Foods to avoid when you’re pregnant
We know that as happy as you are to be pregnant and eagerly awaiting meeting your little one, it can sometimes be hard to give up some foods and drinks that you love because they’re unsafe for you and baby. Your baby depends on you to grow, and when you make good food choices, you’re helping them to develop, and you’re looking after your own health too, which is really important.
Certain seafood 2
Seafood can be a great source of protein, and essential fatty acids like omega-3 which contribute to your baby’s brain and eye development. However, some fish has high levels of mercury, which could harm your baby’s developing nervous system. These include marlin, swordfish, shark, bigeye tuna and king mackerel, and must be avoided.
Limit tuna too as it also contains mercury. It’s also advised that you only eat around 140g of oily fish such as salmon, sardines, pilchards and mackerel a week, as it contains pollutants.
Remember that most seafood is good for you and your baby, so don’t eliminate this great protein source completely.
Undercooked or raw meat, poultry and fish 3
During pregnancy, you’re at increased risk of bacterial food poisoning owing to changes in your immune system, so you should ensure that all meat you eat is fully cooked, from chicken and fish to cold meats and meat spreads. Sushi is also off the cards too.
Unpasteurised dairy 4
Dairy product such as raw milk and fermented milk should be avoided unless they have been completely cooked or are labelled as pasteurised. This is because they contain unpasteurised milk, which could carry listeria and cause serious bacterial infections.
This doesn’t mean you need to avoid dairy – edam and cottage cheese are suitable. Even though they’re made with unpasteurised milk, hard cheeses such as cheddar and Parmesan are allowed as they generally don’t contain bacteria, thanks to their high acidity and low water content.
Raw eggs 5
Raw or semi-cooked eggs could contain salmonella, which puts you at risk of food poisoning. Ensure the yolks and whites are fully cooked when you eat them and watch for products that could contain raw egg such as homemade mayonnaise, ice cream and tiramisu.
You can still enjoy a cup of coffee but try not to exceed 200mg a day as excessive caffeine has been linked to miscarriage and low birth weight. Caffeine is found in tea and coffee, cola and chocolate, so try to take these into account too. A cup of instant coffee has around 100mg of caffeine, a can of cola around 40mg, while a 45g bar of milk chocolate has around 10mg.
Organ meat 5
While organ meat such as liver is a good source of iron, zinc and vitamin B12, it also contains preformed vitamin A, which is not recommended during pregnancy. An excess of vitamin A has been linked to birth defects and miscarriage, especially during the first trimester, so try to limit your intake to around 75g a week.
And remember: follow basic food safety guidelines.
Food safety is very important when you’re pregnant. Here are some tips to help prevent food poisoning:
- Wash your hands well with soap and warm water before and after preparing food.
- Clean work surfaces, chopping boards and utensils thoroughly before and after preparing food, especially if it’s raw meat and poultry.
- Wash fruit and vegetables well by rubbing them under water
- Change dish cloths and kitchen towels daily.
- Ensure that all meat, poultry, fish and eggs are properly cooked before eating.
If you have questions about your diet while pregnant, talk to your health care provider.
1 WHO. Counting the costs of drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Bull World Health Organ 2017;95:320–321Consulté le 27/05/2021
2 Advice about Eating Fish | FDA Consulté le 27/05/2021
3 Food safety (who.int) Consulté le 27/05/2021
4 The Dangers of Raw Milk: Unpasteurized Milk Can Pose a Serious Health Risk | FDA Consulté le 27/05/2021
5 People at Risk: Pregnant Women | FoodSafety.gov Consulté le 27/05/2021
6 WHO | Restricting caffeine intake during pregnancy Consulté le 27/05/2021