Foods To Avoid During Pregnancy: Why & What not to Eat

There you are, in front of the supermarket shelves, with some tempting whisky and alcoholic wines staring back at you. However, you are hesitant because, well, there’s a little human growing inside of you.

Is the above scenario familiar? The thing is, while pregnant, you can still eat a good number of foods you’ve always enjoyed. But there’s a limit—for your baby’s health.

Keep reading, as I’ll cover some of the foods to avoid during pregnancy and the reasons why.

Why You Should Avoid Certain Foods During Pregnancy

Pregnant women tend to crave a lot of different foods and beverages, but you can’t eat everything while pregnant. Some foods just pose too big a risk to you and the baby’s health since your immune system is weakened during gestation.

Some foods are more likely to harbor disease-causing bacteria like E. coli, salmonella, or listeria. If you aren’t careful to avoid these foods, you will likely fall ill or increase your chances of delivery complications like preterm birth or even a miscarriage.

Another thing with consuming contaminated food is that it can easily pass through the placenta, And at this stage, your baby’s immune system is nowhere strong enough to fight off germs. This can then lead to serious problems or even birth defects.

A good number of these foods will either make you sick or affect your baby’s development. In a few cases, though, there is minimal research and so there is no way to tell that the food affects pregnant women. But I’ll tell you this, it’s much better to avoid them.

Because, as the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

11 Foods To Avoid When Pregnant

I would advise you to speak to your doctor so they can give you personalized recommendations on what foods to avoid and why. However, you can try to limit or completely eliminate the foods below from your diet before your doctor’s appointment.

You could also check out this YouTube video by Times Foodie for a specific list of foods to avoid during pregnancy.

High Mercury Fish

You may or may not have heard of how omega-3 fatty acids are good for you and your baby as they promote your child’s eye and brain development. Well, that is true, but only for certain types of fish that are very low in mercury.

Mercury is a rather dangerous element that can be quite detrimental to you and your baby’s health during pregnancy. It is typically found in polluted seas, and so large marine fish are more likely to accumulate high amounts of mercury.

When planning your diet, you’ll want to look out for the following fish:

  • Shark
  • Marlin
  • Swordfish
  • Orange roughy
  • King mackerel
  • Tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico
  • Tuna (especially bigeye tuna)

So, while you stay away from the above high mercury fish, you can substitute them for the following, making sure to take at least two or three servings each week. (1)

  • Anchovies
  • Trout (freshwater)
  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Cod
  • Flounder
  • Haddock
  • TilapiSardinesa
  • Pacific oysters
  • Catfish
  • Tilapia
  • Herring
  • Pollock
  • Shad
  • Shrimp

Undercooked/Raw Fish

This may be a tough one for die-hard sushi fans however, it is for the benefit of you and your growing baby. Undercooked or raw fish carry a high risk of harboring harmful bacteria like listeria which can affect you when ingested.

In some cases, you will be the only one affected by symptoms of dehydration and weakness. In other instances, though, this harmful bacteria can pass through the placenta into your baby’s location and cause serious problems.

You have to make sure every healthy fish you have is properly cooked so you don’t risk any infections. In the meantime, though, you may want to avoid the following seafood:

  • Raw oysters
  • Clams
  • Ceviches
  • Fish Tartarres
  • Scallops

Undercooked, Raw, Or Processed meat

The risks that are associated with a pregnant woman consuming undercooked fish are quite similar to those for meat as well. Now is not the time to enjoy some medium-rare meat or poultry. You need to have them all properly cooked.

Undercooked or raw meat could harbor illness-causing bacteria like Toxoplasma, E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella. These can result in a bad case of food poisoning or even worse, affect the baby.

You’ll also need to stay away from hot dogs, lunch meat, deli meat, and basically most processed meat. That’s because this meat can become infected by bacteria during processing or storage.

Always ensure that every piece of meat you eat is properly cooked. Do not allow the pink or redness of the meat to shine through at this time.

Organ meat

If you consume organ meats while pregnant, they provide a remarkable number of beneficial nutrients like zinc, iron, selenium, vitamin B12, vitamin A, and copper.

However, too much consumption of animal-based vitamins is frowned upon and not recommended during pregnancy. That is because it can lead to congenital malformations and miscarriage, especially in the first trimester.

These side effects may be associated with vitamin E supplements as well. However, it would be best for you to limit your consumption of organ meat each week during pregnancy.

Raw eggs

Another food you want to steer clear of when pregnant is raw eggs. When I say raw, I’m not just talking about cracking an egg into a bowl to be eaten; it goes a little further.

You’ll want to refrain from dishes that contain raw eggs, such as:

  • lightly scrambled eggs
  • poached eggs
  • hollandaise sauce
  • Homemade eggnog
  • homemade mayonnaise
  • Tiramisu
  • some homemade salad dressings
  • Raw cake or cookie batter
  • homemade ice cream
  • homemade cake icings

All this is because eggs are just as susceptible to harboring harmful bacteria like Salmonella as some other pieces of food. Always make sure that if you eat dishes containing eggs, they are properly cooked.

Alternatively, if the egg being used can be pasteurized, then it will be safe to eat.

Raw Sprouts

Salad can be a healthy food choice during pregnancy. However, you want to make sure the ingredients do not contain even the slightest amount of raw sprouts.

Raw sprouts have been known to harbor Salmonella and E. coli, which are almost impossible to wash off. This is due to the humid conditions required by the seeds to grow; these bacteria thrive under those conditions.

On that note, you should avoid the following:

  • Alfalfa
  • Clover
  • Radish
  • Mung bean sprouts

But according to the US Food and Drug Administration, it is safe to consume sprouts that have been properly cooked.


For the next few weeks of this beautiful milestone, you will need to hit pause on alcohol consumption at the bar or just at home. No level of alcohol has been shown to be safe during pregnancy, so it’s best to stay away from it totally.

If you drink alcohol during pregnancy, your baby consumes it too, and unlike you, it gets a little tough for the alcohol to leave their developing system. Alcohol consumption can lead to miscarriages or stillbirth.

Alcohol can also cause fetal alcohol syndrome, which results in heart defects, facial deformities, and intellectual disability. At the end of the day, it would be best if you were completely steer clear of alcohol.


There’s a high chance you are one of the millions of individuals who can’t go a day without their precious cup of Joe. Well, I’m going to have to burst your bubble because caffeine and pregnancy do not mix well.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), pregnant women should limit their caffeine intake to about 200 mg daily. Your doctor will likely advise you further on this.

Caffeine passes easily into the placenta and, since your baby’s placenta doesn’t have the enzymes to metabolize it, caffeine levels can build up very quickly.

You can switch out your daily caffeine shots for decaf ones and just monitor the amount of coffee, tea,, or soft drinks you take in. Don’t forget the sneaky treats that shoot up caffeine levels as well, like chocolate, energy bars, or coffee-flavored desserts.

Processed Junk Foods

While pregnant, you should consume highly nutritious food as directed by your doctor. Processed junk foods, on the other hand, offer exactly the opposite of your needs, they are quite low in nutrients.

Processed junk foods are high in sugar, calories, and fat, which means eating too much of them could lead to excess weight gain. And that is not good for a pregnant woman as it could result in serious complications.

Try your best to avoid processed junk food and instead stick to a healthy diet, as advised by your doctor.

Unpasteurized Milk, Cheese, And Fruit Juice

When it comes to dairy during pregnancy, you want to steer clear of anything that is unpasteurized. This is because these products can harbour harmful bacteria like Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter.

As you may already know by now, all these bacteria pose major risks, if not life threatening to your growing baby. The same goes for unpasteurized fruit juice, which can as well be contaminated with bacteria.

Pasteurization is a process that typically kills these germs, so the absence of it makes it a no-no for pregnant women. So, you should only consume milk, cheese, and juices that are clearly labeled as pasteurized.

Unwashed produce

You most likely already rinse your fruits before eating them. Well, you have to do the same with your vegetables too. The bodies of these produce could be contaminated with harmful bacteria and parasites like Toxoplasma, E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria.

Contamination can happen at any time during the production process, so it is important that you wash your produce thoroughly. One pesky parasite that does a great deal of damage is Toxoplasma.

The parasite causes toxoplasmosis, which shows no symptoms in some people and comes with a cold or flu in others. This disease in your baby could lead to serious brain or eye damage at birth. Later on, it can even cause blindness or intellectual disabilities later in life,

That’s a rather big price to pay for skipping just a few minutes of washing your produce. So, if it’s not washed, don’t eat it.

What To Do If You Accidentally Consume One Of These Foods During Pregnancy

In some cases, you may consume these prohibited foods before you find out about your pregnancy. If so, you may not have much to worry about.

But if you feel concerned or perhaps consume these foods after you’ve discovered the pregnancy, I recommend you call your doctor immediately. They will advise on subsequent steps to take accordingly.

Tips For Safe Eating During Pregnancy

Now that you know what foods to avoid during pregnancy, I have curated some quick tips to help you eat safely during this beautiful time in your life. Enjoy!

  • Eat healthy as per your doctors recommendations.
  • Do not consume too many calories to prevent excessive weight gain.
  • Take prenatal vitamins with iron and folic acid daily.
  • Avoid “eating for two”.
  • Eat 8-12 ounces od properly cooked seafood each week.


Pregnancy is a very delicate time, and so you have to be careful of every move you make. You don’t want to do anything that could cause negative effects on you or your baby’s health.

To be honest, it would do you good if you went through this list of foods to avoid regularly. That way, you can be sure that you are on the safe side regarding food.

Do you think there was any food or beverage I missed? What is your diet like when pregnant? I would love to hear your answers. Drop your thoughts in the comment.


  1. Mayo Clinic Staff, (2022, Jan 22). Mayo Clinic. Pregnancy nutrition: Foods to avoid during pregnancy
  2. US Food And Drug Administration, (2022, Feb 17). Selecting and Serving Produce Safely
  3. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, (2010, Aug). Moderate Caffeine Consumption During Pregnancy

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