Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy: What You Need to Know

Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

When you're pregnant, you want to do everything you can to keep your growing baby healthy. Eating a healthy and balanced diet is important, but it's also crucial to know which foods to avoid during pregnancy. Some foods can be harmful to your developing baby, increasing the risk of complications or even miscarriage. In this article, we'll discuss some of the top foods to avoid during pregnancy and why.

Raw or Undercooked Meat, Poultry, and Seafood

Raw or undercooked meats, poultry, and seafood can contain harmful bacteria and viruses, such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria, which can cause food poisoning. Food poisoning during pregnancy can be especially dangerous and can lead to miscarriage, premature delivery, or stillbirth. It's important to make sure that all meat, poultry, and seafood is cooked to the appropriate temperature before eating.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the following are the recommended safe minimum internal temperatures for various meats:

  • Beef, pork, veal, and lamb: 145°F (63°C)
  • Ground meats: 160°F (71°C)
  • Poultry (chicken, turkey, duck, and goose): 165°F (74°C)
  • Fish and shellfish: 145°F (63°C) or until the flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork

Deli Meats and Unpasteurized Dairy Products

Deli meats, such as ham, turkey, and salami, and unpasteurized dairy products, such as certain soft cheeses and milk, can also contain harmful bacteria, including Listeria. Listeria can cross the placenta and infect the baby, leading to serious complications such as miscarriage, stillbirth, or life-threatening infections.

If you're craving deli meat, make sure to heat it until it's steaming hot before eating. It's also important to choose pasteurized dairy products and avoid soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk, such as brie, camembert, and feta.

Fish with High Levels of Mercury

Certain types of fish, particularly large predatory fish, can contain high levels of mercury, which can be harmful to your developing baby's nervous system. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend that pregnant women avoid the following types of fish:

tips to help you navigate your pregnancy diet and make healthy food choices:

  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • King mackerel
  • Tilefish

They also recommend limiting consumption of other types of fish, such as tuna and salmon, to 2-3 servings per week and choosing fish that are lower in mercury, such as shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, and catfish.


While some studies suggest that moderate caffeine intake during pregnancy is safe, high levels of caffeine can increase the risk of miscarriage and low birth weight. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that pregnant women limit their caffeine intake to no more than 200 milligrams per day, which is roughly the amount in one 12-ounce cup of coffee.


It's well-known that alcohol consumption during pregnancy can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome, which can cause developmental and cognitive problems in the baby. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that pregnant women avoid alcohol altogether.

Raw sprouts

Raw sprouts, such as alfalfa, clover, and radish sprouts, can contain harmful bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. These bacteria can cause serious infections that can harm the baby. Therefore, it is recommended to cook sprouts thoroughly before consuming them.

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Tips to help you navigate your pregnancy diet and make healthy food choices:

  1. Plan your meals: Planning your meals ahead of time can help you make healthier choices and ensure that you are getting the nutrients you need. Consider meal prepping for the week or keeping healthy snacks on hand to avoid reaching for unhealthy options.
  2. Focus on nutrient-dense foods: During pregnancy, it is essential to get enough nutrients to support the growth and development of the baby. Focus on nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
  3. Stay hydrated: Staying hydrated is essential during pregnancy. Aim to drink at least 8-10 glasses of water a day and consider incorporating hydrating foods such as watermelon, cucumbers, and soups into your diet.
  4. Listen to your body: Pregnancy can come with cravings and aversions. Listen to your body and try to make healthy choices based on what feels good to you. If you are experiencing food aversions, try to find alternative sources of the nutrients you need.
  5. Practice safe food handling: Proper food handling and preparation are essential to avoid foodborne illnesses during pregnancy. Make sure to wash your hands before handling food, cook meat thoroughly, and avoid cross-contamination.
  6. Talk to your healthcare provider: Your healthcare provider can provide guidance on your specific nutritional needs during pregnancy. Make sure to discuss any concerns or questions you have about your diet with them.

By following these tips, you can help ensure a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.


  1. American Pregnancy Association. (n.d.). Pregnancy Nutrition.
  2. Harvard Health Publishing. The basics of a healthy pregnancy diet.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Pregnancy Nutrition.
  4. American Academy of Pediatrics. Infant and Toddler Nutrition.
  5. March of Dimes. Pregnancy and Nutrition.

These sources provide evidence-based information on the importance of nutrition during pregnancy and offer guidance on healthy food choices and safe food handling practices.

What are some nutrient-dense foods that I should include in my pregnancy diet?

Nutrient-dense foods are foods that provide a high amount of nutrients relative to their calorie content. During pregnancy, it is important to focus on nutrient-dense foods to support the growth and development of your baby. Some examples of nutrient-dense foods to include in your pregnancy diet are:

Fruits and vegetables:
Aim to eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to get a range of nutrients. Some particularly nutrient-dense options include spinach, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and berries.

Whole grains:
Whole grains are a good source of fiber and other nutrients. Look for whole-grain bread, pasta, and cereals.

Lean proteins:
Choose lean proteins such as chicken, fish, tofu, and legumes.

Healthy fats:
Healthy fats, such as those found in avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil, are important for fetal development.

Are there any foods I should avoid during pregnancy?

Yes, there are certain foods that you should avoid during pregnancy to reduce the risk of foodborne illness and other complications. Some foods to avoid during pregnancy include:

- Raw or undercooked meat and eggs
- Unpasteurized dairy products
- Fish that are high in mercury, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish
- Raw or undercooked fish and shellfish
- Processed meats, such as deli meat and hot dogs

How much weight should I gain during pregnancy?

The amount of weight you should gain during pregnancy depends on your pre-pregnancy weight and body mass index (BMI). In general, women who have a healthy BMI before pregnancy should gain between 25 and 35 pounds. Women who are underweight before pregnancy may need to gain more weight, while those who are overweight may need to gain less. Your healthcare provider can provide guidance on the appropriate weight gain for your individual situation.

Is it safe to consume caffeine during pregnancy?

Moderate caffeine intake during pregnancy is generally considered safe. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends limiting caffeine intake to 200 milligrams per day, which is equivalent to one 12-ounce cup of coffee. However, some studies have suggested that high levels of caffeine intake during pregnancy may be associated with an increased risk of miscarriage and low birth weight. It is a good idea to discuss caffeine intake with your healthcare provider.

Can I eat spicy food during pregnancy?

Spicy food is generally considered safe to eat during pregnancy. However, some women may experience heartburn or indigestion as a result of consuming spicy foods. If you find that spicy foods are causing discomfort, you may want to limit your intake or avoid them altogether.

Do I need to take a prenatal vitamin during pregnancy?

Yes, taking a prenatal vitamin during pregnancy is important to ensure that you are getting all of the necessary nutrients for fetal development. Prenatal vitamins typically contain folic acid, iron, calcium, and other important vitamins and minerals. Talk to your healthcare provider about which prenatal vitamin is right for you.

Are energy drinks safe to consume during pregnancy?

Energy drinks should be avoided during pregnancy due to their high caffeine and sugar content, which can be harmful to the developing fetus. It's best to opt for water or natural fruit juices instead.

Is it safe to consume artificial sweeteners during pregnancy?

Some artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, are considered safe to consume in moderation during pregnancy. However, it's best to avoid large amounts of artificial sweeteners, as well as those that have not been well-studied.

Are artificial colors and flavors safe to consume during pregnancy?

While there is limited research on the safety of artificial colors and flavors during pregnancy, it's generally recommended to avoid them whenever possible and opt for natural alternatives.

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