Eating well during pregnancy can be hard, between balancing morning sickness and cravings, whilst trying to nourish a little growing human inside you. But knowing what foods to avoid during pregnancy, is almost as important as knowing what you should be eating more of. There are some foods which are not safe to eat during pregnancy, due to an increased risk of food poisoning. There are also safety limits on beverages.
17 foods and drinks to limit or cut out during pregnancy
Alcohol is absorbed quickly into your body and passes through your placenta to your baby. There is no safe amount of alcohol that can be consumed whilst pregnant, so it’s safest to say no altogether. If you drink while pregnant, your baby could suffer from Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, a range of disabilities which can affect their health for life.
Raw meat and Seafood
Eating undercooked or raw meat and seafood, such as sushi, puts you at risk of Listeria and Salmonella poisoning. If Listeria is transmitted to your baby, it can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth or premature labour.
Deli meat, Pates and Meat spreads
Refrigerated meat products like pates, ham and salami may be contaminated with listeria bacteria. It’s best to avoid these foods.
Raw eggs and products containing them may contain Salmonella. Avoid raw cake batter, raw cookie dough, homemade ice cream, custards, mayonnaise, unpasteurised eggnog or hollandaise sauce and caesar salad dressings. Salmonella can cause diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea and fever.
Avoid soft cheese including feta, brie, ricotta, camembert, blue vein, queso blanco, queso fresco and panela as they may be contaminated with Listeria. They are only safe to eat if served cooked and hot.
Pre-cooked or pre-prepared cold foods that are not reheated
Pre-prepared cold foods like salads and quiches may be contaminated with Listeria and should be avoided.
Liver in large quantities
Although liver is a rich source of iron, it contains high levels of vitamin A. If eaten to excess, this can be harmful to your baby and lead to severe birth defects. The recommended intake of vitamin A during pregnancy is no more than 800 micrograms/day.
Unpasteurised dairy products and Soft serve ice–cream
These foods may be contaminated with Listeria which can be dangerous to your baby.
Fish containing Mercury
Cooked fish is recommended during pregnancy as it is a good source of omega 3 fatty acids. However due to certain types of fish containing high levels of mercury which can be harmful to your baby, you need to:
- Limit to one serve (150g) per fortnight – billfish (swordfish, broadbill and marlin) and shark (flake), with no other fish eaten in that fortnight.
- Limit to one serve (150g) per week – deep sea perch or catfish, with no other fish eaten that week.
- Eat 2–3 serves per week – of any other cooked fish or seafood (for example, salmon or tuna).
Caffeinated beverages include tea, coffee and cola drinks. The Australian and New Zealand food standards allow a moderate amount of caffeine (1 cup of espresso style coffee, roughly 2-3 cups of instant coffee or 4 cups of tea) which is no more than 200mg per day while you are pregnant. Having large amounts of caffeine may make it more difficult to become pregnant and may increase the risk of miscarriage or having a low-birth-weight baby.
Energy drinks can contain high levels of caffeine and/or guarana which are not recommended during pregnancy.
Dips containing tahini
Tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds and may contain Salmonella. Hummus is the most common dip containing tahini.
Raw seed sprouts
Raw seed sprouts including alfalfa, mung beans, broccoli sprouts, onion sprouts, sunflower sprouts, soybean sprouts, radish sprouts and snow pea sprouts may contain various bacteria which can be harmful to your baby. Avoid these unless cooked well.
If you have any concerns about the safety of your food, consult the expertise of a dietitian or your usual health care professional.
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- https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/food-poisoning (accessed 23rd June, 2022)
- https://www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/consumer/life-events-and-food/pregnancy (accessed 14 June, 2022)
- https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/generalissues/pregnancy/pages/default.aspx (accessed 11 July, 2022)
- https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/vitamin-a (accessed 11 July, 2022)