There is a TON of misinformation out there about what foods you should and shouldn’t eat when you’re pregnant. Most people probably never give it a second thought until it’s their turn.
While most things are safe to eat, there are some that could cause infection to your baby and could even potentially cause miscarriage should they be contaminated.
If you have already eaten some of these items, don’t freak out. Even though these risks are real, statistically speaking, it is very unlikely that you have been exposed. Use this information moving forward.
Let’s go over 9 foods (and drinks) you should avoid when you’re pregnant.
1. Raw Sushi
Sushi has gotten a bad wrap in pregnancy. Most people think you can’t eat sushi at all, but that is not true. The sushi you need to avoid is either sushi with raw fish in it or sushi with high-mercury fish. Americanpregnancy.org has a complete list of the types of fish to avoid in sushi, or you can refer to #3 below.
2. Cold cuts and hot dogs
Cold cuts, hot dogs, and deli-style meats can be potentially contaminated with Listeria which is a bacteria that likes to live in cold temperatures. It can cause miscarriage so you should avoid exposure.
If you like eating lunch meat sandwiches, not to worry. You can still have them. Just make sure you heat the meat until it is steaming to kill any listeria that might have been present. Keep this in mind if you’re eating out as well.
3. Too much seafood
The concern with seafood is the mercury content. You actually NEED some seafood, specifically healthy fish which is rich in omega fatty acids. However, it is a balancing act.
Avoid the “big fish” in nature like fresh tuna, shark, king mackerel, swordfish, tilefish, and “sport-caught” fish. These big guys eat lots of little guys and thus their mercury content can be higher.
Canned tuna is OK in small quantities. You can also eat haddock, cod, shrimp, herring, sardines, pompano, whitefish, and canned Alaskan salmon, but no more than about two 6-ounce servings per week.
4. Raw eggs or things made with raw eggs
Eggs and other poultry products can contain salmonella which is a source of foodborne illness. You should never consume raw eggs. Be careful when eating some foods like Hollandaise sauce, Caesar dressing, homemade ice cream, and mayonnaise which can have raw eggs in them depending on how they are prepared.
In general, when you buy these items commercially, they are made with pasteurized eggs and thus they are not dangerous because harmful bacteria would be killed in the pasteurization process. Any dishes containing eggs should be heated to 160 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure any salmonella have been killed.
5. Soft cheeses
Soft cheeses can also harbor listeria like we discussed above. Americanpregnancy.org recommends avoiding the following cheeses while you’re pregnant (unless they specifically state they have been pasteurized, which will kill listeria):
- Blue-veined cheese
- Mexican-style cheese like queso fresco, queso blanco, and panela
Instead, opt for hard cheese like cheddar or semi-soft cheese like mozzarella. It is also safe to eat cheese slices like you would put on a sandwich as long as it has been pasteurized. Most of the cheeses you can buy commercially have been.
6. Refrigerated pates, meat spreads, or smoked seafood
Again, these items may contain listeria. Unless these items are included in dishes that have been cooked, you should not eat them while you are pregnant. Commercially-available canned shelf-safe versions of these items, however, are considered safe.
7. Raw or undercooked meat or seafood
Meat and seafood that is not properly and thoroughly cooked can harbor harmful bacteria like E. coli and salmonella. Do not consume raw or rare meat while pregnant. According to foodsafety.gov, meats should be cooked to the following temperatures to be safe:
- Ground beef – 160°
- Chicken or turkey – 165°
- Pork – 145°
- Shrimp/lobster/crab – until meat is pearly and opaque
- Clams/oysters/mussels – until shells open during cooking
- Scallops – until milky white or opaque and firm
8. Too much caffeine
We believe some amount of caffeine is probably safe during pregnancy, but studies are conflicted so we don’t really know how much is OK. Since we don’t fully know how caffeine impacts a developing baby, limit your caffeine as much as possible.
I encourage moms to have no more than one cup of regular coffee per day or approximately 200mg of caffeine. This does NOT mean THIS SIZE cup (see the picture to the right)…..it means a regular sized cup….about 12 ounces. Remember many other products also have caffeine like Coke/Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Mellow Yellow, and many others. Completely avoid energy drinks.
Caffeine is also a diuretic which means it causes your body to lose water and can cause dehydration. Increase your water intake to compensate for what will be lost through caffeine intake.
There is some thought that caffeine may cause withdrawal symptoms in babies after birth. It also may contribute to miscarriage or cause premature birth or low birth weight in babies. With so many unknowns, it is safest to avoid caffeine during pregnancy.
No amount of alcohol intake is considered safe in pregnancy. Too much alcohol can cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. We don’t know for sure what amount or at what point during pregnancy this occurs, so it is not safe to risk drinking alcohol in any amount during any trimester of pregnancy.
What are some of your favorite foods you have to do without or change during pregnancy? How do you cut back on things like coffee and caffeine? Share below! I’d love to hear from you!