What to Avoid
A Comprehensive Guide to Foods Not to Eat When Pregnant
Wondering what things not to eat during pregnancy? Find a list of 13 big no-nos here to help you have the healthiest pregnancy diet plan for you and your baby over the next nine months.
While you may not technically be eating for two during your pregnancy, it’s true that everything you consume eventually makes its way through your bloodstream to your baby. Eating well is incredibly important to not only you but also your future little one during your pregnancy. You probably know the best foods to eat during these nine months — but are you equally aware of the foods not to eat when pregnant?
It seems like new studies come out every year about what women should and shouldn’t eat while pregnant. You’re not alone in being unsure of what things not to eat during pregnancy to have the healthiest nine months possible. It can be incredibly overwhelming to try to create your diet plan while you’re simultaneously preparing for your pregnancy and delivery process. Fortunately, UnplannedPregnancy.com is here to help.
Below, you’ll find a comprehensive list of what not to eat during pregnancy for a healthy baby. However, remember that every woman’s pregnancy is different, and only your doctor can provide the most accurate list of foods not to eat during pregnancy based on your individual situation.
The information presented in this article is not intended to be and should not be taken as medical advice; please speak to your doctor before creating your diet plan for pregnancy.
What Foods Not To Eat During Pregnancy
Whether they are new to the pregnancy experience or they simply didn’t plan on being pregnant at this point in their life, many women have no idea of the bad things to eat during pregnancy. So, they often ask, “What food should I not eat during pregnancy?”
There’s actually an extensive “what-not-to-eat-during-pregnancy” list that you will want to keep in mind. We’ve listed some of these foods below.
1. Undercooked or Raw Fish
One of the biggest things not to eat during pregnancy is raw fish. This often includes many sushi and shellfish dishes. Raw fish has a higher likelihood of carrying viral, bacterial and parasitic infections, such as vibrio, salmonella and listeria. These infections can affect both mother and unborn baby and, in the case of the baby, can lead to serious or even fatal consequences.
2. Fish High in Mercury
Similarly, expectant mothers should avoid high-mercury fish, such as tuna, swordfish, shark, and king mackerel. High amounts of mercury can be toxic to your nervous system, immune system and kidneys. It can also cause developmental problems in children who are exposed early in life. Ideally, pregnant women should not consume this high-mercury fish. At most, expectant mothers should have no more than one to two servings per month.
Not all fish species are bad things to eat during pregnancy. On the contrary, fish low in mercury and high in omega-3 fatty acids can provide important nutrients for your baby. Doctors recommend making salmon a more frequent part of your diet during pregnancy.
3. Smoked Seafood
Unless smoked seafood has been cooked as an ingredient in a larger meal (for example, a casserole), it should be avoided during pregnancy. Just like raw or undercooked seafood, smoked seafood is more likely to be contaminated by listeria. Avoid lox, nova style, kippered or jerky seafood during pregnancy.
4. Undercooked, Raw or Processed Meat
Other undercooked or raw meat also holds the potential for infection from bacteria and parasites, such as toxoplasma, E. coli, listeria and salmonella. Bacteria can be found on the surface of whole pieces of meats or inside the muscle fibers, which is why all meat should be fully cooked before eating. Processed meat (such as deli meat) should not be eaten unless it has been reheated until steaming hot.
While you can still consume meat during pregnancy, invest in a meat thermometer and familiarize yourself with the USDA’s recommended temperature guide.
5. Organ Meat
Organ meat — such as liver, heart, sweetbreads, tripe and more — can be a great source of nutrients during pregnancy. It is often high in iron, vitamin B12, vitamin A and copper. However, eating too much organ meat can cause vitamin A toxicity and abnormally high copper levels, which can result in birth defects and liver toxicity. Doctors recommend that you not eat organ meat more than once a week during your pregnancy.
6. Raw or Undercooked Eggs
Another one of the foods not to eat when pregnant is improperly cooked eggs. If you’re a fan of sunny-side-up or over-easy eggs, you’ll need to prepare yourself for fully cooked scrambled eggs for the next nine months. Raw or undercooked eggs can be contaminated with salmonella if they are not pasteurized.
Also, be on the lookout for these foods that commonly contain raw eggs:
- Hollandaise sauce
- Homemade mayonnaise
- Salad dressings
- Cake icings
- Homemade ice cream
Before you buy any of these commercial products, read the label to make sure only pasteurized eggs have been used.
7. Soft and Unpasteurized Cheese
On the same note, you want to ensure that the cheese you eat is pasteurized, as well. Unpasteurized cheese can contain bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli and listeria — either naturally occurring or caused by contamination before it makes its way to your table. Pasteurization kills harmful bacteria without changing the nutritional value of the products.
To be extra safe, you will want to avoid soft cheeses such as:
- Queso blanco and fresco
8. Raw Sprouts
Raw sprouts — such as alfalfa, clover, radish and mung bean sprouts — can also be contaminated with salmonella. Unlike other foods not to eat during pregnancy, raw sprouts cannot be washed of their bacteria, so doctors recommend pregnant women avoid raw sprouts altogether or ensure their sprouts are fully cooked before consumption.
9. Unwashed Produce
When pregnant women hear about what fruits and vegetables to not eat during pregnancy, they may be confused. Aren’t you supposed to consume lots of fruits and vegetables as part of your healthy diet? Yes — but all of this produce should be washed thoroughly before consumption.
On its way to your house, produce can become contaminated with all kinds of bacteria and parasites that can affect you and your unborn baby. That’s why the USDA recommends that everyone (not just pregnant women) fully wash their produce before it is eaten.
10. Processed Junk Foods
It’s completely normal to have cravings while pregnant, and sometimes those cravings are for junk foods like potato chips, sandwich cookies and more — hardly what you would consider part of a healthy pregnancy diet. You can indulge these cravings in moderation, but know that processed junk foods are bad things to eat during pregnancy if you consume them all the time.
Your body is rapidly growing during pregnancy, and it needs whole foods with lots of nutrients to support you and your baby. Processed food is often high in calories, sugar and fats with limited nutrients. Eat too much processed food and gain too much weight, and you are at higher risk for diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and gestational diabetes.
Try to err on the healthy side when it comes to indulging your cravings — for your own health and for the health of your unborn child.
What Not to Drink During Pregnancy
It’s common for women to wonder about what foods not eat when pregnant — but it’s just as important that expectant mother understand what they can’t drink during pregnancy, too. Certain beverages can be incredibly harmful to both mother and child during pregnancy. Knowing these drinks can help you limit your exposure to potential risks and dangers as early as possible in your pregnancy.
Many women can’t start their day without a cup of coffee or tea, and many have made soft drinks and chocolate a part of their everyday diet. However, your intake of caffeine will have to be limited, if not eliminated completely, during your pregnancy.
Caffeine is absorbed quickly and passed to the placenta and fetus. Because unborn babies don’t have the enzyme needed to metabolize caffeine, high levels can build, leading to the possibility of low birth weight at delivery.
Doctors will recommend that expectant mothers limit their caffeine intake to less than 200 mg per day, or about two or three cups of coffee.
Alcohol is one of the most important things not to eat during pregnancy. There is no safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy; the substance can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth and fetal alcohol syndrome (facial deformities, heart defects and mental disabilities).
If you drank alcohol before discovering your pregnancy, know that you are not alone. However, it’s important that you refrain from alcohol for the remainder of your pregnancy to give your child the healthiest start at life possible.
If you are struggling with alcohol addiction during pregnancy, there is support out there for you.
3. Unpasteurized Milk and Fruit Juice
Similarly to unpasteurized dairy and egg products, unpasteurized milk and fruit juice carries the risk of bacteria such as listeria, salmonella and E. coli. Make sure that any milk or fruit juice that you purchase is pasteurized, and consider making your own fruit juice at home to reduce the risks of contamination with store-bought items (just make sure to wash your fruit before squeezing!).
Remember, this is just one list of foods not eat during pregnancy. What you need to avoid during your pregnancy may be different based on your medical history and personal situation. We encourage you to speak with your obstetrician as soon as you discover your pregnancy to determine what kind of diet plan is right for you over the next nine months. Only they can create the best what to eat and what not to eat during pregnancy list for you.