Pregnancy is a remarkable journey filled with joy, anticipation, and an increased sense of responsibility. While a balanced diet is essential, there are certain foods that should be avoided to minimise potential risks.
Here’s a list of some common foods that are best to steer clear of during pregnancy:
- Raw or Undercooked Meats and Seafood: Consuming raw or undercooked meats and seafood can expose you to harmful bacteria and parasites, such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. These pathogens can pose a serious threat to your baby’s health and increase the risk of food-borne illnesses. Ensure that all meats are cooked thoroughly to eliminate any potential risks .
- Unpasteurised Dairy Products: Unpasteurised dairy products, including certain soft cheeses like feta, brie, and blue cheese, may contain harmful bacteria like Listeria. These bacteria can lead to infections that may harm the developing foetus. Stick to pasteurised dairy products to reduce the risk of exposure to these bacteria .
- Raw or Undercooked Eggs: Raw or undercooked eggs may contain Salmonella, a bacterium that can cause food poisoning. Avoid foods such as homemade mayonnaise, raw cookie dough, and soft-boiled or poached eggs. Choose pasteurised eggs and cook eggs thoroughly until both the yolk and white are firm .
- Raw Sprouts: While sprouts are generally considered a healthy food choice, raw sprouts like alfalfa, mung bean, and clover can carry harmful bacteria, including Salmonella and E. coli. These bacteria are challenging to wash off, even with thorough rinsing. It’s best to consume cooked sprouts instead to eliminate any potential risks .
- High Mercury Fish: Certain types of fish, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish, are known to contain high levels of mercury. Mercury can be harmful to the developing nervous system of the baby. Opt for low-mercury fish options like salmon, trout, shrimp, and cod, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, beneficial for your baby’s brain development .
As of July 2023, the Food Standards Agency UK have further released a risk assessment on the consumption of smoked fish in pregnant people due to the risk of exposure to listeria, a type of bacteria which has “the potential for severe illness, hospitalisation, and death among higher risk groups.” As per the risk assessment, pregnant people should avoid cold smoked fish like salmon, trout and gravlax. 
- Caffeine and Alcohol: Both caffeine and alcohol should be limited or avoided during pregnancy. High caffeine intake has been linked to increased risks of miscarriage and low birth weight . It’s advisable to limit your caffeine intake to no more than 200 milligrams per day. Additionally, alcohol consumption during pregnancy can cause foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs), which can lead to lifelong physical and cognitive impairments in the baby. It’s best to avoid alcohol entirely during your pregnancy.
Your nutritional choices play a vital role in the healthy development of your baby. While this blog highlighted some foods to avoid, it’s equally important to focus on a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and dairy products. During pregnancy, it’s important to make healthy nutritional choices to support the healthy development of your baby.
If you have any specific dietary concerns, check in with your midwife or maternity healthcare team. By making mindful choices, you can help ensure that your baby has the best possible start in life.
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- The Growing Baby and Changing Body
- Exercise, Nutrition and Wellbeing
- Work, Relationships and Thinking Ahead
- Birth Preferences Planning: An Intro
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- Health & Wellbeing
- Planning for Birth
- Giving Birth
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 NHS England Foods to Avoid in Pregnancy
 Nutrition – What Not to Eat When Pregnant
 NHS Scotland Eating Well in Pregnancy
 Nutrition in Pregnancy, 2006
 Food Standards Agency Gov, The Risks of Consumption of Cold Smoked Fish in Pregnant and High Risk Individuals (July 2023)
This page was updated in August 2023 to include the latest on dietary advice for pregnant people from the Food Standards Agency Gov.