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Healthy Eating During Pregnancy: Foods to Avoid

Eating healthy during pregnancy is vital for both the mother and the baby. Part one of this series will cover the foods that should be avoided or consumed on a very limited basis. Next week, part two, we will cover the foods that should be consumed by the mother to help support the mother’s health, as well as the health of her baby.

Here is a list of foods that should not be consumed during pregnancy

  • Raw Meat: Consuming raw or undercooked beef, poultry, or seafood can lead to exposure to coliform bacteria, toxoplasmosis, and salmonella (1).

  • Deli Meat: Deli meats can be contaminated with listeria and this can cause miscarriage (1).

  • Fish with Mercury: Shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish are known to be high in mercury. Mercury has been linked to developmental delays and brain damage in developing fetuses. Of note, canned, chunk light tuna typically has a lower amount of mercury in it (1).

  • Smoked Seafood: Exposure to listeria is the risk that can occur when consuming refrigerated, smoked seafood. Look for the words lox, nova style, kippered, or jerky on the packaging (1).

  • Raw Shellfish: Seafood-borne illness is caused by undercooked shellfish, like oysters, clams, and mussels (1).

  • Raw Eggs: Raw eggs or foods that contain raw eggs should be avoided because of the potential exposure to salmonella (1).

  • Soft Cheeses: Listeria can be found in imported soft cheeses. Women should avoid soft cheeses such as brie, Camembert, Roquefort, feta, Gorgonzola, and Mexican style cheeses that include queso blanco and queso fresco (1).

  • Unpasteurized Milk: Listeria can be found in unpasteurized milk (1).

  • Caffeine: In moderation, caffeine is generally considered safe. The studies on the safety of caffeine during pregnancy have been mixed. Some state that caffeine is safe, while other studies have seen a correlation between caffeine intake and an increased risk of miscarriage. Caffeine should be avoided during the first trimester to reduce the risk of a miscarriage. Caffeine should be limited to no more than 200 mg per day during pregnancy. Women should talk to their health care provider about the amount of caffeine that may be safe during their pregnancy (1).

  • Alcohol: NO amount of alcohol has been found to be safe during pregnancy. Women should completely avoid alcohol during pregnancy. Exposure to alcohol during pregnancy can affect the health of the baby and can lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or other developmental disorders (1).

  • Sprouts: Sprouts carry a risk of food-borne illnesses associated with Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli (2).

Helpful Resources:

Checklist of Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

Foods to avoid or limit during pregnancy

Food safety is especially important for pregnant women

Food Safety for Moms-to-Be: Safe Eats - Fruits, Veggies & Juices

About the Author: Leanne DiMaio earned her Master’s degree in Applied Clinical Nutrition from New York Chiropractic College in December 2017. She is currently working on her Doctorate degree in Clinical Nutrition degree at Maryland University of Integrative Health.Leanne is passionate about helping others achieve their optimal state of health and wellness. She is currently earning clinical hours toward the Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) credential under Kim Ross's supervision.


1. American Pregnancy Association. Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association. 2017. Available at: Accessed May 19, 2018.

2. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Sprouts: What You Should Know | 2018. Available at: Accessed May 19, 2018.

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