Foods to avoid during Pregnancy

When you’re pregnant, everything that goes into your mouth gets shared with your growing baby. Even though some types of foods and even some types of food poisoning may not hurt you, they may harm your little one.

To avoid food poisoning, be careful not to eat any food left out of the refrigerator for more than two hours (or more than one hour in hot weather).

To stay safe, also avoid these foods during your pregnancy.

Raw or undercooked meat

Avoid undercooked meat, especially sausages or minced meat because there is a risk of toxoplasmosis, a tiny parasite that lives in raw meat, soil and cat poo and can harm the baby.

Cook them thoroughly to remove trace of pink or blood. Although the risk is low, you may also prefer to avoid raw cured meat, such as Parma ham, chorizo, pepperoni and salami. It’s safest to eat well-cooked meat when you’re pregnant.

Unpasteurised milk and dairy products

Most milk sold in shops, supermarkets and restaurants in the are pasteurised and fine to drink. If you are a farmer or use farmers’ markets, however, you might come across unpasteurised milk and products made from it. You should avoid these because of increased risk of toxoplasmosis, listeriosis and Campylobacter. Unpasteurised milk also applies to goat’s milk and sheep’s milk. If you only have access to unpasteurised milk, boil it before using.

Liver and other foods containing vitamin A

Liver has high levels of vitamin A, and too much of this can harm your baby. Avoid liver and liver products, such as liver pâté and liver sausage. It’s not safe to take multivitamins containing vitamin A or fish liver oils, such as cod liver oil. Also steer clear of any foods that have vitamin A added (they may say ‘fortified with vitamin A’).

Undercooked ready meals

It’s important to follow the cooking instructions on the pack of any ready meals you eat. Also, check that the meal is piping hot all the way through before you eat it. This is especially important for meals containing poultry, such as chicken or turkey. There’s a risk that these could contain listeria.

Raw eggs or undercooked eggs

It’s important that any eggs you eat are cooked until the yolks and whites are solid all the way through. Using eggs in cooked recipes is safe but avoid foods that have raw egg in them, such as homemade mayonnaise or mousse. There’s a risk of salmonella, a common cause of food poisoning that can harm the baby and make you very unwell.

Certain kinds of fish

Fish is good for you and you should aim to eat at least two portions a week, including one portion of oily fish, such as fresh tuna, mackerel or sardines. However, there are some types of fish you should avoid and some you should limit:

  • Avoid shark, swordfish and marlin as they have high levels of mercury, which could affect your baby’s nervous system.
  • Limit tuna to no more than two fresh steaks or four medium cans of tinned tuna a week because it also has high levels of mercury.
  • Limit oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout, herring, pilchards) to no more than two portions a week as they contain pollutants.
  • Avoid eating raw shellfish, such as oysters, as they may give you food poisoning. (Cooked shellfish are fine – these include cold pre-cooked prawns.)

Alcohol

Alcohol can harm you and your baby, and experts cannot be sure that any amount of alcohol is safe. It’s safest to avoid alcohol completely during pregnancy, especially in the first three months. If you do choose to drink after that, keep it to a maximum of one or two units, no more than once or twice a week.

Caffeine

Drinking a lot of caffeine in pregnancy has been linked to miscarriage and low birth weight.

Caffeine is found in:

  • tea and coffee
  • cola and other soft drinks
  • chocolate

You should limit your caffeine intake to no more than 200mg a day during your pregnancy.

A can of cola has around 40mg of caffeine, a mug of tea has around 75mg, a bar of plain chocolate has around 50mg, a cup of instant coffee has around 100mg, a mug of filter coffee has around 140mg.

It can add up quickly – you will reach your limit with, for example:

  • one bar of plain chocolate and one mug of filter coffee
  • two mugs of tea and one can of cola

Fruits and Veggies

You should avoid

  • fruits and vegetables that are unwashed.
  • store-bought fresh-squeezed or any unpasteurized juice.
  • raw sprouts and unripe pawpaw.