15 Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

Because pregnancy affects your immune system, you and your unborn baby are more susceptible to the bacteria, viruses, and parasites that cause foodborne illness. Even if you don’t feel sick, some “bugs” like Listeria and Toxoplasma can infect your baby and cause serious health problems. Your baby is also sensitive to toxins from the food that you eat, such as mercury in certain kinds of fish.

In order to have a healthy pregnancy, keep this food list handy to help ensure that you and your unborn baby stay healthy and safe. Here are 15 foods to avoid during pregnancy.

1. Raw Meat

Uncooked seafood and rare or undercooked beef or poultry should be avoided because of the risk of contamination with coliform bacteria, toxoplasmosis, and salmonella.

2. Deli Meat

Deli meats have been known to be contaminated with listeria, which can cause miscarriage. Listeria has the ability to cross the placenta and may infect the baby, which could lead to infection or blood poisoning and may be life-threatening. If you are pregnant and you are considering eating deli meats, make certain that you reheat the meat until it is steaming.

3. Excess of Vitamins

“Too much of anything is bad” – this is meant for vitamins during pregnancy. You should not consume higher than the recommended dose of vitamins, as these posses direct health threats to you and your unborn child. They can disrupt normal fetal development and can even trigger pre-term labor. Some vitamin overdoses are also linked to congenital disorders.

4. Alcoholic Drinks

So how do you toast a promotion or celebrate a birthday or some other happy event without the champagne (or margarita, wine spritzer, or your alcoholic beverage of choice) now that you’re pregnant? You break out the mocktails or the fruit juice spritzers for the next 40-odd weeks.

You may have heard that an occasional alcoholic drink is okay, but it’s best to be on the safe side when you’ve got a baby on board. Why? Alcohol enters your baby’s bloodstream in the same concentration as yours — and takes twice as long to leave it — so whatever you’re drinking, your baby’s downing one, too. But what about that night out with the girls (and a few too many margaritas) a couple of days before you found out you were pregnant? It happens to many moms, and there’s no need to worry.

5. Fish with Mercury

Fish that contain high levels of mercury should be avoided. Mercury consumed during pregnancy has been linked to developmental delays and brain damage. A sample of these types of fish include: shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish. Canned, chunk light tuna generally has a lower amount of mercury than other tuna, but still should only be eaten in moderation. Certain types of fish used in sushi should also be avoided due to high levels of mercury.

6. Sugar-Rich Foods

During pregnancy women experience crazy cravings, this is absolutely normal. You should check on your ice creams and chocolates consumption. As midnight snacks these may sound tempting, but in reality they will only increase the sugar content in you.

7. Too Many Caffeinated Beverages

Even if you couldn’t get by without your daily triple-shot vanilla lattes before you became pregnant, now’s definitely the time to switch out two of those caffeinated shots for decaf ones. While a couple of cups of coffee are fine throughout your pregnancy, consuming more than 200 mg of caffeine per day has been linked to miscarriages.

What’s more, too much caffeine can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb iron (which can lead to anemia). So, besides taming the caffeine habit and bypassing a lot of that java, pay attention to other sneaky sources of caffeine to ensure you don’t slip over the 200 mg limit.

8. Smoked Seafood

Refrigerated, smoked seafood often labeled as lox, nova style, kippered, or jerky should be avoided because it could be contaminated with listeria. (These are safe to eat when they are in an ingredient in a meal that has been cooked, like a casserole). This type of fish is often found in the deli section of your grocery store. Canned or shelf-safe smoked seafood is usually fine to eat.

9. Nitrate-Rich Foods

It’s a known truth that chemical-contain foods deteriorate our health easily. Bacons, sausages, diet-sodas, artificial sweetener (saccharin), etc., are some of the known nitrate-rich food items. Usually these are not harmful to health, but the low nutritional value of these nitrate-rich foods makes them seriously unhealthy during pregnancy. Consumption in high quantity can lead to fetal abnormalities and poor development.

10. Raw Eggs

While it may seem like commonsense to refrain from raw eggs, you’ll find them in more places than the yummy bits of batter that stick to the spatula. So, unless something’s been made with pasteurized eggs, avoid consuming foods where rawness runs rampant: homemade ice cream, raw batter or cookie dough, mayonnaise, and eggnog. Skip the Caesar dressings and hollandaise sauce unless you’re absolutely certain they were made without eggs, and make sure those breakfast omelets are cooked through and through.

As with raw meats and poultry, you don’t want to take the chance of being exposed to Salmonella. To be absolutely safe, make sure the eggs you buy have been kept well refrigerated and the sell-by date hasn’t expired.

11. Unpasteurized Dairy Products

No doubt everyone has been telling you to have lots of milk pregnancy, and they are not wrong. Milk does provide you with calcium, proteins and minerals. However, if unpasteurized dairy products are ingested, you run the risk of contracting severe food poisoning. Therefore, avoid all sorts of dairy products that are not pasteurized.

12. Raw Sprouts

Thinking of putting some alfalfa or bean sprouts into your sandwich or salad to give it that extra crunch? Better think again. Raw sprouts have been linked to E. coli and Salmonella outbreaks, so they definitely belong to the “better-safe-than-sorry” category of foods to avoid during pregnancy. But you’re not condemned to forgo that crunchy texture until you give birth. Try substituting baby spinach or baby arugula in your sandwich or salads or some thin-cut, French-style green beans. That will definitely kick the color and flavor of your sandwich up a couple notches — plus give you a serving of those healthy green veggies.

13. Liver

Liver – and most liver products (like liver pate or liver sausage) – contain dangerously high amounts of Vitamin A. Too much Vitamin A, especially during the first few months of pregnancy, has been linked to birth defects in babies. Monitor your intake of Vitamin A (ask your doctor how much of this vitamin is safe) and avoid high-dose multi-vitamin supplements, fish liver oil supplements and any supplement containing Vitamin A.

There are actually two substances that convert to Vitamin A in your body, one of which is beta-carotene and is safe for pregnant women. This form of Vitamin A can be found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and does not pose a risk to unborn babies. You don’t need to go out of your way to get the good Vitamin A – a well-balanced, healthy diet that includes very little processed foods should provide you with the recommended vitamins to keep your body healthy. However, pre-formed Vitamin A found in liver yolks is the type that’s unsafe for pregnant women, so steer clear of it.

14. Blue Cheese

Blue cheese (and other soft cheeses like Camembert and Mexican-style cheeses like queso fresco and queso blanco) can lead to foodborne illness. These products (like feta cheese and brie cheese) are generally made with unpasteurized milk which has often been linked to Listeriosis.

Listeriosis is a harmful and potentially fatal infection that can lead to miscarriage, severe illness and even stillbirths. Instead, opt for pasteurized cheeses like mozzarella and cottage cheese. Or, check the labels at your local grocer or market because it is possible to make blue cheese with pasteurized milk. You may luck out and find one, but make sure it blatantly says the cheese is pasteurized on the label – there’s no benefit to taking the risk when the potential harm to your unborn baby can be severe.

15. Unwashed Vegetables

Vegetables are safe, and a necessary part of a balanced diet. However, it is essential to make sure they are washed to avoid potential exposure to toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis may contaminate the soil where the vegetables were grown.