Foods to avoid in pregnancy
Food and drink to avoid
Healthy eating during pregnancy is as much about which foods to avoid as which foods to eat. Some food may harm your baby as well as making you ill, so food safety needs to be a priority. Now that you’re pregnant, you should really leave the following foods out of your diet:
- Undercooked or raw eggs, or foods likely to be made with them (home-made mousses and mayonnaise, may contain raw eggs). Eggs should be cooked until hard.
- Undercooked or very rare meat and fish – there should be no pink bits left (even if that’s the way you usually like it!).
- Raw meat like steak tartare.
- Raw shellfish such as oysters.
- Unpasteurised milk – including goats’ and sheep’s milk, cheese or yogurt.
- Mould-ripened soft cheeses (with a white rind), like brie, camembert and chévre, unless they’ve been cooked.
- Soft, blue-veined cheeses like gorgonzola and roquefort, unless they’ve been cooked.
- Liver and liver pâté – these can have excessive amounts of vitamin A which can harm your baby.
- Pâté – avoid all types of pâté, even vegetable.
- Swordfish, marlin and shark. These fish can contain potentially unsafe levels of mercury which can harm your baby’s developing nervous system. Tuna also contains mercury, so limit the amount you eat to up to four medium-size cans (140g drained weight, per can) OR two fresh steaks (up to 170g raw weight, per steak) a week.
- Alcohol – drinking while you’re pregnant can cause long-term harm to your baby. The more you drink, the greater the risk, so it’s best not to touch it.
- Caffeine – found in tea, coffee, cola and chocolate. High levels can lead to low birth weight in babies or even a miscarriage. Don't have more than 200mg a day (2 mugs of instant coffee, 2 mugs of tea or 4 cups of green tea).
- Foods with soil on them – wash fruit, vegetables and salads, so there’s no trace of any soil or dirt.
- Vitamins or fish oil supplements – avoid high-dose multivitamins, fish liver oil supplements or any containing vitamin A.
If you travel, you might hear contradictory information. But stick to these UK recommendations.
Can I eat...?
Fancy a prawn salad or a smoked salmon bagel? Then tuck in! Certain foods you might think you should avoid are actually considered safe to eat in pregnancy. These include:
- Sushi – as long as the fish has been frozen first, or is made from farmed salmon.
- Smoked salmon.
- Cooked seafood such as prawns, mussels, crab and scallops.
- Pasteurised soft cheese – cream cheese, feta, mozzarella, ricotta, halloumi, paneer and cottage cheese.
- Cold cured meats – salami, chorizo and parma ham are safe as long as the pack says it’s ready-to-eat, and you freeze it for 4 days before eating.
- Pre-packed meats like ham and corned beef.
- Peanuts and peanut butter – unless you’re allergic to them or your health professional tells you not to.
- Stilton – and other hard cheeses like parmesan and cheddar.
- Hard goats’ cheese – or soft goats’ cheese if it’s been cooked, on a pizza for example.
- Ice cream – processed soft ice cream is made from pasteurised milk and eggs. If you make your own choose an egg-free recipe.
One last tip
Remember, safe food preparation is really important. So always check that any ready meals or reheated foods are piping hot all the way through before you eat them.