9 Foods to Avoid When Pregnant

Pregnant Tummy

image: babble.com

So you’re going to be a mom! Congratulations :-)

If you’re reading this blog, you probably are interested in optimal food for you and baby. It’s important to nourish your unborn with the best possible nutrients, and also to avoid foods that may cause problems for you and unborn child.

1. Soft mold ripened cheese such as Brie and Camembert – soft cheeses contain moisture, which means they can be an ideal environment for harmful bacteria, such as listeria, to grow in. Listeria can lead to miscarriage, birth defects, or stillbirth.

2. Raw or partially cooked eggs – make sure your eggs are fully cooked to avoid the risk of salmonella. This means that the yolk should be completely solid.

3. Raw or undercooked meat – Leave the rare steaks for now. Make sure your chicken, sausages and burgers are completely cooked to avoid the risk of toxoplasma, a parasite that can cause toxoplasmosis.

4. Pâté made from undercooked liver – it may be too risky when pregnant.

5. Big fish accumulate mercury in their bodies, which is transferred to you and your baby. Mercury causes damage to a baby’s nervous system. Stay away from swordfish, marlin, and shark. Limit tuna consumption too.

6. Raw fish and shellfish - may contain bacteria and viruses that will cause food poisoning. Sushi can be OK if the fish was previously frozen. Freezing kills off problematic parasitic worms.

7. Unpasteurized milk – raw milk is a very controversial issue. When you know what you are buying and from whom (local farmer), some people find it to be tastier and more nutritious. But when pregnant, why take even the smallest chance?

8. Limit Caffeine to no more than 200 mg per day. Yes, we know this is painful. Experts debate how much caffeine is acceptable during pregnancy. Evidence suggests than even a small amount may have an effect on your baby. Caffeine passes through the placenta to the baby whose organs cannot process caffeine as effectively as an adult. The caffeine is this stored in the baby’s body and can accumulate to dangerous levels. Caffeine can also increase your baby’s heart rate and movement in utero.

Caffeine’s diuretic properties can have an effect on nutrient absorption by your baby, lessening iron an calcium intake. This could have detrimental effects on fetal development. Because caffeine is a diuretic, it can cause you to lose fluid as well, increasing your fatigue.

Here are some caffeine data point for you:

Cup of coffee – 65-175mg
Decaf coffee – less than 5mg
Cup of black tea – 70mg
Green Tea – 15-50mg
Chocolate!!! (1 bar) – 20mg
Coke Classic (12 fl oz) – 34mg
Diet Coke (12 fl oz) – 45mg
Iced Tea (12 fl oz) – 70mg
Red Bull (12 fl oz equivalent) – 115mg

9. Alcohol is not a good idea while pregnant. It is linked to various health issues you want to avoid such as premature delivery, low birth weight, birth defects, and mental retardation. A little sip here and there is probably fine, but again, why take a risk?


A few more suggestions:

  • Eats lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Make sure to thoroughly wash them to remove traces of dirt and soil that may contain a parasite – toxoplasma.
  • Store raw foods are separately from ready-to-eat foods
  • Use a separate chopping board for raw meats
  • If you eat them, heat ready meals until they are well done.

Pregnant? Nursing? What tips can you share with the community?

  • Laura Downey ACS CCP

    Finally a list with the correct information regarding cheese! All soft, surface ripened cheese in the US is pasteurized but pasteurized does not equal safe. Firm cheese does not have the correct PH level for bad bacteria to grow on so they are inherently safe to consume while pregnant and VERY LOW risk, especially compared to raw spinach and ground beef. Some very common raw milk cheeses include things like Parmigiano Reggiano, Gruyere and a lot of cheddars. Most pregnant women are told to avoid raw milk cheese when the correct advice is to avoid soft, surface ripened cheeses like brie.

  • Denise

    Appreciated your comment, Laura.
    Could you clarify as to what the risk of raw spinach is, please?
    We grow our own, but I assume you mean packaged, like bagged greens?

    • EVIL food scientist

      Packaged leafy green produce and cut produce (and simply raw produce) is the number one foodborne illness source in the USA in the recent past. It’s not cooked prior to consumption, so any contamination in or on the product is eaten as there’s no kill step.

      Washing generally doesn’t do any good as the bacteria are adhered via a biofilm or are IN the product, not ON the product.

  • Carol H.

    Alcohol and (especially) caffeine are probably not such a big risk… at least in the hands of those who can practice moderation: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323514404578652091268307904.html (Wall St. Journal article by Emily Oster).

  • http://gigieatscelebrities.com/ GiGi Eats Celebrities

    The fish advice is sooooo very important. My mother ate a lot of canned tuna when she was pregnant with my older sister and she had Cerebral Palsy – My mother truly believes it occurred because of the mercury in the tuna :(

    • j in VA

      The fish advice should probably be stricter now with the radioactive water pouring into the Pacific from Fukushima. Likely none of us should be eating pacific fish.