What Not To Eat or Drink During Pregnancy

What Not to Eat or Drink During Pregnancy

What Foods and Beverages Should You Avoid During Pregnancy?

It might be a little unnerving to know that your unborn baby can be affected by a food borne illness when you don’t become sick or show symptoms of infection. Tragically, some food borne illnesses can cause devastating and permanent effects to a baby, like neurological damage and developmental delays. Sometimes the damage from an infection is obvious at birth; sometimes it takes years to become apparent.

The best way to reduce the risk of food borne illness harming your baby is to avoid food and beverages that carry the risk. Here is your go-to list of food and beverages to avoid during pregnancy:

  • Undercooked meat – Especially meat that is cut or ground like burgers, minced meat, poultry and pork.
  • Raw fish – Including smoked and dried fish – especially shellfish.  Raw and undercooked meat and fish can carry viral, bacterial and parasitic organisms that can make you sick, cause pregnancy complications and cause serious neurological problems in a fetus (even death).
  • Processed meats – Like hot dogs, lunch or deli meats. These meats can be infected with bacteria during processing and storage. They aren’t safe to eat unless you reheat them until they are steaming hot. This kills the bacteria.
  • Organ meat – Is full of vitamins and minerals that are great for you and your baby, but it’s best to keep tabs on how much you consume and not go over a few ounces per week. Organ meat is high in Vitamin A and too much Vitamin A, especially in the first trimester, can cause birth defects.
  • Raw eggs – Most commercial foods use pasteurized raw eggs in their products and this is safe to consume. But steer clear of raw eggs in homemade sauces, ice cream, cake frosting, and salad dressings.
  • Raw sprouts – Need humidity to grow and unfortunately, bacteria like this temperature too. Raw sprouts are too difficult to clean effectively, but you can enjoy them cooked!
  • Unwashed produce – Fruits and veggies go through a long journey of harvesting, processing, storage, and transportation before they arrive on the grocery store shelves. There are many opportunities for parasites such as toxoplasmosis to tag along on produce. Washing fruits and vegetables with a produce spray will ensure the produce is clean before passing your lips.
  • Unpasteurized milk, cheese and fruit juice – The pasteurization process kills bacteria like listeria, salmonella, e. coli, and campylobacter, without removing the nutritional value of the food.
  • Caffeine – A fetus developing in the womb doesn’t have the enzyme to break down caffeine, so caffeine levels can build up quickly. High levels of maternal caffeine consumption is linked to low birth weight. Keep your caffeine consumption to less than 200 mg/day, which is approximately two 8 oz. cups of coffee.
  • Alcohol – There is no known safe amount of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. But, it’s well established that excessive consumption causes Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) in babies. FASD is characterized by facial deformities, heart defects and intellectual disabilities.
  • Junk Food – Is always highly processed, meaning that it has low nutrient density and is high in fat, salt and/or sugar. These types of foods lead to maternal obesity, which can cause complications in pregnancy such as diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as birth complications. You and your baby need high quality, whole foods that are nutrient dense. This means food that is high in protein, choline, folate, iron and has healthy fats and fiber rich carbohydrates.

Sticking to this list might mean giving up a few favorite indulgences during pregnancy, like sushi, sharing a bottle of wine with a friend, or your daily pot of coffee. And some are routine good practices, such as eating washed, whole foods high in nutrients, instead of empty calorie junk food. But, you might need to be more diligent in avoiding the other things, such as checking for raw eggs that are often hidden in recipes or asking if a food and beverage has gone through a pasteurization process.

If you do become sick and suspect it’s from something you ate or drank, reach out to your provider as soon as possible. Early medical intervention can often help minimize more serious and long lasting consequences for you and your baby. You got this Mama!



  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. September 2020. People at risk: pregnant women. https://www.foodsafety.gov/people-at-risk/pregnant-women
  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. May 2020. Food safety booklet for pregnant women, unborn babies and children under age 5. https://www.fda.gov/food/people-risk-foodborne-illness/food-safety-booklet-pregnant-women-their-unborn-babies-and-children-under-five
  3. Photo by Rajesh TP: Free Sushi On Brown Wooden Board Stock Photo. 
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