During pregnancy, there are certain foods that you need to avoid and others that you need to limit your intake of or take more care with how they’re prepared.
As everyone no doubt keeps telling you, you’re eating for two now (eyeroll). And obviously, what you’re putting into your body needs to provide nutrition for both you and your baby. You want to be as healthy as possible (while giving into the occasional craving of course) as well as avoiding any foods that may be harmful to your baby or cause pregnancy complications.
It can be a lot to take in. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, we’ve put together a list of all the things you should be avoiding to make it easier to get to grips with what you can and can’t eat during pregnancy.
Raw or undercooked meat
It’s important to avoid eating any meat that’s not thoroughly cooked throughout pregnancy. In particular, make sure that any poultry, pork, sausages, and burgers are well cooked so that there’s definitely no pink in the meat.
You should also consider avoiding cured meats such as chorizo, pepperoni, salami, and parma ham. Although the risk is fairly low, these meats are not technically cooked so they could have parasites in them. Eating cured meats that have been cooked on a pizza is okay though.
Undercooked meat could potentially contain a parasite called toxoplasmosis, which can cause harm to you and your baby.
Food containing vitamin A
Avoid any foods that have vitamin A added to them — too much can cause harm to your baby.
Don’t take any multivitamins that contain vitamin A (retinol) or fish liver oils, and steer clear of liver or liver products like pâté which contain a high amount of vitamin A.
If you’re unsure how much is too much when it comes to vitamin A, speak to your midwife, GP or medical team and they’ll be able to advise you further.
Unpasteurised milk and dairy products
During pasteurisation, dairy products are heated to a very high temperature, which kills microbes that can cause disease or illness.
Unpasteurised milk and other dairy products that use raw milk still contain these potentially harmful bacteria, such as Listeria. These can include cream, yoghurt, and products containing goat’s or sheep’s milk.
Listeria can make you seriously ill, and can even cause miscarriage, pre-term birth, or stillbirth. Pregnant women are much more likely to get ill and have problems due to listeria.
Always read the label when choosing dairy products while pregnant.
Soft cheese and blue cheese
When you’re pregnant, you should avoid eating certain cheeses including:
- Mould-ripened soft cheese that has a white coating on the outside, including cheeses like brie and camembert
- Soft blue cheeses including gorgonzola and Danish blue
- Soft goats cheese
Because these cheeses are unpasteurised there’s a chance they could contain listeria, a bacteria that can cause an infection that harms your baby. However, it is safe to eat these cheeses if they have been cooked thoroughly.
It’s completely fine to carry on eating hard cheeses, soft pasteurised cheeses (like mozzarella, feta, halloumi, or paneer), goats cheese as long as it doesn’t have a white rind, and processed cheese spreads.
Certain types of fish or seafood
While fish can be a really good source of many vitamins and minerals that you need during pregnancy, you do need to limit how much you eat.
If you eat fish then stick to around two portions each week, and make one portion of an oily fish like salmon, herring, or mackerel. Oily fish can do a lot to support your baby’s development, especially the nervous system. However, avoid eating more than two portions per week as they can contain harmful pollutants.
You also need to be careful about how much tuna you are eating — don’t eat more than two tuna steaks or four cans of tuna per week. Tuna contains higher levels of mercury than other fishes, which can also harm your baby. Avoid eating swordfish, shark, and marlin altogether as they have high levels of mercury.
It’s also not safe to eat raw shellfish as they could contain viruses, bacteria, and toxins that give you food poisoning.
Can you eat shellfish during pregnancy?
It is generally considered fine to eat shellfish such as prawns, crabs, mussels, and oysters while pregnant — as long as it’s been cooked — but raw shellfish should be avoided as it can cause food poisoning.
It’s important to thoroughly wash any salad before you eat it, and only eat salad that’s been kept in the fridge and is within its use-by date.
Salads can quickly grow bacteria when they’re left out of the fridge, and as you don’t cook them there’s a risk that this will cause harm to you and your baby.
Raw or undercooked eggs
When you’re pregnant it’s important to only eat eggs that have the British Lion stamp on them. This is because these are far less likely to contain salmonella.
You can still eat foods with raw egg in them such as mayonnaise — as long as the eggs used to make them are British Lion eggs.
You should avoid eating any raw or partially cooked eggs that aren’t British Lion, and only eat eggs not from hens such as duck, goose, or quail eggs if they have been cooked through with solid yolks and whites.
Don’t eat any meat or vegetable pâté while pregnant — there’s a risk they contain bacteria that can make you ill and cause harm to your baby.
Overall, you just need to be aware of what foods can potentially harm you and your baby. By avoiding these foods, eating a healthy balanced diet, and staying as active as possible you’ll be doing everything you can to support your baby’s growth.