22 Foods To Avoid During Pregnancy (Plus what’s safe!) (2023)

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Here are 22 important foods to avoid during pregnancy and why, plus several helpful foods to add to your diet for optimal health.

If you’re a first time mom, you may not be aware of all the foods to avoid during pregnancy. While you may have some strong food aversions or weird cravings, there are also several foods and beverages that you should consume in moderation or totally eliminate from your diet.

Something as seemingly innocent as a deli sandwich can actually pose a health risk to you and your growing child.

But, don’t worry, there are still plenty of foods you can eat. And food restrictions are a small and temporary sacrifice of pregnancy.

Below, I’ve listed each major food to avoid from the first trimester on, plus safe options that are good for your health and your baby’s development.

Table Of Contents

  1. Foods to Avoid
  2. Foods That are Helpful, Safe During Pregnancy
  3. FAQ’s
  4. The Bottom Line
  5. Want More?
  6. Your Turn
22 Foods To Avoid During Pregnancy (Plus what’s safe!) (1)

Foods to Avoid

Pregnancy, weakens your immune system, making you more susceptible to viruses, harmful bacteria, and foodborne illness. And everything you eat gets passed along to your child.

Because of this, you should avoid foods that are more likely to be infected with things like E. coli and salmonella or have high levels of mercury. Food poisoning and illnesses like Listeria can cause preterm labor or a miscarriage.

Make sure you take extra care and precaution when cleaning fresh fruit and vegetables. Beware of cross-contamination on food prep surfaces. Don’t eat food that has been sitting out for more than 2 hours (or 1 hour in hot weather). And, moderate or avoid each of the foods listed below.

Foods High in Sugar

You’ll want to moderate foods high in sugar and do your best to maintain a healthy pregnancy weight to avoid gestational diabetes. But, keep in mind, pregnancy can be hard on a woman’s body and there’s a lot to balance.

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Don’t beat yourself up if you do encounter problems with your diet and weight during pregnancy. Work with your doctor to set healthy goals and monitor your blood sugar.

Dairy Products

Soft Cheeses

Soft cheeses with a white coating on the outside have a higher moisture content and are therefore more likely to breed bacteria. And any unpasteurized cheese or milk product has a higher likelihood of containing listeria. Avoid any mold-ripened cheese with an outer white coating and any cheese made with unpasteurized milk. A few of these are:

  • Brie
  • Camembert
  • Chevre (a type of goat’s cheese)
  • Danish blue
  • Gorgonzola

Meats and Proteins

22 Foods To Avoid During Pregnancy (Plus what’s safe!) (2)

Deli Meat

Deli meat is frequently responsible for listeria outbreaks. For most healthy people, this illness isn’t life-threatening, but there are still several deaths per year. Studies show pregnant women are 20 times more vulnerable to a listeria infection than the normal population.

If you just have to have a deli sandwich. Be sure to heat your cold cuts in the microwave or in a pan over the stove until steaming hot.

Hot dogs

Hot dogs pose the same threat as deli meats. They can be contaminated with listeria and also contain carcinogen-creating nitrates. Again, if you just can’t go without a hotdog, be sure to heat it to steaming to kill off harmful bacteria and eat in moderation.

Raw eggs

Raw eggs can cause salmonella poisoning which will make you sick and can harm your baby, too. Make sure your breakfast eggs are cooked through with no runny yolk or whites. And no eating raw cookie dough or other food preparations containing raw egg!

Raw egg is found in recipes you may not think about like hollandaise sauce and other dressings so keep an eye out to be completely safe.

Undercooked Meat, Raw Meat

Raw or undercooked meats can potentially house harmful bacteria and even dangerous parasites you definitely want to avoid. Cook all red meats to well or well done and ensure poultry items have no pink center. Meats should measure at least 165 degrees on a meat thermometer to ensure a proper cook.

Raw fish

Sushi lovers may have a hard time with this particular restriction. Unfortunately, raw fish can harbor harmful parasites and bacteria, especially sushi that is prepared outside of the United States. So, no raw sushi or poke bowls until after your pregnancy is over.

Raw Shellfish

You should also not consume raw oysters and other shellfish items like mussels and clams for the same reason.

Fish with High Mercury Content

Mercury is a dangerous heavy metal that can affect brain development in infants and children. Avoid large fish like king mackerel, tuna, shark, and swordfish. If you just have to have it, make sure you consume these fish no more than once a week.

Refrigerated Smoked Seafood

Smoked seafood like Lox, kippered and jerky can be contaminated with listeria. Canned or shelf-safe smoked seafood is usually fine to eat.

Paté

Paté is another listeria-risk food. Avoid both meat and vegetable patés until after pregnancy.

Liver and Liver Products

Recipes with liver contain high levels of Vitamin A which can be harmful to an unborn baby. Steer clear until after your baby is born.

Fruit and Vegetables to Avoid During Pregnancy

22 Foods To Avoid During Pregnancy (Plus what’s safe!) (3)
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Yes, even some fruits and vegetables make the list of foods to avoid during pregnancy! It’s important to thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables before consumption and to clean cutting boards and surfaces they come in contact with.

Unwashed produce can harbor bacteria, animal feces, and other contaminants and can be contaminated at any point during production.

When you cut into a fruit or vegetable, your knife can introduce outside contaminants to the inside of your food. So you should wash your produce even if you don’t plan to eat their skins.

Additionally, you should avoid:

Raw Sprouts

Sprouts are a frequent carrier of salmonella and other bacteria. Avoid them altogether while pregnant.

Salad Bars

Food set out in salad bars is at a higher risk of containing listeria. Steer clear of any buffet salads and foods that are not well heated.

Prepackaged salads

Prepackaged salads and mixes are notorious for E. coli and listeria outbreaks.

Prepackaged Fruit

You also run a higher risk of foodborne illness from prepackaged fruit.

Unripe papaya

Unripe papaya is the main fruit to avoid while pregnant. It contains a latex substance that can cause uterine contractions.

Cantaloupe

You should also avoid cantaloupe due to its high risk of listeria. If you really, really want some cantaloupe, be sure to wash it thoroughly before cutting into it and consume in moderation.

Beverages to Avoid During Pregnancy

22 Foods To Avoid During Pregnancy (Plus what’s safe!) (4)

Along with foods pregnant women should avoid, there are several beverages to steer clear of, too.

Caffeine

Caffeine is known to cause low birth weight in babies. Be sure to monitor caffeine intake, avoid energy drinks, and limit coffee to 1 cup per day.

Green Tea and Herbal Tea

Teas often contain caffeine and there’s also not enough information on how herbs affect developing babies. Because of this lack of knowledge, avoid teas, especially herbal teas unless your doctor says it’s ok.

Alcohol

There is no safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Avoid all alcoholic beverages or you risk serious harm to your child, including fetal alcohol syndrome.

Unpasteurized Beverages

Pasteurization is a heating process that kills harmful germs in eggs, dairy products, and beverages. Any non-pasteurized beverages should be avoided due to the risk of bacteria. This includes milk of any kind and fruit and vegetable juices.

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If the product label doesn’t say pasteurized, choose a different option.

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Foods That are Helpful, Safe During Pregnancy

22 Foods To Avoid During Pregnancy (Plus what’s safe!) (5)

Now that we’ve covered each of the foods to avoid during pregnancy, let’s place some attention on the foods that are helpful and safe to eat.

Tree Nuts

Studies have shown that eating tree nuts like peanuts during pregnancy can reduce the chances that your child will be allergic. As long as you don’t have a tree nut allergy, these foods can be very beneficial. If you have any allergy concerns, speak with your doctor before consuming.

Complex Carbohydrates

Squash, whole grains, sweet potatoes, buckwheat, beans, and chickpeas are excellent examples of complex carbohydrates. These foods can provide energy and are a good source of fiber during pregnancy.

Foods Rich in Healthy Fatty Acids

Omega-3polyunsaturated fatty acids are essential to a pregnancy diet. These are important for the healthy development of your baby, especially brain development.

Here are some good sources of omega-3s:

  • Fatty fish: salmon, trout and herring
  • Walnuts
  • Sunflower and flaxseeds

Prenatal Vitamins

Prenatal vitamins are an important way to provide needed nutrients for your body during pregnancy and for your baby. Many of the essential vitamins and minerals in these pills are missing or lacking from our regular diets.

Even if you’re just thinking about becoming pregnant, you should go ahead and start taking a prenatal so these compounds can build up in the body. Here are a few of the essential components to any good prenatal vitamin:

  • Folic Acid
  • B12
  • Choline
  • Iron

Safe Foods

Here are some safe options for pregnant women to eat from the categories discussed earlier:

Cheeses

  • Cottage cheese
  • Mozzarella
  • Cream cheese
  • Paneer
  • Haloumi
  • Goat’s cheese
  • Cheddar
  • Parmesan
  • Stilton
  • Feta cheese from a reputable manufacturer

Dairy

  • Pasteurized milk
  • Sour cream

Fish

  • Cod
  • Tilapia
  • Shrimp
  • Cooked salmon
  • Domestic crab

Sushi

Choose options that include:

  • Vegetables, for example cucumber (kappa) maki
  • Cooked seafood, like fully cooked eel (unagi) or shrimp (ebi)
  • Avocado, like the California roll
  • Fully cooked egg

Beverages

  • Gatorade
  • Decaffeinated tea and coffee
  • Fruit juice
  • Mineral water
  • Protein shakes

FAQ’s

What foods should I avoid if I have gestational diabetes?

If you have gestational diabetes, you’ll want to avoid highly processed foods like white bread and anything high in sugar.

You should also limit and avoid fast food, muffins, donuts, cakes, fried foods, sugary drinks, sodas, juice, starchy foods like white rice, pasta, sweetened cereal, granola, and oatmeal.

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What foods will give me heartburn during pregnancy?

This can be unique to each woman, but here are some typical culprits:

-Spicy foods
-Garlic
-Carbonated beverages
-Mint
-Chocolate
-Citrus
-Caffeine
-Processed meats

If you notice heartburn or stomach discomfort after eating any food, make a note. If it occurs again with subsequent meals, you should avoid that food.

The Bottom Line

22 Foods To Avoid During Pregnancy (Plus what’s safe!) (6)

While there are several foods you’ll need to stop eating during pregnancy, there are plenty of safe options you can still enjoy and foods that are especially beneficial while pregnant. You should also pay attention to your unique body and your needs.

The bottom line should always be the health and safety of you and your child. And if there are other foods that cause you heartburn or discomfort, consider limiting them or removing them from your diet, too.

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Your Turn

Did you learn any new foods to avoid during pregnancy? Which were you most surprised by? Let me know in the comments!

22 Foods To Avoid During Pregnancy (Plus what’s safe!) (7)

FAQs

What foods should you absolutely avoid when pregnant? ›

Examples of raw or undercooked foods to avoid include sushi, sashimi, ceviche and raw oysters, scallops or clams. Avoid refrigerated, uncooked seafood. Examples include seafood labeled nova style, lox, kippered, smoked or jerky. It's OK to eat smoked seafood if it's an ingredient in a casserole or other cooked dish.

Which vegetable should avoid in pregnancy? ›

Raw or undercooked greens and sprouts

Greens and sprouts are generally great foods to add to the diet as they contain large amounts of fiber and nutrients. However, some greens or sprouts may contain bacteria, such as Salmonella or E. coli, which can cause infection.

Is Grapes good for pregnancy? ›

The nutrients in grapes can help to aid the biological changes that occur during pregnancy. They contain immune-boosting antioxidants, such as flavonol, tannin, linalool, anthocyanins, and geraniol, which also help prevent infections.

Can you eat honey while pregnant? ›

Fortunately, honey does not carry the same risks as many other uncooked or unpasteurized foods. In general, honey is a safe sweet treat for you during pregnancy. So if you want to swirl some honey in your tea, use it to sweeten your baked goods, or take a spoonful to soothe a sore throat, feel free.

Is watermelon good for pregnancy? ›

Watermelon is a hydrating fruit rich in various nutrients and health-beneficial compounds. Eating it regularly during pregnancy may reduce your risk of developing preeclampsia, constipation, or hemorrhoids.

What can accidentally cause a miscarriage? ›

Several factors may cause miscarriage:
  • Infection.
  • Exposure to TORCH diseases.
  • Hormonal imbalances.
  • Improper implantation of fertilized egg in your uterine lining.
  • How old you are.
  • Uterine abnormalities.
  • Incompetent cervix (your cervix begins to open too early in pregnancy).
19 Jul 2022

Which fruit is good for pregnancy? ›

This includes strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and pretty much any other berry your heart desire! Berries are rich in antioxidants that can help prevent serious diseases for both mother and baby.

Is Carrot not good for pregnancy? ›

Carrots are rich in vitamin C, so eating carrots is good for pregnant women and babies. Prevent anemia Eating carrots every day will help mothers reduce the risk of anemia during pregnancy. In addition, vitamin C is a derivative that increases the body's ability to absorb iron.

Is Lemon OK for pregnancy? ›

In general, lemons — and other citrus fruits — can be safe and healthy to consume during pregnancy. In fact, lemons pack many essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that help support maternal health and baby's development.

Is ice cream good during pregnancy? ›

Recommendations for eating ice cream when pregnant

It's best for pregnant (and nonpregnant) people to enjoy ice cream as a treat, not as a dietary staple. That's because most ice cream is high in added sugar and calories. Consuming too many sugary, calorie-laden treats isn't good for anyone's health.

When do pregnancy cravings start? ›

If you do start having cravings, it'll probably be in your first trimester (it could be as early as 5 weeks into pregnancy). They'll get stronger in your second trimester, and then eventually stop in your third trimester. Cravings come in all shapes and sizes. Some women crave fatty foods like chips.

What kind of milk is best for pregnancy? ›

Non-fat or low-fat milk are healthier choices for pregnant women than reduced fat or whole- milk, which contain high amounts of saturated fat. If you don't consume enough cal-‐ cium-rich foods during pregnancy, you will lose calcium from your bones to meet your baby's needs for this mineral.

Is Orange Juice Good for pregnancy? ›

Orange juice is good to drink while you're pregnant, but you should only have it when it is pasteurized and fortified with calcium. This is especially good to consume if you have high blood pressure or your obstetrician has told you that you are at risk for it—also known as preeclampsia—during your pregnancy.

Can I have ginger while pregnant? ›

Ginger has been shown to reduce nausea and vomiting. As such, drinking ginger tea may help relieve morning sickness during pregnancy. It's generally considered safe to drink up to 4 cups (950 ml) of ginger tea per day while pregnant.

Is tea safe during pregnancy? ›

Most caffeinated teas are considered safe to drink during pregnancy, as long as they do not cause a woman's total daily caffeine intake to exceed 300 mg ( 8 , 11 ). Women who are particularly sensitive to caffeine may benefit from aiming for a maximum of 100 mg of caffeine per day ( 8 ).

Is peanut butter safe during pregnancy? ›

In addition, peanut butter contains large amounts of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which have also been linked to a reduction in the risk of developing heart disease. For these reasons, peanut butter remains a safe and healthy choice for pregnant women, as long as they do not have a peanut allergy.

Is cucumber good for a pregnant woman? ›

Cucumber: Cucumber is rich in water that helps to prevent dehydration when you are pregnant. The peel of the cucumber is rich in fibre. This reduces chances of constipation and haemorrhoids that are common issues in pregnancy.

Is corn good for a pregnant woman? ›

Benefits Of Corn During Pregnancy: Corn Is Beneficial During Pregnancy, Know It's Amazing Health Benefits- Watch Video. Benefits Of Corn During Pregnancy: From boosting immunity to birth defects, we have listed 5 health benefits of corn during pregnancy.

What should you not do in your first trimester? ›

What Should I Avoid During My First Trimester?
  • Avoid smoking and e-cigarettes. ...
  • Avoid alcohol. ...
  • Avoid raw or undercooked meat and eggs. ...
  • Avoid raw sprouts. ...
  • Avoid certain seafood. ...
  • Avoid unpasteurized dairy products and unpasteurized juices. ...
  • Avoid processed meats such as hot dogs and deli meats. ...
  • Avoid too much caffeine.
24 May 2021

Which sleeping position can cause miscarriage? ›

A 2019 review of medical studies suggests that sleeping on your back carries risks, but it doesn't seem to matter whether you sleep on your right or left side. These studies do have some flaws, though. Third trimester pregnancy loss is very uncommon. Therefore, there aren't many cases from which to draw conclusions.

When do you stop bending during pregnancy? ›

Even in your third trimester of pregnancy, bending is still considered safe for your baby. You'll probably find it becomes increasingly difficult for you, though, if not impossible. Apart from your extra body weight, the size of your belly is increasing.

Is an abortion painful? ›

Having an abortion feels different for everyone — it can be super painful or just a little uncomfortable. Your level of discomfort can depend on the medications you get, how far into your pregnancy you are, and how much cramping and pain you have. For most people, it feels like strong period cramps.

Is Cabbage good for a pregnant woman? ›

In general, raw vegetables should be avoided, even vacuum-sealed ones. Finally, some vegetables – in particular the cabbage family (cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, red cabbage, etc.), as well as peppers and chili peppers – can cause digestive problems, so do not eat excessive amounts of them.

Is Potato good for pregnancy? ›

Potatoes supply a source of folic acid*, which is particularly important during pregnancy because it reduces the risk of your baby developing brain and spine problems. Pregnant woman need approximately 400 – 600ug per day. Potatoes provide 66ug (16% of the required intake).

Is tomato good for pregnancy? ›

Tomatoes are a good source of Vitamin C, an essential nutrient during pregnancy to ensure your baby develops healthy bones, teeth and gums. Tuck into a tomato alongside iron rich foods such as dark leafy greens or red meat as Vitamin C also helps your body to absorb iron more easily.

Can I drink Sprite during pregnancy? ›

During pregnancy, it's generally considered OK to drink a soda once in a while. However, you'll want to make sure you don't drink sodas too often because they contain caffeine, sugars, or artificial sweeteners.

Is garlic good for pregnancy? ›

Absolutely — when consumed in moderate amounts, garlic is a great addition to a healthy pregnancy diet, as it has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Just remember that eating a large amount could lead to heartburn, which is already common in pregnancy.

Is green tea good for pregnancy? ›

Green tea is safe for your baby throughout pregnancy, as long as you are not going over the recommended daily caffeine intake, which poses risks such as low birth weight.

Is cold water good for pregnancy? ›

Should you have cold water or cold drinks during pregnancy? It is absolutely safe. Pregnancy is an extension of the physiological body and not any sickness. So, all that your body was used to or capable of doing before the pregnancy, can be done during pregnancy too.

Can I eat mayonnaise pregnant? ›

If you love mayo, you're in luck. You don't have to give it up during pregnancy. There are many safe, pasteurized varieties on the shelves at your local grocery store. You may even find a few egg-free types to try or get crafty with avocado as a substitute.

How should you drink water when pregnant? ›

You need to drink 6 to 8 medium (200ml) glasses of water or fluid a day, or 1.6 litres. All drinks count, including hot drinks such as decaf tea and coffee. It is important to limit drinks that contain caffeine during pregnancy, as too much can affect your growing baby, this includes energy drinks and cola.

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