Foods To Avoid During Pregnancy

Foods To Avoid During Pregnancy

There are a lot of mixed messages out there about foods that are dangerous to eat while pregnant.

OB/GYN Dr. Helen Gorlitsky clarified what's in the clear, what should be eaten in moderation, and what to avoid altogether. She also explained how to minimize risks for eating things that could cause complications with the pregnancy.

Many of these recommendations come down to simply making sure that foods are clean and cooked thoroughly. Doing so reduces risk for contact with bacteria that could make the parent sick and cause complications in the pregnancy.

A healthy diet during pregnancy will is well-balanced and emphasizes protein over flours and sugar. This helps ensure proper nutrition and keeps the risk of developing gestational diabetes low.

Cooked Fish

Some fish are safe to eat during pregnancy, but others are not. Fish that are large and live longer lives are likely to have higher mercury content, and should be avoided throughout the pregnancy. Mercury consumed in food can harm a baby's nervous system as it develops. High-mercury fish include swordfish, shark, spiral fish, and mackerel.

Fish with low mercury content, like shrimp, salmon, tuna and trout, are safe to eat. Dietary guidelines for pregnant people recommend eating fish at two meals each week.

Raw Fish

Sushi or any other situation in which fish is prepared raw should be avoided by pregnant people. This minimizes risks for illness from bacteria that wouldn't be killed during the cooking process.

Unpasteurized cheese

Cheeses made with unpasteurized milk should be avoided throughout pregnancy because of bacteria that live in milk that aren't killed in the pasteurization process. These tend to be soft cheeses like brie and bleu cheese. A quick check on the ingredients label will tell you if a cheese is made with pasteurized milk or not.

Unwashed fruits and vegetables

While it's safe to eat all varieties of fruits and vegetables during pregnancy everything should be thoroughly washed beforehand to remove harmful bacteria. This goes for conventional or organic produce, both of which are safe and healthy to eat while pregnant.

Lunchmeat and hotdogs

Processed meats are often vulnerable to listeria, which can cause miscarriage. To reduce risk, all processed meats should be cooked thoroughly.

Raw eggs

Not just in cookie dough, raw eggs can turn up in everyday foods like Caesar dressing and homemade mayonnaise - or holiday treats like egg nog. Avoiding raw eggs reduces risk of contracting salmonella.


Caffeine is safe to consume in moderation during pregnancy. Only in extreme cases, like drinking upwards of six cups of coffee per day, does miscarriage become a risk. A more likely complication would be the baby’s developing temporary heart irregularities. To ensure safety for the baby, Dr. Gorlitsky recommends cutting typical caffeine consumption in half, but she isn't dead set on your kicking the habit entirely.

Alcohol and drugs

Dr. Gorlitsky says that when it comes to alcohol and drugs during pregnancy: "Just say no."

Updated June 6, 2016

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