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  • Writer's pictureSarah Torres

Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

You’re pregnant. You’re starving. You could eat anything and everything in sight. Except maybe that cooked chicken. Maybe you can’t even smell that cooked chicken without feeling sick to your stomach. Baby doesn’t like cooked chicken. Baby also doesn’t like garlic or onion or tomatoes, but instead of sending signals to your nausea receptors, baby lets you know by sending the most incredible heartburn you never thought was even possible. Miss you, Grandma’s homemade pasta sauce. And pizza. And tacos with spicy salsa. Or at least, miss you without suffering later. You reach for a salad tossed with some delicious feta and strawberries and a light vinagrette when your bestie who you’re brunching with puts down her mimosa (the nerve of her to drink it in front of you) and hollers, “NOOOOO! You can’t have that! It has soft cheese in it!!” First no mimosa and now no delicious brunchie salad?? Could it be true? Should you really not eat that beautiful leafy plate of deliciousness? What does that list of “no-nos” even actually look like??

My dear pregnant friends, I give you: A list of things to give up until after baby is born!

Soft Cheeses

I brought it up, so let’s start here. It turns out this mimosa sipping “friend” is only somewhat correct in her conjecture. Soft cheeses *are* on the list of things pregnant women should avoid, however there are some exceptions! If the cheese was produced and packaged in the United States, has been kept in a food-safe environment specific to its needs, and is made from pasteurized milk, you should be in the clear. However, if the cheese falls outside of any of those three specifications, it’s best to wait until after baby is born. Soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk can carry Listeria which can be extremely dangerous for both you and your cozy little peanut.

Deli Meats

Speaking of listeria, deli meats are another food that pregnant women should avoid. Because of production and common storage practices of deli meats, they have been known to contain listeria more often than many other types of foods. If your pregnancy cravings demand that you indulge in some of that thinly sliced roast beef, make sure you heat the meat thoroughly in order to kill any potential bacteria before eating.


Another meat product to avoid during pregnancy due to risk of listeria exposure is pate or other meat pastes. Some canned meat spreads may be safe to eat, however when in doubt, it’s best to avoid it all together. Save your pasty meats for a postpartum day!

Smoked Seafood

Unfortunately, smoked seafood also has the possibility of containing listeria. So while brunching with your buddies, it’s safest to skip the lox on your bagel unless the seafood has been prepared for shelf storage. Any smoked seafood that requires refrigerator storage should be avoided.

Unpasteurized Milk

Much like soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk, unpasteurized milk itself is a possible carrier of that dang inconsiderate listeria. If you’re buying milk at your local farmer’s market or getting it from a farming friend, be sure to ask before you consume if the milk has been pasteurized or not!

Raw/Undercooked Meats

Now that we know all these delicious foods that listeria has put the pregnancy kaibosh on, we move on to salmonella… Raw and undercooked meats have the potential to contain salmonella which can be especially dangerous for pregnant women. Raw and undercooked meats also have the potential to contain coliform bacteria and can also potentially carry toxoplasmosis. So go for that filet mignon with a balsamic reduction and a side of broccolini and mashed potatoes, but maybe ask for it to be cooked all the way through and wait on the rare order until after baby joins the outside world.

Raw Eggs

Everytime I dip my finger in the cookie dough, I flash back to my childhood - my dad grabbing my hand from the delicious bowl full of cookie mush, telling me to wait until they’re baked because the raw eggs could make me sick.

You can bet your bottom that the first thing I did when I moved into my own place as a freshman in college, I made cookies and I ate about half of that dough raw. Take that, possible salmonella exposure. Thankfully, the eggs I used must not have been contaminated because, now that I’m a bit more experienced in the food world I know that salmonella is a real possibility with raw eggs. So, pregnant mommas, resist the urge to dip into that raw cookie dough! Or maybe find an egg-free cookie recipe so that you can indulge in those cravings.

*side note* with the holidays approaching, I’ve been asked by many clients about drinking eggnog. Check to make sure the nog you’re buying is using pasteurized eggs or has been pasteurized to avoid salmonella exposure

**side note to the side note** My dad makes the most delicious homemade eggnog and when my youngest was born in March I requested he bring a pint of his homemade eggnog to the birth center for me to enjoy with my first postpartum meal. Best. Eggnog. Ever.

Raw Shellfish

Raw Shellfish is one of those “weigh the risks with the benefits” sort of situations for non-pregnant people as they absolutely contain the potential to carry seafood borne illnesses. With risks that high for someone not carrying precious cargo in their uterus, it’s really best for pregnant women to completely avoid that culinary experience.

Fish with High Levels of Mercury

Very often, the bigger the fish, the higher level of mercury that fish will contain. Eating fish high in mercury can cause increased exposure to you and

your unborn baby and should be avoided. High levels of mercury consumption in pregnancy has been correlated with developmental delays and possible brain damage for babies. Some canned tunas may be lower in mercury, however canned tuna should be eaten with moderation or otherwise avoided during pregnancy.

Fish Exposed to Industrial Pollutants

Great Uncle Larry went fishing and Great Aunt Susan invited you and your partner over to dine on his catch and tell you all the Wives’ Tales she *knows* to be true. Before you dig into that enormous piece of fish Aunt Susan has served you, it might be a good idea to find out a bit more about where Uncle Larry catch his prize. Fish caught in lakes and rivers that have been contaminated by industrial pollutants could contain high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls and should be avoided. To find more information on rivers and lakes that are more seriously affected by industrial pollutants, you can contact your local health department or the EPA to find more information on pollution levels in local waters.


Your brunching bestie not only has had two mimosas but she has also now had three cups of coffee and watching her waive the nurse over for refills is filling you with sadness. Oh, sweet, delectable coffee. That rich smell and

the burst of energy that inevitably follows. It’s a cruel joke that during one of the most exhausting time periods of a mother’s life (pregnancy), caffeine is so limited. While it’s generally encouraged that women refrain from consuming caffeine during pregnancy, differing medical opinions suggest that limiting caffeine consumption to a maximum of between 150-400mg per day is best.


Alcohol is generally understood by almost all to be unsafe for consumption during pregnancy. Several studies over many decades have been done and there is an undeniable link between regular alcohol consumption and developmental delays like Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. While some laypersons may suggest that some alcohol consumption in moderation may be acceptable, medical providers everywhere discourage any and all alcohol consumption during pregnancy as a solid rule. Don’t drink and gestate. ::Longingly stares at mimosa::

***Disclaimer: This list may not be fully comprehensive. ALWAYS speak with your medical provider regarding your health and concerns during (and outside of) pregnancy and postpartum periods. This article is not meant to provide any medical advice and should not replace the recommendations of your medical provider.***


#prenatal #pregnancy #unsafefoods #diet #pregnancydiet #whatnottoeat #dangerousfoods #foodsafety

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