Women's Healthcare Topics

Are There Certain Foods I Should Avoid During Pregnancy?

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Several Foods that may pose a Potential Risk

Learn what foods to eat and what to avoid during pregnancy to ensure a healthy environment for your unborn baby!

As a concerned parent, you want to do everything possible to ensure the well being and safety of your baby. Thus, it is vital that you eat a well balanced diet in order to ensure that your child is given every opportunity to grow and develop normally, right from the start!

Keep in mind that while your caloric needs increase slightly during pregnancy (to the tune of about 300 calories, or the amount of calories in a cup of yogurt and 1/2 a bagel), pregnancy is not a license to eat everything in sight!

Foods to Avoid

Learn about the foods that you should avoid eating in pregnancy.

There are several foods that may pose a potential risk to your unborn fetus.

It is important that you recognize the potential dangers of certain food products and avoid them during your pregnancy. These include:

Raw Meat

You may have been a fan of a good 'beef carpaccio' or round of sushi before pregnancy, but be sure to avoid raw or undercooked meat at all costs during your pregnancy. 'Rare' is simply not an option while pregnant. Why? Rare meats may contain bacteria, toxoplasmosis and Salmonella, all of which are harmful to your unborn baby.

You are twice as likely to experience food poisoning while pregnant, so be sure to ask for your meat prepared well.

Deli Meats

A sandwich is harmless right? Wrong! Prepared meats, such as those available at a deli counter, including hot dogs or turkey, beef and chicken preparations, should not be consumed unless you re-heat them until steaming. Why?

These preparations may be contaminated with a substance called Listeria. These bacteria can harm your baby severely, and may even cause miscarriage or result in a stillborn delivery. Listeria is nothing to joke about, thus it is vital that you avoid the deli counter while pregnant.

Imported Soft Cheeses

Like deli meat, imported unpasteurized cheeses including blue cheese, feta, Brie or camembert should be avoided. These may also contain Listeria.

However, soft cheeses that are made with pasteurized milk are safe to eat. It is important to check out the label. If you are not sure whether or not a product is pasteurized, you should in general avoid it.

Undercooked Eggs

Raw eggs or undercooked eggs have the potential to contain Salmonella. Raw eggs are often included in many commercial products including Egg Nog and some forms of Caesar salad dressing.

Be sure to check out the labels before you consume any of these products. Signs of salmonella food poisoning may include: fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhea.

When indulging in eggs during your pregnancy, keep the following in mind:

  • Keep eggs always refrigerated until cooked.

  • Do not use cracked eggs.

  • Wash all utensils after contact with raw eggs.

  • Eat eggs immediately after cooking.

  • Foods containing eggs should be refrigerated.

  • Do not eat dishes that contain Hollandaise Sauce or Caesar Salads which uses raw eggs.


While eating fish can be beneficial during your pregnancy, there are certain types of fish that you should avoid. These include shark, swordfish, king mackerel, excess tuna and tile fish, as all of these contain high levels of mercury, which can affect your unborn child's nervous system.

Generally it is safe to eat 12 ounces of other fish including salmon and tilapia, which are full of nutritious benefits. Canned tuna should also be avoided due to high levels of mercury contamination.


While a small amount of caffeine (1 small cup a day) may provide a much needed lift for pregnant moms, in general caffeine should be avoided during pregnancy. High amounts of caffeine consumption have been linked with birth defects and increased risks of miscarriage.

Remember that caffeine is present in many every day food items including chocolate, tea and soda. To play it safe you should avoid caffeine entirely during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy to reduce the likelihood of miscarriage. Daily caffeine intake of more than five cups of coffee a day appears to increase the risk of spontaneous miscarriage.


Alcohol is harmful to your baby's development. Alcohol will cross the placenta and affect your baby, so every time you drink when you are pregnant your baby does to.

If you are pregnant and have been drinking alcohol, stop now! There is no determined level of alcohol consumption that is considered safe during pregnancy. Daily consumption of alcohol in early pregnancy might lead to a condition called fetal alcohol syndrome.

Artificial Sweetners

If you're a regular diet soda guzzler, you may want to switch to another type of drink during pregnancy. A new study published in a July 2010 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that drinking artificially sweetened soft drinks during pregnancy may increase your risk of preterm delivery.

It is important during pregnancy to learn which foods are safe to eat and which foods you should avoid. By doing so you will provide the best possible environment for your baby to grow and develop in.

A healthy pregnancy depends on a healthy diet. For the best possible health benefits, talk to your health care provider about a balanced diet rich in nutrients, vitamins and minerals from fresh food sources.

With a bit of planning and encouragement, you can learn to plan wonderful, tasty meals that will satisfy your cravings and benefit the health of your unborn child as well.


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