Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy (Charts of Foods, Vegetables and Fruits included)

Surprisingly, did you know that certain foods can pose risks during pregnancy? As an expectant mother, it’s crucial to be aware of what to avoid for a healthy pregnancy. From unpasteurized dairy products and raw seafood to excessive caffeine and undercooked meats, steering clear of these items is essential for your well-being and that of your baby.

Being mindful of these food choices can help prevent complications and ensure a smooth journey throughout your pregnancy. Let’s delve into the details of foods best avoided during this special time.

foods to avoid during pregnancy
Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

Key Takeaways

  • Be cautious with your food choices during pregnancy: Avoid foods and beverages that pose risks to you and your baby’s health.
  • Stay away from high-mercury seafood: Opt for low-mercury options like shrimp, salmon, and catfish to minimize mercury exposure.
  • Avoid raw and undercooked foods: Cooking foods thoroughly reduces the risk of foodborne illnesses such as listeriosis and toxoplasmosis.
  • Say no to unpasteurized foods: Unpasteurized products like soft cheeses and unpasteurized milk can harbor harmful bacteria, increasing the risk of infections.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables properly: Cleaning produce under running water helps remove dirt, bacteria, and pesticides that could be harmful during pregnancy.
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol consumption: Excessive caffeine and alcohol intake can have adverse effects on your pregnancy, so it’s best to moderate or avoid them.

Understanding Pregnancy Nutrition and Food Safety

When pregnant, it’s crucial to be aware of foods to avoid during pregnancy. Understanding what is safe and what isn’t can significantly impact the health of both you and your baby. Educating yourself about proper nutrition and food safety guidelines is essential for a healthy pregnancy.

One key aspect of pregnancy is ensuring that you consume foods that promote optimal health for both you and your developing baby. A prenatal nutritionist can provide guidance on which foods are beneficial during this critical time. By avoiding certain foods known to pose risks during pregnancy, such as unpasteurized dairy products or raw seafood, you reduce the chances of complications.

It’s important to steer clear of undercooked meat, deli meats, fish high in mercury content, unpasteurized cheeses, and raw eggs when expecting. These items may harbor harmful bacteria or toxins that could jeopardize the well-being of you and your baby. Opting for cooked seafood over raw varieties helps prevent exposure to parasites like listeria or mercury contamination.

Safe Food Handling Practices

Properly storing, handling, and cooking food are vital aspects of maintaining food safety during pregnancy. Washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly before consumption helps eliminate any potential contaminants present on their surfaces. Separating raw meats from other foods in the refrigerator reduces the risk of cross-contamination.

Ensuring that all meats are cooked thoroughly before eating is paramount in preventing foodborne illnesses while pregnant. Using a food thermometer to check internal temperatures guarantees that meat reaches safe levels for consumption without being undercooked.

Foods and Beverages to Avoid During Pregnancy Completely

During pregnancy, it is crucial to avoid certain foods and beverages completely. Steering clear of high-risk items significantly lowers the chances of contracting foodborne illnesses. By being mindful of these foods, you can ensure a safer and healthier pregnancy overall.

Some examples of foods that should be avoided during pregnancy include raw seafood like sushi, unpasteurized dairy products such as soft cheeses, and deli meats due to the risk of listeria contamination. Undercooked eggs or meat should be off-limits because they may harbor harmful bacteria like salmonella.

Consuming alcohol during pregnancy is strictly prohibited as it poses severe risks to the developing baby’s health. Similarly, excessive caffeine intake should be avoided as it has been linked to low birth weight in babies. Opting for decaffeinated beverages or herbal teas can help reduce caffeine consumption levels.

Risks of Seafood High in Mercury

Seafood, such as certain types of fish and shellfish, can contain high levels of mercury. Consuming these during pregnancy poses risks to the baby’s developing nervous system. It is crucial for pregnant women to be cautious about their intake of fish known to be high in mercury content. Opting for low-mercury seafood choices plays a vital role in safeguarding the health of the fetus.

Mercury exposure from seafood has been linked to developmental issues in babies’ brains and nervous systems. Examples of fish with elevated mercury levels include swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and tilefish. On the other hand, safer options like shrimp, salmon, catfish, and pollock are considered low-mercury alternatives that are beneficial during pregnancy.

Knowing that, shellfish and well cooked fish provide good amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, iron, protein and zinc.

avoid seafood during pregancy
Avoid certain Seafoods during Pregnancy

Dangers of Raw and Undercooked Foods

Consuming raw meat or undercooked foods can lead to foodborne illness due to harmful bacteria like salmonella and listeria. Cooking food thoroughly is crucial as it helps eliminate these dangerous bacteria, reducing the risk of infections. It’s important for pregnant women to avoid raw or undercooked meats, such as steak tartare or rare burgers, which can expose them to harmful pathogens.

Raw eggs should be avoided during pregnancy as they may contain salmonella bacteria that could cause severe illnesses. Unpasteurized dairy products like soft cheeses and milk can also harbor harmful bacteria that pose a risk of infection. Therefore, it’s recommended for expectant mothers to opt for pasteurized dairy products to prevent any potential health issues during pregnancy.

Eating raw seafood like sushi or sashimi increases the chances of exposure to parasites and harmful microorganisms present in uncooked fish. This exposure could result in gastrointestinal issues that may harm both the mother and the baby. Similarly, consuming raw shellfish poses similar risks due to potential contamination with viruses or bacteria.

Stick to meals and snacks that focus on protein, vegetables and fruits, healthy fats, and fiber-rich carbohydrates like whole grains, beans, and starchy vegetables.

The Harm in Unpasteurized Foods

Unpasteurized foods, such as milk, cheese, and juices, can harbor harmful bacteria like E. coli or Listeria that pose risks during pregnancy. Opting for pasteurized alternatives is crucial to ensure food safety for expectant mothers. Consuming unpasteurized products increases the chances of bacterial infections that could harm both the mother and baby.

Pregnant women should be cautious when selecting dairy products and beverages, avoiding items labeled as unpasteurized. Soft cheeses made from raw milk are also to be avoided due to the risk of Listeria contamination.

It’s also safe to eat hard cheeses like cheddar or Parmesan; pasteurized cheeses like cottage cheese, cream cheese, or feta; and any cheese that has been cooked until very hot.

Soft Cheeses: Imported soft cheeses may contain listeria bacteria.

By choosing pasteurized milk, eggs, and cheeses, pregnant individuals can significantly reduce their exposure to harmful bacteria.

Why to Wash Fruits and Vegetables Thoroughly

Washing vegetables and fruits before consumption is crucial as it helps eliminate dirt, pesticides, and bacteria present on their surfaces. By rinsing produce thoroughly, you can significantly reduce the risk of contracting foodborne illnesses. This simple step acts as a preventive measure against potential health hazards associated with consuming unwashed fruits and vegetables.

Thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables removes any harmful residues that may have been left during cultivation or transportation. Pesticides used in farming can linger on the surface of produce, making proper cleaning essential before eating them. For pregnant individuals, ensuring that all fresh produce is washed properly becomes even more critical due to the vulnerability during this period.

Taking a few extra minutes to wash your fruits and vegetables under running water can go a long way in safeguarding your health. It’s advisable to use a vegetable brush for items like potatoes or carrots with tougher skin to ensure thorough cleaning. By incorporating this practice into your routine, you are actively reducing the chances of ingesting harmful substances inadvertently.

avoid unwashed fruits during pregnancy
Avoid unwashed fruits during pregnancy

Limiting Caffeine and Alcohol Intake

High caffeine intake can pose risks during pregnancy, potentially increasing the chances of miscarriage or preterm birth. It’s crucial to be mindful of drinking coffee, tea, or other caffeinated beverages excessively. While a cup of coffee is generally safe, too much caffeine should be avoided.

Alcohol consumption during pregnancy is strongly discouraged as it can result in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders which may lead to various health issues for the baby. Hence, it’s essential to completely avoid drinking alcohol throughout pregnancy. Opting for alternatives like water or herbal teas instead of alcoholic beverages is recommended for a healthier pregnancy journey.

Personal insight: During my own pregnancy, I found that switching from regular coffee to decaffeinated options helped me reduce my caffeine intake without compromising on taste. Exploring different herbal teas provided a comforting alternative to alcoholic drinks while socializing with friends and family.

If you’re worried about alcohol you drank before you knew you were pregnant, or if you think you need help to stop drinking, talk to your health care professional.

Health Risks from Prohibited Foods During Pregnancy

Consuming foods to avoid during pregnancy is crucial as they can pose serious health risks. Some foods, like soft cheeses or deli meats, may contain harmful bacteria that can lead to foodborne illnesses. These illnesses could have severe consequences for both the mother and the baby.

Understanding the potential dangers of consuming prohibited foods helps pregnant women make informed choices about their diet. For example, unpasteurized dairy products such as certain soft cheeses carry a risk of listeria contamination, which has been linked to miscarriage, stillbirth, and other complications during pregnancy. By being aware of these risks, expectant mothers can take necessary precautions to safeguard their health and that of their unborn child.

It’s essential for pregnant women to be cautious. Certain types of fish high in mercury levels should be avoided during pregnancy due to the potential harm it poses on fetal development. Fish such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish are known for their high mercury content that can adversely affect the baby’s nervous system.

Alternative Healthy Options for Pregnant Women

There are numerous safe and nutritious alternatives available. Opt for pasteurized cheese instead of soft varieties like Brie or Camembert, as they pose a higher risk of bacterial contamination that could be harmful to pregnant individuals. Choosing lean meats and poultry over deli options is advisable to reduce the chances of exposure to bacteria that might lead to health issues for both the mother and the unborn baby.

Switching from soft cheeses like Brie or Camembert, which may contain harmful bacteria leading to potential health risks, can help ensure a healthier pregnancy. Similarly, opting for pasteurized cheese offers essential nutrients without compromising on flavor or nutritional value.Selecting lean cuts and avoiding deli meats can minimize the risk of bacterial contamination that could result in adverse health effects.


  • Increased safety by avoiding foods linked with potential hazards
  • Ensuring adequate nutrition while eliminating risky food choices


  • Some alternatives may have different taste profiles compared to prohibited foods
  • Checking labels carefully when selecting pasteurized cheese products

Incorporating these alternative options into your diet can significantly contribute to a healthy pregnancy journey. Personally, I found that making small adjustments like choosing pasteurized cheese over soft varieties was not only beneficial for my well-being but also provided peace of mind regarding my unborn baby’s health.

Agnes Padernal, Prenatal Registered Dietitian and Lactation Consultant at Family Health Centers of San Diego, says, “In general, people should eat a balanced diet: a meal with fruits, veggies, dairy, proteins and grains.

Also, the herbs used in herbal tea can be potentially dangerous if you have a lot of them during pregnancy; especially during weeks 1 to 12 (first trimester). Read More here: Teas to Avoid During Pregnancy

Avoid unwashed vegetables during pregnancy

Chart of Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

Food to Avoid During Pregnancy

Description/Now Safe

Raw or undercooked meat

Can cause foodborne illnesses; cook thoroughly

Raw eggs

Risk of salmonella; Make sure to always cook eggs thoroughly or use pasteurized eggs.

Unpasteurized dairy products

May contain harmful bacteria; choose pasteurized options

Deli meats

Potential risk of listeria; heat deli meats until steaming

High-mercury fish (e.g., swordfish, shark)

Harmful to the baby’s development; choose low-mercury options like salmon

Raw fish (sushi)

Risk of parasites and bacteria; opt for cooked sushi rolls


Excessive intake linked to miscarriage; limit to 200mg per day


Can cause birth defects and developmental issues; avoid completely

Unwashed fruits and vegetables

Risk of bacteria and pesticides; wash thoroughly before consuming

Soft cheeses (e.g., brie, feta)

May contain listeria; choose hard cheeses like cheddar

Artificial sweeteners

Limited research on safety; opt for natural sweeteners in moderation

Excess sugar

Linked to gestational diabetes; consume in moderation

Processed foods

High in additives and preservatives; choose whole foods instead

Raw sprouts

Risk of bacteria like salmonella; cook sprouts before eating

Unwashed herbs and spices

Potential contamination; wash or cook before use

List of Vegetables to Avoid during Pregnancy



Raw sprouts

Risk of bacterial contamination

Unwashed vegetables

Risk of exposure to harmful bacteria and parasites

Unpasteurized juices

Potential risk of foodborne illnesses

Undercooked or raw potatoes

Contains solanine, which can be harmful during pregnancy

List of Fruits to Avoid during Pregnancy




Contains latex, which may induce contractions


May cause uterine contractions


High pesticide content can be harmful

Unripe mango

Contains substances that may induce contractions


May contain high levels of pesticides


Can cause constipation in some pregnant women


May cause digestive issues in some individuals

Canned fruits

High in added sugars and preservatives


May cause allergic reactions in some individuals


Can raise blood sugar levels quickly

Closing Thoughts

Throughout this blog post, I’ve highlighted the importance of being mindful of what you consume during pregnancy. From avoiding certain foods and beverages to understanding the risks associated with them, it’s crucial to prioritize your health and the well-being of your baby. By making informed choices and opting for safer alternatives, you can navigate this journey with confidence and peace of mind.

As you embark on this incredible chapter of motherhood, remember that every decision you make regarding your diet plays a significant role in your baby’s development. Stay informed, listen to your body, and consult with healthcare professionals whenever in doubt. Your well-being is paramount, so take care of yourself and your little one every step of the way.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main foods to avoid during pregnancy?

It is crucial to avoid raw seafood, undercooked meats, unpasteurized dairy products, excessive caffeine, alcohol, and high-mercury fish like shark and swordfish. These can pose serious health risks to you and your baby.

Is it safe to consume unpasteurized foods while pregnant?

Avoid unpasteurized foods like soft cheeses and juices as they may contain harmful bacteria such as listeria or E. coli that can lead to foodborne illnesses which are particularly risky during pregnancy.

Can I drink coffee or alcohol during pregnancy?

Limit caffeine intake from sources like coffee and tea as excess amounts can affect fetal growth. Alcohol consumption should be completely avoided during pregnancy due to its harmful impact on the developing baby’s health.

Are there any alternatives for prohibited foods during pregnancy?

Opt for safer alternatives such as pasteurized dairy products, cooked seafood low in mercury content, plenty of fruits and vegetables washed thoroughly, herbal teas approved by your healthcare provider instead of caffeine-laden beverages.

Why is it important to wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly when pregnant?

Washing fruits and vegetables helps remove dirt, pesticides, or harmful bacteria that could lead to foodborne illnesses. It reduces the risk of ingesting any contaminants that might harm you or your developing baby.

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