Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

Article By
Kate
Published On
21 Feb, 2021
Read Time
5 minutes

As an expectant parent, it's crucial to be mindful of what you eat during your pregnancy. Your diet not only affects your health but also the health of your growing baby.

While there are plenty of nutritious foods to incorporate into your diet, it's equally important to be aware of the foods to avoid during pregnancy.

In this blog, we'll discuss some of the foods that pregnant people should steer clear of and explain why they can be harmful. By being aware of these foods, you can keep yourself and your baby healthy.

Eggs and dairy products

Can you eat eggs when pregnant?

While pregnant, the NHS advises that you can eat:

  • raw, partially cooked and fully cooked British Lion hen eggs (with a lion stamp) and hen eggs produced under the Laid in Britain scheme
  • foods made with raw hen eggs if they're British Lion eggs or hen eggs produced under the Laid in Britain scheme
  • well-cooked eggs (both white and yolk) from hen eggs that are not British Lion eggs or produced under the Laid in Britain scheme
  • well-cooked duck, goose, or quail eggs (white and yolk)

You should avoid eggs that are:

  • raw or partially cooked duck, goose, or quail eggs
  • raw or partially cooked that aren't British Lion or produced under the Laid in Britain scheme

Can you eat mayonnaise when pregnant?

Yes, commercial mayonnaise contains pasteurised eggs which are safe to eat. Homemade mayonnaise can be safe to eat if made using British Lion eggs.

Can you eat cheese while pregnant?

Most hard cheeses like cheddar or parmesan are safe to eat uncooked if they've been made with pasteurised milk.

Mould-ripened soft or blue-veined cheeses like brie, camembert or stilton are only safe to eat if they've been cooked.

Can you eat feta cheese when pregnant?

Pasteurised feta is safe to eat uncooked, but unpasteurised feta needs to be cooked first, for example in a tart or pasta dish.

Can you eat mozzarella when pregnant?

Yes, pasteurised mozzarella is safe to eat uncooked, but unpasteurised mozzarella needs to be cooked first, for example on a pizza.

Seafood and shellfish

Can you eat seafood when pregnant?

Shellfish, molluscs, and crustaceans come under the "seafood" umbrella. Fish isn't considered seafood. Most types of seafood are safe to eat when fully cooked, but we'll talk through each type one-by-one below for clarity.

Can you eat shellfish when pregnant?

Yes, but you should avoid raw shellfish and make sure that any shellfish you do eat is cooked thoroughly to reduce the risk of food poisoning.

Can you eat prawns when pregnant?

Cooked prawns are safe to eat while you're pregnant, but they can cause food poisoning if eaten raw. They should be cooked through until steaming hot.

It's safe to eat cold pre-cooked prawns when you're pregnant.

Can you eat lobster when pregnant?

Cooked lobster is safe to eat, but if it's eaten raw it can cause food poisoning. Any lobster you eat while pregnant should be cooked through until steaming hot.

Can you eat mussels when pregnant?

Cooked mussels are safe to eat, but raw ones should be avoided because they can cause food poisoning. They need to be fully cooked through until steaming hot, and you should always avoid eating closed mussels.

It's also worth noting that mussels and clams are often cooked in a white wine sauce that needs to be thoroughly cooked to allow the alcohol to evaporate. For this reason, some pregnant people choose to avoid sauces cooked with wine or other types of alcohol. 

Can you eat squid when pregnant?

Cooked squid is safe to eat but it can cause food poisoning if eaten raw. Squid should be fully cooked through until steaming hot.

Can you eat oysters when pregnant?

Cooked oysters are safe to eat but raw ones can cause food poisoning. They should be fully cooked through until steaming hot.

Fish

Can you eat fish while pregnant?

Shark, swordfish, or marlin should be avoided during pregnancy, and you should limit your intake of tuna (and other oily fish) to no more than four medium-sized cans, or two fresh tuna steaks a week. This is because they contain unsafe levels of mercury which may be harmful to your baby's nervous system.

Can you eat smoked fish while pregnant?

If you're pregnant you should avoid eating smoked fish products (such as smoked salmon, mackerel, whitefish and trout) unless it's been thoroughly cooked because of the risk of contracting listeria monocytogenes. If you do eat smoked fish, make sure it's steaming hot all the way through.

Can you eat sushi while pregnant?

Yes, you can eat sushi while pregnant if the fish has been cooked thoroughly.

Should I be 'eating for two' while pregnant?

The truth is that 'eating for two' is a bit of a myth. During the first six months of pregnancy the energy requirements of mums-to-be do not increase because your body adapts and becomes much more efficient at utilising the energy and nutrients from the food you eat.

When it comes to the last three months of pregnancy however, you may need an extra 200 calories or so a day to accommodate your growing baby.

It's normal for your appetite to fluctuate and your weight gradually increase during pregnancy, so it's important to listen to your body. But it's also important not to eat too much, and on the flip side, don't attempt to diet or lose weight during your pregnancy. Too much weight gain or loss can affect the health of you and your baby.

Meat products

Can you eat liver while pregnant?

No, liver sausage and pâtés - even veggie pâté - can contain listeria and are naturally high in vitamin A which can be toxic in high doses.

Can you eat cured meats while pregnant?

Smoked or cured meats are safe to eat if they're cooked first.

Can you eat game meat while pregnant?

The presence of lead in shotgun pellets means game meat like pheasant or partridge should be avoided during pregnancy.

Drinks

Can you drink caffeine while pregnant?

Consuming large amounts of caffeine while you're pregnant can affect the growth and development of your unborn baby and can increase the risks of miscarriage.

It's best to limit your caffeine intake and have no more than 200mg per day - that's approximately two cups of instant coffee or four cups of tea. Don't worry - you can always switch to decaf!

You should avoid energy drinks that contain guarana or caffeine.

Can you drink alcohol while pregnant?

If you're pregnant or planning a pregnancy, the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all, to keep risks to your baby to a minimum.

A tasty and healthy alternative to drinking alcohol while you're pregnant is non-alcoholic ginger beer. As well as being super scrumptious, ginger is also perfect for fighting morning sickness and nausea - win, win.  

Can you drink milk while pregnant?

Yes, you can drink milk if it's pasteurised.

Raw milk should be avoided because it can contain harmful bacteria that can cause listeria, among other dangerous diseases. And it's not just cow's milk to be mindful of - raw milk from goats, sheep or any other animal, can carry harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning.  

When milk is pasteurised, it kills harmful bacteria by heating the milk but doesn't decrease its nutritional value.

Can you drink herbal teas while pregnant?

To be safe, you shouldn't drink more than four cups of herbal tea a day. This is because there's little evidence or data around herbs and their effects on pregnancy and a baby's development. You should opt for a variety of different teas so you're not having too much of any one kind and avoid medicinal or therapeutic doses of herbs all together.

Can you drink sugary drinks while pregnant?

Although artificial sweeteners in moderation are safe for pregnancy, you should try to avoid consuming too many sugary drinks during pregnancy.