Foods Never To Eat While Pregnant
Every human being on earth needs to pay close attention to their diet to lead not only a healthy, but also a happy life.
But when women are pregnant, that focus only sharpens because you are not only taking care of your own body, you are also taking care of another little body – one that is developing and growing at rapid rates.
Focusing on the foods you should consume is important – things like nutrient-rich produce, lean meats, and hearty grains (like quinoa!).
Focusing on a quality prenatal and getting plenty of hydration is important too.
But it is also important to know what types of foods you should avoid while pregnant. Foods that could make you sick. Foods that could harm the baby. So I’m here with your list of foods and drinks that pregnant women need to avoid for the entirety of their pregnancy.
Food To Avoid While Pregnant
First we will start with the top foods you should avoid during your pregnancy. Of course, this is a generalized starting point.
Your doctor may have additional recommendations based on your health and his or her preferences.
1. Soft Cheese
You do not have to give up all cheese while you’re pregnant (good news), but you do need to give up any sort of soft cheese. They are often unpasteurized and ripe for bacteria like listeria. They include:
- Blue Cheese
Hard cheeses like cheddar cheese are much more likely to be safe from bacteria.
2. Fish With Mercury
Fish is an incredibly healthy source of protein – it’s high in omega-3s and other vital nutrients. But fish swim in mercury-filled waters, leaving you with mercury-filled fish. And this element can cause all sorts of developmental problems in babies.
To soak up all the benefits without causing harm to your baby, you need to avoid high-mercury choices and limit low-mercury choices.
Fish high in mercury include:
- Tile Fish
If and when you do eat fish, make sure you keep it under 12 ounces a week. You should also know where the fish is sourced – if you or someone you know caught the fish, ask the local experts about the safety/cleanliness of the water. Then choose the options low in mercury like:
- Canned light tuna (albacore white tuna is much higher in mercury)
Then make sure you cook them to these food safety specifications:
- Fin fish: 145
- Shrimp, lobster, or crab: Flesh needs to be both pearly and opaque
- Scallops: Flesh must be milky white, opaque, and firm
Also consult with your doctor if you should stop taking a fish oil supplement during your pregnancy.
3. Undercooked Meat
It’s common knowledge that undercooked meat can easily lead to food poisoning. Without proper heating, all the present bacteria will not be cooked off.
Avoid that problem by following the meat temperature guidelines:
- Ground beef, pork, or lamb: 160
- Ground turkey or chicken: 165
- Fresh steak, roasts, or chops from beef or lamb: 145 (plus a 3 minute rest time
- All poultry: 165
- Pork: 145 (plus a 3 minute rest time)
- Fresh Ham: 145 (plus a 3 minute rest time)
- Precooked Ham: 140
If you are at a restaurant, order your meats well done – you can even explain to your waiter that you are pregnant, so they can mark that on your meat order for the chef.
Considering our last group of no-no pregnant foods, sushi should not be much of a surprise. Plus, many of the options contain high-mercury fish.
Any sort of sushi roll with raw meat or sashimi has always been on a pregnant woman’s “do not eat list” – though some believe small amounts of certain types of sushi and reputable sushi restaurants is safe
This decision should be up to you and your doctor (never make that choice on your own).
Of course things like veggie rolls and tempura rolls can be an option to satisfy the craving for 9 months!
5. Raw Shellfish
Oysters, clams, or muscles are often eaten raw, but they are a big no-go for pregnant women.
Don’t be too sad yet. You can still enjoy them cooked. Just make sure their shell opens. If it doesn’t, there may be a problem with the fish, so throw it out to stay safe.
6. Deli Meat or Meat Spreads
Any sort of cold cut like sliced ham or turkey and even things like hot dogs or sausages can have bacteria that could harm your baby, particularly the bacteria listeria (which has been connected to miscarriage and newborn illness).
This also includes meat spreads like pate or smoked meats like lox (salmon).
If you really, really want to eat these meats, you can cook them and immediately eat them (if they’ve cooled back down, it’s unsafe again). But since there are countless meat options you can safely eat – you probably won’t need to even try.
7. Raw Eggs
When you’re worn out from all things pregnancy, a nice spoonful of raw cookie dough may seem like the answer to all of your problems.
Baked cookies need to be your alternative (not a bad alternative, really!).
Some raw eggs will have salmonella; others won’t. When you’re not pregnant, it’s up to you if you want to take that risk. When you are pregnant, you need to make the responsible choice for the baby.
You may also find raw eggs in homemade sauces/condiments like:
- Caesar salad dressing
- Hollandaise sauce
Sadly, some pop up in popular desserts too:
- (Homemade) Ice cream
Double check that your store-bought brands are using pasteurized eggs… and ask any friend or family member before eating their home-cooked meal.
When you cook eggs for breakfast, make sure the yokes are firm. You can go back to over easy once the baby is born.
8. Raw Sprouts
Raw sprouts can offer a real health punch and a nice crunch to a sandwich. But they can also offer bacteria.
- Alfalfa sprouts
- Radish sprouts
- Mung bean sprouts
Either cook them (though that will get rid of the crunch), or avoid them through your pregnancy.
9. Unwashed Produce
A pregnant woman should be eating a ton of fruits and veggies. You need enough nutrients to keep both you and the baby at your prime. So fill up that plate with leafy greens, colorful veggies, and plenty of antioxidant-rich fruit.
But always, always, always wash it thoroughly first. They could have anything from dirt bacteria and manufacturing toxins to pesticide residue.
To learn how to safely and naturally clean your produce, check out this helpful video:
You may have the most baby-safe meal in the world, but if it has been sitting out too long – you are risking food-borne illness.
When you make food at home, put the extras in the fridge right away and then re-cook them at high temperatures (lukewarm leftovers is not an option).
And if you go to a restaurant, you should probably deny the doggie bag. The food will sit out for your entire drive home.
To be entirely safe, you can leave leftovers to your spouse and other kids.
Drinks To Avoid
Food is not the only thing you need to consider when you’re pregnant. What you drink (and don’t drink) is extremely important too. Here are a few drinks you should avoid when pregnant.
There may not be anything more universally recognized as unsafe for pregnancy as alcohol, yet the options and advice are all over the place.
Many people – doctors and the public included – adamantly believe that a pregnant woman should consume zero alcohol from the second they learn they are pregnant to the second they are done breastfeeding.
This is because alcohol will negatively impact a baby’s development. And too much of it can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome.
But there isn’t much evidence that light drinking is entirely dangerous. So some doctors will say a small drink once or twice a week should be okay.
Yet no amount of alcohol has actually been proven safe – it just hasn’t yet been proven disastrous.
Why not play it safe and enjoy a celebratory drink once your beautiful baby is in your arms?
12. Unpasteurized Milk
Unpasteurized milk can have all sorts of bacteria – from E. coli to salmonella.
When you’re pregnant, just buy pasteurized milk and dairy products. It’s a fairly simple swap. Or you can continue to use your non-dairy milks like almond milk or coconut milk to stay really safe.
There is still an ongoing debate if women should drink any coffee while they are pregnant. But there is no debate over the fact that if you do have a morning cup of Joe, it should be just that… ONE morning cup of Joe.
You should have no more than 200 milligrams in one day. If you plan on eating chocolate that day, remember to pour less coffee in your morning cup.
14. Raw, Unpasteurized Fruit Juice
You may think stocking up on raw juice during your pregnancy is a great way to boost your nutrient content. But they could have pathogens like E. coli or salmonella.
You don’t really want to buy the bottled juices at the store either because they are overflowing with sugar.
Either make your own juice after thoroughly washing the produce and drinking the juice immediately… or stick to drinking only water and eating your fruit through your pregnancy.
Safely Enjoying Food While Pregnant
It can feel like a major bummer to go through this list and realize you’re going to miss out on some of your favorite foods and drinks for 9 whole months. But switch your focus around.
Think about how much you can still eat!
Think about how happy you will be when you and the baby stay healthy throughout the pregnancy!
Think about how much money you will save when you’re not buying sushi rolls, expensive cocktails, or Starbucks coffee.
Once you’ve had your baby, talk to your doctor about what is safe/not safe to start incorporating again if you are breastfeeding.