Foods to avoid when pregnant

Meat

  • Avoid all pates including vegetable based ones as they may contain listeria. Although an infection caused by listeria is rare, it is important to take extra precautions whilst pregnant as even a mild infection can cause miscarriage, stillbirth or severe illness in a newborn baby.
  • Avoid liver as it contains high levels of vitamin A which can harm your baby.
  • Raw or undercooked meats including cured meats such as parma ham and salami should be avoided as these can carry bacteria that can cause food poisoning or on rare occasions toxoplasmosis which could damage your baby. 
  • All meat should be thoroughly cooked with no pink meat or blood left. 
  • Cold cooked meats such as ham, chicken and turkey are safe to eat.

Fish

  • Fish are packed with nutrients but make sure you avoid eating shark, swordfish and marlin. Eat a maximum of two portions a week of oily fish such as tuna, salmon, sardines, mackerel and trout and the following species of non-oily fish: sea bass, turbot, sea bream, dogfish, halibut and crab. This is because these fish can contain mercury and other contaminants at levels which can harm a developing nervous system. 
  • Raw shellfish can cause food poisoning but cooked shellfish (including cooked cold prawns) is safe to eat.
  • Raw or lightly cooked wild fish, such as those used in sushi is safe to eat if the fish has been frozen before making the sushi. This is because occasionally wild fish contain parasitic worms that could make you ill, these are killed either by freezing or by cooking. Sushi sold in the supermarket will have been through this freezing process. If you make sushi at home make sure you freeze the fish for at least 4 days beforehand. If you're unsure, it's best to opt for sushi dishes which contain vegetables instead.

Dairy

  • Soft blue cheese, mould-ripened soft cheese and soft cheeses made with unpasteurised milk should be avoided due to the risk of listeria. These cheeses are safe to eat if they're cooked through thoroughly though, as any bacteria present in the cheese should be destroyed by cooking. 
  • Pasteurised soft cheeses such as cream cheese, mozzarella, feta, ricotta, halloumi and cottage cheese are safe to eat.
  • Hard cheeses are safe to eat because they contain less water so bacteria are less likely to grow.
  • Unpasteurised milk should be avoided as it may contain bacteria that is harmful to your baby.
  • Yoghurts are safe to eat but if it's homemade check that it hasn't been made with unpasteurised milk, if you're not sure, it's best to avoid it.

Eggs

  • Raw or partially cooked eggs may contain salmonella which can cause food poisoning.
  • Make sure you eat fully cooked eggs and always ask about mayonnaise, salad dressings, ice-creams and mousses if you're eating out as they may contain raw eggs, supermarket varieties of these foods use pasteurised eggs which are safe to eat, but it's always best to check.

Alcohol

Avoid alcohol as this can affect your baby's development particularly in the early stages of pregnancy. 

Caffeine

It's best to avoid caffeine if you can, but if you can't survive without your morning boost, limit your intake to one mug of filter coffee or two mugs of tea a day. We have lots of lovely recipes for tea without caffeine on our recipe pages.

What about peanuts?

In the past the government advised against eating peanuts during pregnancy if there was a family history of allergies. This advice has now changed, which means you can eat peanuts or peanut butter as part of a balanced diet as long as your doctor hasn't advised against it. 

Tom RedwoodComment