant moms to pay close attention to is the food they eat. Not only does a healthy diet contribute to healthy weight gain, but it can also help alleviate pregnancy symptoms such as nausea and constipation.

Although John Hopkins Medicine states that an extra 300 calories are needed daily to maintain a healthy pregnancy, that doesn’t mean you can gorge on every single item on a buffet spread, moms. In a nutshell, these extra calories should come from nutritional foods that pack a punch. Think fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins. 

Now, help yourself with our roundup of foods to avoid during pregnancy and why you should avoid them in the first place!

Top  Foods To Avoid During Pregnancy

1. Fish High in Mercury 

Highly toxic and dubbed a global pollutant, studies have revealed that a developing baby inside the womb is at risk when exposed to mercury as it can cause developmental problems. Typically, larger fishes are the ones with higher mercury content in their systems. As such, it’s highly recommended that you remove these fishes from your diet when you’re pregnant, planning to get pregnant, or breastfeeding:

  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • King Mackerel
  • Bigeye Tuna
  • Marlin
  • Tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico
  • Orange Roughy
  • Barramundi
  • Gemfish

Tip: Fish can still be a part of any pregnant woman’s healthy diet! Some of the best and safest fish for pregnancy consumption include tilapia, herring, salmon, trout, anchovy, cod and flounder.

2. Raw Eggs

Raw eggs | Foods to avoid during pregnancy

It’s time to put your love for poached eggs on the back burner if you’re pregnant. This is because raw eggs can be contaminated with Salmonella bacteria that can cause food poisoning.

For pregnant moms, an infection from Salmonella can take a turn for the worse and cause preterm labor or stillbirth. Remember that it isn’t just over easy or lightly scrambled eggs that you should be wary of, but also foods such as hollandaise sauce, some salad dressings, or homemade mayonnaise.

Tip: Stay on the safe side and cook your eggs well or use pasteurized eggs. 

3. Raw Seafood

You may have to wait until you give birth before you can enjoy sushi again, mama. This is because consuming undercooked or raw fish renders pregnant women vulnerable to infections caused by bacteria and parasites like E.coli, Listeria, and Salmonella.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that pregnant women are up to “10 times more likely” to get infected by Listeria. In pregnant women, it can be dangerous as it can cause miscarriages, stillbirths, and even death in newborns.

Tip: You can still enjoy your sushi, moms! Just make sure they’re using cooked seafood.

4. Unpasteurised Dairy Products

Unpasteurised dairy products | Foods to avoid during pregnancy

Listeria and other bacteria are what you will be up against when you consume unpasteurized dairy products. And as mentioned above, listeriosis can cause miscarriage or stillbirth. So what dairy products should you avoid? In general, soft cheeses such as brie, camembert, gorgonzola are to be avoided. Unpasteurized cow’s milk or goat’s milk are beverages you should stay away from.

Tip: Eat and drink only pasteurised dairy products. Make sure you check the label.

5. Excessive Caffeine

Caffeine is fine during pregnancy but always in moderation as too much caffeine may impede fetal development. Most experts suggest that caffeine intake should not exceed 200 mg per day which is about a cup and a half of coffee. It’s important to remember that we’re not just talking about coffee but other caffeinated beverages as well.

Tip: Use a smaller cup every time you feel like having a cup of coffee so you’re immediately cutting back on your caffeine intake. Another way to dial down the caffeine in your coffee is to add milk, which is also great for adding calcium into your diet!

6. Alcohol

Alcohol | Foods to avoid during pregnancy

A big no-no during pregnancy, alcohol should not be consumed at all while pregnant. According to the CDC, alcohol intake during the first three months of pregnancy “can cause the baby to have abnormal facial features.”

Outside these crucial months, alcohol can still negatively impact pregnancy and cause low birth weight, behavior problems in children, increased risk of miscarriage and stillbirth, and sudden infant death syndrome. 

Tip: All types of alcohol is dangerous during pregnancy. If you hadn’t been trying to get pregnant but found out you are, stop drinking alcohol immediately.

7. Raw & Undercooked Meats

Now’s not the time to order your preferred medium-rare steak, moms, with the risk of harmful bacteria and parasite infections such as E.coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Toxoplasma gondii. The latter is particularly dangerous because it can cause hearing loss, blindness, intellectual disability, and brain or eye problems in your baby–even if you don’t feel sick!

Tip: Make sure you request your meats to be cooked through when dining out. When preparing meats at home, wash them thoroughly and cook them to the proper internal temperature.

8. Deli Meats

Deli meats | Foods to avoid during pregnancy

Listeria also lurks in hot dogs, deli meats, and other processed meats. In deli meats, contamination is possible during processing or storage.

Tip: It’s still fine to indulge in your favourite salami sandwich every once in a while, moms. But when you do, make sure that you reheat it until it’s steaming hot to ensure any bacteria on the meat is killed.

9. Too Much Sugar

Who doesn’t love sweets? However, too much sugar in your diet is never a good thing. There are several reasons why too much sugar should be avoided while pregnant. For one, excessive sugar consumption is linked to higher weight gain, increased risk of gestational diabetes, low birth weight, and many more.

Tip: To fight sugar cravings, eat small snacks in between meals. Eat more fibre to help you feel full or munch on fruits instead. Then again, you can enjoy a small portion of chocolate every once in a while. One or two tiny squares of a chocolate bar, for instance, should be sufficient to curb the cravings.

10. Raw Sprouts

Raw sprouts | Foods to avoid during pregnancy

Salads are usually safe to eat (it’s super healthy, in the first place) but raw sprouts while pregnant? Not so much. You see, sprouts grow from seeds under humid conditions – the perfect environment for bacteria such as Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli to grow. According to the FDA, children, older adults, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems should avoid raw sprouts.

Tip: Simply washing raw sprouts is not enough to get rid of bacteria. If you want to eat it, make sure it’s not just washed well but also cooked thoroughly.

The Takeaway

Moderate caffeine intake during pregnancy

While there are certain foods to avoid during pregnancy (and only a few are completely off-limits while pregnant), the majority can be safely enjoyed as long as you ensure it was prepared in a clean environment and cooked thoroughly. Just remember to keep your mouth and teeth clean with Mama’s Choice Non-Fluoride Toothpaste and Mama’s Choice Alcohol-Free Mouthwash after every meal. 🙂

Kidding aside, moms, when you’re struggling to rein in your love for caffeine or sushi, remember that you’re doing it for the sake of your little one. Have a worry-free pregnancy!

Save this infographic to serve as your guide, mama!

Foods to avoid during pregnancy infographic

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Author Mama's Choice Team

Mama's Choice Team

A team of passionate writers, young mamas, and creative superheroes who help mamas face motherhood one educational article at a time!


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