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I’m pregnant – what food should I avoid?

pregnancy nutrition

So last week I wrote about the nutrients you should be including in your diet when pregnant and this week I’m going to mention the things you should try to avoid. Read last week's blog.

You’re probably thinking it’s all a bit of a minefield, with everyone having an opinion on this subject matter, but don’t get overwhelmed – just think about it sensibly and if you’re still concerned or unsure about certain foods, then talk to a health professional.

Here are my top 7 foods to avoid or limit:

Raw or smoked fish and shell fish – these can be subjected to sea-born diseases and/or listeria which can cause foetal damage. Limit your intake of tuna as they contain high levels of mercury and limit oily fish due to various pollutants (although don’t cut out completely as the health benefits outweigh the risks). When I was pregnant I read that sushi that has been frozen is safe to eat but fresh isn’t.

Solution: check all fish is cooked thoroughly and monitor intake of certain fish.

Raw, undercooked or cured meat – like the fish, this can be subjected to listeria. Toxoplasma gondii parasite present in raw meat & poultry can also lead to food poisoning. These can cause vomiting, miscarriages and foetal damage.

Solution: check all meat is cooked thoroughly and if using defrosted or refrigerated meat, ensure it’s heated to a high enough temperature.

Raw or undercooked eggs (dippy eggs) – be aware of homemade mayonnaise, cakes, mousse etc that use uncooked eggs as there’s the potential for the salmonella bacteria to be present, which can cause sickness and diarrhoea.

Solution: check your eggs are cooked until hard boiled or omelettes thoroughly cooked. Check dressings/condiments for egg-free or pasteurised contents.

Unpasturised dairy products – this can lead to food poisoning if not pasteurised and soft cheeses such as brie, feta, camembert etc can contain listeria.

Solution: ensure your milk is pasteurised and opt for hard cheeses.

Excess caffeine – Too much caffeine is never good for you, as it acts as a diuretic and has been shown to be linked to low birth weight.

Solution: Limit your caffeine intake to a maximum of 200 ml or 2 cups of coffee a day. And, don’t forget that caffeine can also be found in things like cola drinks, chocolate and cold/flu medicines.

Herbal teas – so cutting down on caffeine can then lead people to herbal teas as a substitute. Well, you should take caution here as herbs are effectively drugs. Check the ingredients as things such as cohosh, pennyroyal, mugwort and ephedra should be avoided.

Solution: make your own using fruit juices, lemon, ginger, cinnamon and cloves.

Alcohol – an obvious one, this can harm the baby’s development if there’s too much exposure. The jury is still out on how much, if any, is safe to drink, so often safest to just give it up completely for 9 months. Just think how you’ll then appreciate that celebratory fizz once you’ve given birth 😊

Other recommendations:

  • Wash your fruit and veg as it could have pesticides on it and possibly the Toxoplasma gondii parasite and listeria

  • Limit sugar-rich foods – suggested more to prevent you from developing diabetes and for keeping you healthy, rather than a complete no-no

  • Street food – you don’t know how the food has been stored or cooked so safest not to eat

  • Only drink water if you think it’s safe. Here in the UK we’re generally fine with tap water, but be aware while on holiday.


If you need any advice on your nutrition (whether pregnant or not). I offer EatFit, a food diary checking service. You provide me with a 7 day diary of everything you’ve consumed and I will come back with recommendations on where to tweak your diet to get optimal nutrition.

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