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If you’re a first-time mom who just found out you’re pregnant (congrats mama!), it’s time to figure out what foods to avoid during early pregnancy.
It’s a good idea to question the foods you eat because while some foods seem harmless they might not be good for your growing fetus during early pregnancy.
I remember being so confused about what foods to avoid during early pregnancy or any time in my pregnancy for that matter.
What do I really have to avoid?
What foods should I eat in moderation?
The confusion that surrounds foods to avoid during pregnancy inspired me to help new moms out – to clear the air so to speak and set you on the right path for a healthy pregnancy.
Now, I’m not a doctor – I can do the research and tell you about my own experience but if you have any concerns about the foods to avoid during early pregnancy then talk to your doctor and they can provide medical advice.
That might just give you peace of mind.
So, let’s take a look at what foods to avoid during early pregnancy…(and the rest of your pregnancy for that matter).
If you want to do more than just learn about foods to avoid, I also highly recommend a Pregnancy Nutrition Course from a fellow mama. As a certified nutritionist, she breaks it all down so you know EXACTLY what to eat for a healthy pregnancy.
Want weekly pregnancy tips and a free “Get It Done” Checklist? Sign up here!
20 Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy
Yup, you can kiss sushi (and ceviche) goodbye because it’s definitely one of the top foods to avoid during early pregnancy (actually your whole pregnancy too – sigh)
Eating raw fish or raw shellfish runs the risk of exposing your growing fetus to contamination that might lead to pregnancy complications.
So, even if you’re an absolute sushi lover, it’s time to put that love aside for the next 9 months.
If you’re really craving some sushi, opt for some vegetarian sushi to load up on your favorite veggies instead (this is literally what I craved the first 6 weeks of my first pregnancy- ha!).
(Don’t worry 9 months may seem like a long time, but it really isn’t 😉 ) Being able to eat sushi was one of the many reasons I looked forward to my due date 🙂
HIGH MERCURY FISH
Fish high in mercury isn’t good to eat when you’re not pregnant, so you definitely shouldn’t consume any while you’re pregnant.
Mercury is harmful to your baby, period.
Here’s a list of high mercury fish:
Those are the kinds of fish to avoid during pregnancy, but that doesn’t mean you should eliminate fish from your diet completely – fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and other nutrients. (source)
Here’s a list of low mercury fish:
The key to eating fish during pregnancy is to be careful and eat it in moderation.
It’s time to ensure that any meat you consume has been handled properly and fully cooked.
(So, if you like your steak rare, it’s time to lay off eating it that way until your baby is born)
Raw meat can contain salmonella, E. coli, listeria, and other harmful bacteria (source) – so please mama make sure any meat you consume while you’re pregnant is well-cooked!
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Deli meat and other cured meats aren’t good for you when you aren’t pregnant let alone during pregnancy.
These kinds of meats are highly processed and can carry all sorts of bad bacteria you wouldn’t want to consume while pregnant.
One example is listeria which can be linked to miscarriages, premature birth, stillbirth, and other problems with unborn fetuses.
Now that doesn’t mean that all deli meat naturally carries these harmful bacteria, it’s that they have a higher chance of having them.
The point here is to avoid them when you can, so no eating at Subway for the next few months.
If you absolutely want to have these kinds of meats, then proceed with caution and make sure to cook them well first (aka- pan sear that deli meat before you throw it in a sandwich).
This means a raw egg or any dish with a soft or partially cooked form of an egg.
Things like eggs benedict, some homemade salad dressings, and eggnog.
Basically, you should only have eggs if both the white and yolk is fully cooked.
Because if you don’t eat fully cooked pasteurized eggs, you run the risk of harmful bacteria and no mama wants to do that!
You may have noticed a theme at this point- avoid raw foods during pregnancy!
Related read: 100+ of the Best Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy
Caffeine intake during pregnancy is one of those controversial topics – should you or shouldn’t you?
How much is too much?
The good news is you don’t have to eliminate all caffeine from your diet.
According to the March of Dimes, pregnant women should limit their caffeine consumption to 200 mg per day. (source)
So, that’s basically having one cup of coffee a day.
When I was pregnant I craved a lot of chocolate which also has caffeine in it so I was extra careful about how much I ate.
The point here?
Be sensible about how much caffeine you’re consuming.
This usually means soft cheeses (think brie, goat cheese, ricotta), particularly if made from unpasteurized milk (not so common these days), that have a higher risk of containing the listeria bacteria.
By now you’re likely noticing a common theme here – avoid foods with listeria and other bad bacteria during pregnancy.
So why is that?
Because pregnant women are experiencing a lot of changes (um, ya you’re just growing a human, haha!) and it can lead to a weakened immune system.
That means when you’re not pregnant you might be able to fight these bacteria off and any issues go unknown to you. (this is my speculation – talk to your doctor for medical advice if you want)
Don’t take that risk while you’re pregnant.
Not only are canned foods highly processed and full of salt, they likely contain BPA – a chemical that is added to the lining of the can and therefore the food that is in said can.
BPA may cause birth defects, which is a good reason for pregnant women (and people in general, honestly) to avoid these kinds of foods. (source)
If your fresh food choices are limited, always opt for cans that explicitly say “BPA free” and drain and rinse the contents to minimize preservatives and salt. Some experts agree that canned beans in a BPA free can are the exception to this rule.
Pregnancy is the perfect time to start cooking from scratch – you can control the ingredients and make sure to eat fresh, healthy foods.
Need help with healthy meal planning?
Check out TheDailyDinner.com for dirt-cheap meal plans and healthy shopping lists to make your life easier.
RAW COOKIE DOUGH
If you’re one of those people who loves to scoop raw cookie dough and eat it, you might want to lay off until you’re done being pregnant.
Cookie dough contains raw egg, which we know is on the foods to avoid during pregnancy list.
So, while you’re pregnant (and if you have to) grab cookie dough ice cream instead (but please eat it in moderation!) or make your own safe egg-free version.
Whether you’re working on getting pregnant, already pregnant, or not even pregnant at all, a low-sugar diet is always a good idea for your health.
Eating a lot of refined sugars during pregnancy can lead to extra weight gain that you won’t want to deal with postpartum.
Trust me – I know firsthand.
I had an insatiable appetite for ice cream during my pregnancy; that means I gained too much weight.
While eating ice cream (and cookies) was fun, I was also positioning myself for gestational diabetes, which didn’t happen.
**Note: Every pregnancy and woman is different. Eating sugar does not mean you will get diabetes. But it can certainly increase your risk, especially if you are overweight or have a family history that predisposes you to it. Talk to your doctor about your concerns!
Why was I positioning myself for GD?
✿ Unhealthy weight gain.
✿ Not eating a balanced or healthy diet.
✿ Eating too much sugar when my body was struggling to break it down and use it.
(Gestational diabetes happens when your pancreas can’t keep up with the demand for insulin and blood sugar levels rise. (source) While eating cookies and ice cream didn’t cause GD for me it caused my OB to be concerned at my blood sugar levels and, ultimately, he advised cutting down on my sugary habit).
So steer away from sugary junk food in the first place and find a healthy alternative to curb those cravings.
Another reason to avoid sugars?
The extra weight gain!
Part of my postpartum recovery plan was to lose all that baby weight in a healthy way and it took much longer!
FOODS HIGH IN UNHEALTHY FAT
Don’t race out to the closest fast-food restaurant while you’re pregnant.
Those places are filled with high-fat processed foods to avoid during early pregnancy (and the rest of your pregnancy for that matter!).
But that doesn’t mean you should avoid fats altogether (fats have a bad rep, but not all are created equal).
There are plenty of healthy fats such as grass-fed butter, olive oil, avocados, dark chocolate (yum!), and nuts.
These are foods that should be a part of your pregnancy diet.
AVOID FOODS LEFT OUT
If you’re at a party and those food trays and dishes are out for more than two hours, then skip eating any of the leftovers.
Food that isn’t properly refrigerated can attract unwanted bacteria and as we’ve seen from other foods to avoid while pregnant, they aren’t good for growing babies in the womb.
This also means skipping the buffet-style restaurants that keep food on hot plates for extended amounts of time. (I learned this the hard way so many times when I WASN’T pregnant, no buffets for me!)
Bottom line: You want your food hot and freshly cooked!
This one should be self-explanatory, but after talking to different mom friends, the advice of a glass of wine here or there while pregnant seems to live on.
And, while one glass of wine may not do any harm, why risk it? It’s ultimately up to you and your doctor. (Being married to a European, I was surprised when my Czech OB told me I should have a glass of wine to help induce labor- I wasn’t comfortable personally.)
Because maybe it will have an effect on the baby and no mama wants that, am I right?
Pregnancy is 9 months, not a lifetime – so skip drinking alcohol. 🙂
Want to know the effects of alcohol on your baby, such as fetal alcohol syndrome and the risk of low birth weight? Click here.
Related read: When to Quit Smoking Weed While Pregnant
HIGHLY PROCESSED FOODS
Those highly processed foods might taste really good (and they might be the junk food you crave – sigh) but they’re full of trans fats, hydrogenated oils, white flour sugar, fillers, and artificial flavors.
Those aren’t good for you or your baby at any time during your pregnancy.
So skip the junk food aisle and try to find a healthy alternative to satisfy your craving. I found myself living off smoothies (my Vitamix was my best friend) to help with cravings and keep my tummy full (a key to minimizing nausea).
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Vegetables to Avoid During Pregnancy
If you aren’t entirely sure what a raw sprout is, here are some examples:
- Bean sprouts
- Mung beans
Because sprouts are grown in a humid climate, they invite bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli and since you’re pregnant your immune system may not be able to fight off food poisoning, therefore, endangering your baby.
That’s why you shouldn’t eat sprouts raw.
If you do have sprouts, buy fresh and make sure to cook them well.
Canned vegetables should be avoided during pregnancy because of the high sodium content and the risk of BPA being present in the lining of the can.
The most ideal way to eat your veggies is from the produce section or frozen aisle (where they are flash-frozen at picking).
Hopefully this is an obvious one, but with baby brain being a very real thing it’s always good to drop a reminder 😉
Our fresh produce goes through a lot before it makes it to the store for you to buy.
Make sure you wash all produce thoroughly to reduce the risk of contamination.
Don’t forget to sign up for weekly pregnancy updates based on how far along you are! Sign up here.
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Fruits to Avoid During Pregnancy
See a full list in our article 11 Fruits to Avoid Article(here).
When I was pregnant I was surprised to see papaya as one of the foods to avoid during early pregnancy.
It’s truly amazing to learn about what foods are safe during pregnancy – food is a powerful thing!
Papaya has something called papain which can stimulate the right hormones that prompt uterine contractions.
That might lead to miscarriage.
Papaya is high on the list of fruits to avoid during early pregnancy – don’t eat it at all when you’re in your first trimester and talk to your doctor about consuming it later in pregnancy.
If you’re in your third trimester of pregnancy then perhaps papaya would be a good natural way to prompt labor 😉
(Again not a doctor or midwife, so check with them first!)
Want to read more about avoiding papaya in early pregnancy? Click here.
I wasn’t far into my pregnancy before I had some mom friends tell me to avoid eating pineapple during early pregnancy.
And I LOVE me some pineapple so I was sad to learn that.
The big concern surrounding pineapple is the fact it contains bromelain which is said to bring on premature labor – something you would want to avoid in early pregnancy.
There is a lot of conflicting information out there so I wanted to include pineapple on my list of foods to avoid during pregnancy so that you are at least aware of potential risk.
I did read one article from a reputable site that said the amount of bromelain consumed in a moderate helping of pineapple is minimal.
My best advice is to speak to your midwife or doctor about any concerns you might have about avoiding this fruit during early pregnancy.
After speaking with my doctor and doing my own research it turns out you’ll be just fine if you eat pineapple.
In fact, it’s a great source of vitamins and nutrients you need!
I know what you’re thinking – you thought eggplant was a vegetable, right?
I know me too, so consider my mind blown to learn it’s actually a fruit! (source)
Eggplant is another controversial food for pregnant women.
Because they contain phytohormones that may signal premature labor. (source)
So it is often recommended as one of the foods to avoid during early pregnancy.
Do your research and talk to your health care provider before adding eggplant to your pregnancy diet.
Feel well-informed mama!
There you have it, mama – a list of foods to avoid during early pregnancy. I hope this list makes you feel well-informed and not anxious.
If you’re ever not sure about a food you’re about to eat, just grab your phone and do a quick Google search (thank you technology).
If you are concerned about what foods to should avoid during early pregnancy, make sure to speak to your doctor.
Most of the foods to avoid shouldn’t be consumed later in your pregnancy either.
The key is to avoid foods that carry the potential of contamination and therefore an increased risk to your unborn baby.
I’m sure you noticed the common theme – avoid foods that have a high potential for containing harmful bacteria.
Your immune system is weakened because, well, you’re growing a tiny human.
Remember pregnancy is for 9 months which isn’t as long as you think, so if some of your favorite foods are on this list, you’ll be able to indulge after your pregnancy.
You might try going to a nutritionist to help you with your pregnancy diet. There are also a ton of great resources about eating well for pregnancy.
They’ll be able to offer you a food plan tailored to your pregnancy and healthy alternatives to some of your favorite foods that might need to be avoided now that you’re pregnant.
I hope you feel better knowing what foods to avoid during early pregnancy and that you can have a healthy pregnancy without worrying about what foods you can and cannot eat!
What foods are you already avoiding now that you’re pregnant? (From morning sickness or for your health?)
What foods are you sad about not being able to eat?
Let me know in the comments! 🙂