Foods to avoid when pregnant

Wondering what not to eat when pregnant? Here’s what you need to know.

There’s a lot of information to take in when you’re pregnant, and foods to avoid when pregnant is one of the most common queries women have. 

A few decades ago, people thought nothing of smoking, drinking and eating lashings of cheese while pregnant, but advances in medical science have taught us that what you eat while expecting can have an impact on your baby’s health. That’s why it’s important to be aware of what not to eat when pregnant to help ensure your little one’s safety.

Check out our infographic below for a quick look at which foods to avoid when pregnant and for more detailed information on what not to eat when pregnant read the article below: 

Infographic showing what not to eat when pregnant

Food to avoid when pregnant

Some of the most common foods to avoid during pregnancy include:

  • cold deli meats such as ham and salami 
  • raw or undercooked meat
  • soft cheeses such as brie and camembert
  • soft serve ice-cream
  • paté 
  • pre-prepared salads
  • smoked salmon
  • uncooked seafood
  • pre-cooked prawns
  • raw or undercooked eggs

These foods have a higher chance of containing harmful bacteria and viruses. This includes a bacteria called listeria, which can cause infection and result in miscarriage, stillbirth or premature delivery. 

Listeria is killed by cooking food to boiling point, so when you are cooking or heating food make sure it’s always steaming hot. 

Fish: What not to eat when pregnant

In addition to the above, some other foods to avoid during pregnancy include some types of fish that contain higher levels of mercury than others. It’s recommended that you limit your intake of shark, marlin, broadbill and swordfish to one serve per fortnight and eat no other fish that fortnight. For orange roughy (deep sea perch) or catfish, it’s advisable to limit your consumption to one serve per week and eat no other fish that week. For any other sort of fish, you can have two or three serves a week (around 150g per serve). 

Meat: What not to eat

Salmonella is a cause of food poisoning and can trigger miscarriage. Undercooked meat and raw eggs can be a source of salmonella, so make sure these are always well cooked. Raw meat can also carry toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by a parasite.   

In spite of what you may have been told, you don’t need to avoid commonly allergenic foods - such as peanuts and cooked seafood - during pregnancy, unless you are allergic to them yourself. Avoiding these foods has no impact on the baby’s risk of developing allergy symptoms. 
A plate of wine and cheese

What about drinks?

As well as foods to avoid during pregnancy, some beverages carry warnings too. Drinks containing caffeine like tea and coffee are safe to drink in moderation - up to three cups of coffee (depending on the strength) or up to five cups of tea a day is fine. If you find cutting down on caffeine tricky, try decaffeinated coffee, fruit juice or mineral water. Energy drinks contain large amounts of caffeine so they should be avoided, and because there is no known safe level of alcohol intake, not drinking alcohol is the safest option.  

What can I eat?

So, we’ve gone through the food to avoid when pregnant, so what can you actually eat when pregnant?

It’s important to eat a healthy, balanced diet from the five food groups to support your health and your baby’s development. Try and limit ‘treat’ foods that are high in saturated fat, added sugars and extra salts, such as cakes, biscuits and chips.

Eat lots of well-washed fruit and vegetables, legumes, wholegrain bread and cereals. In particular, dark leafy vegetables contain iron, folic acid (a B group vitamin which helps prevent neural tube defects) and iodine (which supports the development of a baby’s brain and nervous system). Combine this with lean meat, which contains iron and protein. Low-fat dairy foods (including milk, hard cheeses and yoghurt) are also a great source of calcium and other vitamins.

In addition to eating well, you may also have to take certain supplements for folic acid, iodine, calcium and iron, as well as vitamins B12, D and K at different stages of your pregnancy. Your doctor can advise you what you need to take and when. 

The old saying ‘eating for two’ is a popular expression for expectant mums, but it’s not a good idea, especially in the first trimester. You’ll need more energy in the second and third trimesters, but one additional snack-sized meal (for example, a wholegrain sandwich or small bowl of pasta with meat sauce) should meet this requirement. It’s tempting to see pregnancy as a time to ‘let go’, but being in your best health will help you cope afterwards, physically, mentally and emotionally too. 

For more information on what you should be eating when you’re pregnant read our article here.

A button which you can click on to take you to a hub filled with information on the first thousand days.

Back to top