10 Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

If you are expecting (or know someone who is) and you are wondering which foods to avoid during pregnancy, this article is for you.

As an expectant mother, you will want whatever is best for your unborn baby. 

And one way to ensure that your baby is safe and getting everything they need is by paying attention to your diet. 

Every meal you consume while pregnant may have an impact on your and your baby’s health.

While most food and beverages are safe, there are a few that you should minimize or stay away from.

Keep reading for a list of 10 foods to avoid during pregnancy, and the reasons why.

Related Read: Foods To Induce Labor: Pineapple, Spicy Food, Dates & More

foods to avoid during pregnancy infographic

10 Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

Here are ten foods and beverages that pregnant women are generally recommended to avoid or limit during pregnancy:

1. Raw or undercooked meat and poultry

Meat, chicken, and eggs are great sources of protein. However, raw or undercooked animal proteins may contain various harmful bacteria that are dangerous for both you and your growing baby. 

One common organism found in undercooked and raw animal products is Salmonella. Infection with Salmonella causes fever and chills, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps. 

All of these could lead to dehydration and impact your baby’s growth negatively.

On rare occasions, severe Salmonella infection could cause low amniotic fluid, preterm delivery, and stillbirth. 

Salmonella can also cross the placenta and directly infect your baby. Babies born when the mother is still sick with Salmonella can rarely develop a blood infection (salmonellosis). They can also get an infection of the coverings of their brain or spinal cord.

Other harmful organisms you can contact from raw or undercooked animal proteins include E. Coli, Clostridium perfringens, Toxoplasma, and Listeria. Listeria causes even worse problems than Salmonella does.

So, you may want to consider having your steak well done and skipping eggnog, poached eggs, or homemade mayo until your baby is born.

vitamins for energy

2. Raw or undercooked seafood

Seafood is an excellent source of proteins, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins like vitamin A, some of the B vitamins, and vitamin D. 

They are also very rich in minerals like potassium, selenium, manganese, iodine, and calcium, among others. These are all essential nutrients that can help promote a healthy pregnancy.  

The problem arises when seafood is consumed raw or when it is not properly cooked. Raw seafood can be harmful to both you and your growing baby because, like raw or undercooked animal products, they can serve as reservoirs for pathogens. 

These pathogens could be viral, parasitic, or bacterial. Examples are astrovirus and norovirus, tapeworms, Vibrio, Salmonella, and Listeria.

Some of these infections may have an impact on you, leaving you weak and dehydrated from diarrhea and vomiting – which is not healthy for your baby. 

Other illnesses caused by raw seafood consumption could be transmitted to your unborn child and have dire, even deadly, effects.

Listeria infections are particularly dangerous for expectant mothers. This is mostly because it can cross the placenta and lead to early delivery, miscarriage, stillbirth, and other major health issues. 

Compared to the general population, pregnant women have up to a 10-fold increased risk of contracting Listeria, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Hispanic women who are pregnant are 24 times more in danger.

Even if you are not showing symptoms, listeria germs can still be transferred from you to your baby through the placenta. 

Therefore, it is strongly advised to stay away from raw fish and shellfish, which includes many sushi meals, during pregnancy.

3. Seafood high in mercury

Mercury is a highly toxic compound that can be found in seafood, particularly big fish. In fishes, mercury is present in its most toxic form – methylmercury. 

It is toxic to the kidneys, nervous system, digestive system, immune system, lungs, and even the skin. 

Mercury exposure during pregnancy can cause brain damage, hearing loss, and vision impairment in infants. 

Unfortunately, techniques used in food processing, preparation, and cooking don’t considerably lower the mercury content of fish.

Fishes can absorb mercury into their muscles from the water around them, but primarily from the prey they consume. This is why mercury is found in higher concentrations in large fish that prey on smaller fish. 

As such, large fish are the types of fish to avoid during pregnancy. Examples include:

  • Shark
  • Ray
  • Swordfish
  • King mackerel
  • Barramundi
  • Gemfish
  • Ling
  • Marlin
  • Tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico
  • Orange roughy
  • Southern bluefin tuna.

It is important to note that mercury toxicity should not completely deter you from consuming seafood because only certain species of fish are high in mercury. 

Fishes are an excellent source of protein, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are important for a healthy pregnancy.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), consuming low-mercury fish while pregnant is quite healthy and can be done up to three times each week.

There are many types of fish with low mercury levels. Some of them are:

  • Catfish
  • Cod
  • Herring
  • Oysters
  • Pollock
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Shrimp
  • Tilapia
  • Trout
  • Anchovies
  • Flounder

4. Unpasteurized dairy products

Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese are rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals like calcium. 

However, when these are consumed raw and unpasteurized, they could be dangerous for your health and that of your baby.

The bacteria found in unpasteurized products are likely to develop naturally or be introduced during collection and storage. 

Pasteurization is the most efficient technique to kill harmful bacteria in dairy products without changing their nutritional content.

Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter are just a few of the dangerous bacteria that can be found in raw milk, in unpasteurized and soft cheeses like blue cheese, and yogurt. 

Avoiding these reduces your risk of infection and transmitting those infections to your baby via the placenta.

5. Alcohol

According to the CDC, there is no proven safe level of alcohol that you can consume during pregnancy. The best option is to avoid alcohol completely.

Studies show alcohol consumption during pregnancy or even before the awareness of pregnancy increases the chance of complications like miscarriage, preterm birth, low birth weight, and stillbirth. 

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), characterized by congenital disabilities, abnormal facial features, and developmental disabilities, can also result from drinking alcohol while pregnant.

All types of alcohol, including red or white wine, beer, and tequila, should be avoided.

6. Caffeine

When it comes to caffeine, most people get excited as it provides them with their daily dose of energy. 

During pregnancy, however, women should limit their daily caffeine intake to less than 200 milligrams (mg), according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

Because caffeine is a stimulant, it can increase your blood pressure and heart rate. These are both things you need to avoid during pregnancy. 

In addition, caffeine causes an increased frequency of urination which reduces your body fluids and may cause dehydration.  

In the later stages of pregnancy, caffeine in any amount can alter your baby’s typical movement or sleep patterns because of its stimulant effect.

With all this in mind, it is best to skip your usual morning pick-me-up while pregnant. Stay away from various foods and drinks that contain caffeine. 

Foods and drinks that contain caffeine include:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Cocoa
  • Chocolate
  • Soda

7. Animal organs

Organ meat refers to animal internal organs and other non-meaty portions such as the liver, brain, tongue, skin, kidney, and intestines. 

Organ meat is a great source of many nutrients like proteins, iron, vitamin B12, zinc, selenium, copper, and vitamin A, all of which are beneficial to both you and your baby.

However, it is best to consume organ meat in moderate quantities, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy. This is because organ meat is very rich in vitamin A. 

Studies show excess vitamin A may be harmful to your baby and could lead to congenital abnormalities and miscarriage.

8. Unclean plant produce

Unwashed fruits and vegetables are reservoirs for harmful bacteria and parasites such as Listeria, Campylobacter, Toxoplasma, nematodes, and some viruses. 

Contamination can occur during the harvest, processing, storage, or transport of fresh plant produce.

Toxoplasma is a potentially harmful parasite that can survive on fruits and vegetables. Expectant mothers who get infected may show little to no symptoms, and most babies that contract the toxoplasma parasite while still in the womb are symptom-free when they are born. 

However, later in life, symptoms such as blindness and intellectual problems may appear.

So, it is very important to thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables before eating them while pregnant.

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9. Uncooked sprouts

Sprouts such as clover, radish, and mung beans may be contaminated with bacteria because they are grown in warm and humid environments that make it easy for bacteria to thrive. 

What’s worse is that these bacteria may invade the sprout seeds even before they are grown, making it close to impossible to get rid of them with regular washing.  

In light of this, consuming raw sprouts during pregnancy is not advised. However, according to the FDA, they are safe to eat after thorough cooking.

10. Processed foods and junk

Because of hormones, food cravings are common in pregnancy, and many expectant mothers particularly crave junk and processed foods.  

However, processed foods are a poor choice during pregnancy, and it is best to avoid them. Not only are they very low in nutrients, but they also contain high amounts of calories and fat. 

Consuming them puts your baby at risk of growth problems, genetic abnormalities, and abnormal development.

Also, studies show that pregnant women who eat junk food run the danger of exposing their unborn children to acrylamide, which is thought to negatively affect fetal growth. 

Acrylamide is created when starch-rich foods, such as bread and potatoes, are baked or cooked at extremely high temperatures. Consequently, it might be found in foods like potato chips and fries.

Because of their high carb and fat content, junk and processed foods put you at risk of excessive weight gain, which is linked to several complications and diseases. 

One of them is gestational diabetes, a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy. It can cause issues such as having a very large baby, birth trauma, or stillbirth.  


During pregnancy, your baby’s growth and development hugely depend on what you eat. Thus, it is important to know which foods are advisable and which ones to steer clear of.

Pregnancy is a wonderful opportunity to start consuming nutrient-rich meals that benefit both you and your unborn baby. 

While the majority of foods and drinks can be consumed during pregnancy without any problems, you should avoid foods such as undercooked animal products, unpasteurized dairy products, and fish high in mercury.

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  1. Bailey BA, Sokol RJ. Prenatal alcohol exposure and miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm delivery, and sudden infant death syndrome. Alcohol Res Health. 2011.
  2. Bastos Maia S, Rolland Souza AS, Costa Caminha MF, Lins da Silva S, Callou Cruz RSBL, Carvalho Dos Santos C, Batista Filho M. Vitamin A and Pregnancy: A Narrative Review. Nutrients. 2019.
  3. Duarte-Salles T, von Stedingk H, Granum B, Gützkow KB, Rydberg P, Törnqvist M, Mendez MA, Brunborg G, Brantsæter AL, Meltzer HM, Alexander J, Haugen M. Dietary acrylamide intake during pregnancy and fetal growth-results from the Norwegian mother and child cohort study (MoBa). Environ Health Perspect. 2013.
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