What specific foods should I avoid if I am pregnant?

Melissa Joy Dobbins
Nutrition & Dietetics
Certain foods should be avoided during pregnancy:

Fish that contains high levels of mercury such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish should be avoided altogether. Albacore tuna should be limited to 6 ounces per week. Common types of fish that are lower in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish. You can eat up to 12 ounces of these fish per week while you are pregnant.

Foods that may contain the bacteria Listeria such as:
  • unpasteurized ("raw") milk or foods made with unpasteurized/raw milk including any unpasteurized soft cheeses such as blue, brie, goat or feta, queso blanco or fresco
  • raw or undercooked meat, poultry or shellfish
  • prepared meats such as lunchmeats and hot dogs (unless they are reheated until steaming hot)
  • other refrigerated, ready-to-eat foods such as chicken salad, egg salad, meat spreads or smoked seafood
Paula Greer
Midwifery Nursing
During your pregnancy you should avoid or limit caffeine.

It goes without saying that you should avoid all alcohol and recreational drugs during the entire pregnancy.

While you are expecting you need to be aware of coldcuts, deli meats and soft cheeses that may contain a harmful bacteria called listeria.

You will need to avoid fish that is high in mercury including albacore tuna.

Limit your intake of high fat foods, fried foods, junk foods, sugary foods and drinks, and trade them for calorie poor yet nutrient dense options instead. Make every calorie count for you and your baby and avoid unnecessary calories with no nutritive value.

Don't eat for two but as the YOUdocs say in their book YOU HAVING A BABY eat for 1.2. Your baby is not a full grown person and at best only needs about 300 calories a day.
Certain foods should be avoided during pregnancy because they contain substances or microorganisms that can cause problems.
  • unpasturized milk and dairy products, including soft cheeses such as feta and blue cheeses
  • unpasturized juices
  • foods high in salt, especially processed foods
  • undercooked meat, fish, and eggs
  • seafood that may have high mercury levels such as swordfish
  • shellfish
  • fish from polluted waters
  • unwashed vegetables and fruits
Patricia Geraghty, NP
Women's Health
Food safety and pregnancy is a frequently discussed topic. The goal is to maximize the quality of nutrition but also avoid any harmful substance. The best evidence suggest the following simple guidelines:
  • Raw fruits and vegetables may become contaminated in the growing process. They should always be washed. If you wish to peel a food item, always wash it first. 
  • Uncooked and undercooked meat, poultry and fish may have harmful bacteria. Avoid raw foods such as uncooked fish in sushi or fish prepared through marination rather than heat such as ceviche. Meat and poultry, especially when ground, should be thoroughly cooked.
  • Cheeses should always be pasteurized. There are no specific cheeses that should be avoided, as long as the product is pasteurized.
  • Fish is an excellent source of unique nutrients for the pregnant woman. At the same time, certain fish have been exposed to pollutants and mercury contamination. Avoid fish from polluted sources. The fish specifically identified as subject to high mercury levels should be limited to once a week intake. These are tuna, tilefish, shark and mackeral.
Most breastfeeding women can eat a wide variety of foods without problems. If your baby seems fussy after you have eaten a certain type of food, however, you may want to avoid certain spices, dairy products, or food proteins until your baby’s digestive system has developed better.
You should ask your health care provider for a comprehensive list of foods to avoid. This list will probably include: Seafood with high levels of mercury (such as swordfish, shark, king mackerel, tilefish, and possibly tuna); Undercooked meat, poultry or eggs; Unpasteurized milk products (Brie, Feta, Camembert, Blue cheese, Mexican-style cheeses, such as queso blanco, queso fresco and panela unless otherwise labeled); Also wash all foods well to make sure they are clear of any lingering bacteria, or pesticides and herbicides, and keep foods at their designated temperatures (i.e. cold foods cold and hot foods hot).

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.