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Food to avoid during pregnancy

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Food to avoid during pregnancy

During pregnancy, it's important to get a nutritionally balanced diet for the benefit of you and your baby. However, there are certain foods you should avoid during pregnancy as they carry a risk of damaging your health, or that of your unborn child. If one of your favourite treats is listed below, then you're better off going without during your pregnancy, despite any cravings you might have!

Soft cheese and blue-veined cheese

(E.G. Camembert, Brie, Stilton, Feta) These types of cheese may be delicious, but they can contain listeria, a bacterium found in unpasteurised food and soil and can cause the infection listeriosis which can be fatal to your unborn baby (and has been linked to Meningitis). Stick to hard cheeses such as Cheddar and Red Leicester. Cottage cheese and spreads such as Primula are also safe as they are usually pasteurised.

Cold deli meat

Cold meat bought from the deli has been known to contain listeria. If you do eat deli meat, make sure to heat it until it is steaming - the listeria bacterium dies at temperatures above 75 degrees Celsius

Smoked fish

'Kippered' or 'Smoked' fish can contain listeria, so avoid these!

Deep sea fish

(E.G. Tuna, Marlin, Shark, Swordfish, King Mackerel, some fish used in Sushi) Fish which live in deep sea contain high levels of Mercury, which are usually not damaging to grown humans, but in your unborn baby can cause brain damage leading to developmental issues such as late walking or talking. Canned tuna contains much less mercury than fresh tuna, but even so, it is recommended not to eat more than 3-4 medium-sized (140g) cans of tuna a week.


Raw shellfish such as mussels, oysters and cockles can contain bacteria, and even cooking does not prevent algae-related infections linked to red tides. Avoid if possible.

Raw meat and raw fish

This includes rare steaks, Sushi, uncooked seafood such as shellfish and any meat that is undercooked. Meat that is not adequately cooked can contain coliform bacteria, toxoplasmosis and salmonella which can cause food poisoning and can be dangerous for your baby. It's never fun having food poisoning anyway, so make sure to order well done, and if your BBQs are usually a culinary gamble then avoid!

Raw egg

Foods that contain raw egg include home-made ice cream, mayonnaise, Caesar salad dressing, Unpasteurised Egg nog, Hollandaise sauce and home-made custard, as well as runny eggs! Raw egg can contain salmonella which causes severe food poisoning, so look for products that contain pasteurised ingredients as these are safe. Eggs should be cooked until the white AND yolk are solid (sorry!)

Certain fresh-water fish

There are industrial pollutants called polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) which, in contaminated areas, can be found in freshwater fish such as salmon, pike and trout. Eating lots of fish contaminated with PCBs when pregnant has been linked with decreased attention, memory and IQ in children. If you eat these types of fish, be aware of the risks and try and keep intake to a minimum in case of pollution.


Liver is very high in Vitamin A, which is an essential vitamin but in high doses can cause congenital disabilities. Minimise the amount you consume during pregnancy to avoid issues.

Raw sprouts

There have been cases of an outbreak of salmonella from eating raw sprouts, so make sure these are cooked properly. Who eats sprouts raw anyway?

Unwashed raw vegetables

Raw vegetables are really good for you and your baby, so eat plenty of them! However, make sure they are washed well to remove any contamination with toxoplasmosis which can be found in the soil.

Green sprouting potatoes

Potatoes which have started to sprout and go green contain toxins known as alpha-solanine and alpha-chaconine which are linked to spina bifida and other developmental issues. It's no use just cutting off the green bits, just chuck the whole lot away!


Eating peanuts during pregnancy can increase the risk that your child will have nut allergies, which as we all have heard can be fatal. Other nuts such as cashews, almonds and hazelnuts are fine to eat and very good for you, so just avoid the peanut butter while you have a bump!


Studies are inconclusive, but there is a certain amount of evidence to suggest that large amounts of caffeine intake may be linked to miscarriages. Avoid taking more than 300mg of caffeine a day (3 cups of coffee or 6 cups of tea). Caffeine can also be found in Cola, chocolate and energy drinks. It's also a diuretic (helps eliminate fluids from the body) so ensure you drink plenty of water during pregnancy. If you can't give up your coffee addiction, then at least try and avoid drinking too much during your first trimester, when the risk of miscarriage is highest.


There is no level of alcohol intake which is known to be safe during pregnancy, so there is no excuse to drink alcohol at all during pregnancy (or breastfeeding). Alcohol can cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or other developmental disorders, and regardless of your craving for a glass of wine or beer is not safe for your little one!


Jennifer Williams

Jennifer is a mother of two and a registered NHS nurse dealing with children on a daily basis. She writes about childhood development and her own experiences as a parent.

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