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20 Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

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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, particularly 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?

What should I eat when nothing sounds good?

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.

This list might give you peace of mind. Just remember, every culture, doctor, and individual mom will be more comfortable with different types of foods than others.

Here are the 20 Foods to Avoid During Early Pregnancy:


Avoid raw fish during pregnancy
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Eating raw fish or raw shellfish risks exposing your growing fetus to high mercury levels, parasites, and bacterial 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. 


avoid high mercury fish, like tuna, during pregnancy
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Aside from raw fish, fish high in mercury also isn’t good to eat when you’re not pregnant. Mercury is harmful to your babies developing nervous system.

High mercury fish include shark, tuna, mackerel, swordfish, and marlin. Low mercury fish (an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and other nutrients) include shrimp, catfish, salmon, and cod.


avoid raw meat during pregnancy
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Make sure any meat you consume has been handled properly and is fully cooked.

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.

Beef should be cooked at least 160 degrees F; chicken to at least 165 degrees F (source).  

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avoid deli meat during pregnancy
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Deli meats are highly processed and can carry bad bacteria, such as listeria, which is 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.

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 and try to avoid sandwich shops). 


avoid raw eggs during pregnancy
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This means any dish that has 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 are fully cooked. Because if you don’t eat fully cooked pasteurized eggs, you run the risk of harmful bacteria exposure, such as samonella.

Related read: 100+ of the Best Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy


avoid too much caffeine during pregnancy
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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 daily. (source)

So, that’s basically having one cup of coffee a day. Ultimately, moderation is key.


avoid raw cheese
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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.  

Check your labels for pasteurization and decide what you’re comfortable eating.


avoid canned food during pregnancy
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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, and that reason right there 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. 

avoid raw cookie dough during pregnancy
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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 list of foods to avoid during pregnancy. If you’re craving cookie dough, there are egg free store bought or homemade cookie dough options.


avoid sugary food during pregnancy
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This category requires moderation more than avoidance. Eating a lot of refined sugars during pregnancy can lead to extra weight gain you won’t want to deal with postpartum. While there is no direct link to diet and gestational diabestes, what we put into our bodies certainly has an affect on our overall health.

**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! 


avoid processed fats
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This is another category that requires moderation more than compelte avoidance. Fast food and other processed foods (think anything packaged and filled with ingredients you can pronounce) are typically loaded with unhealthy fats that can leave you feeling sluggish and affect your health (and thus your baby’s too).

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 old food during pregnancy
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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 that 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. Bottom line: You want your food hot and freshly cooked! 


avoid alcohol during pregnancy
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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? With risk factors like low birth weight and fetal alcohol syndrome.


processed food to avoid during pregnancy
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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. Do your best to skip these items!


avoid sprouts during pregnancy
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Sprouts are seeds that have begun to germiniate, evident by a young plant with a small shoot. These can be a tasty snack. Popular examples include bean sprouts, munb beans, alfalfa, clover, radish, and lentil sprouts.

Because sprouts are grown in a humid climate, they invite bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli. That’s why you shouldn’t eat sprouts raw. If you do have sprouts, buy (or grow) fresh ones and make sure to cook them well.


avoid lettuce during pregnancy
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You’ve probably noticed that romaine lettuce and other leaves, like spinach, get recalled often. Since they are eaten raw and are at risk for contamination, these are best to stay off your listof foods during pregnancy.


avoid unwashed vegetables during pregnancy
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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.


avoid papaya during pregnancy
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When I was pregnant, I was surprised to see papaya as one of the foods to avoid during early pregnancy.

Papaya, particularly unripe, has something called papain, which can stimulate the right hormones that prompt uterine contractions. That might lead to miscarriage in early pregnancy.


I wasn’t far into my pregnancy before I had some mom friends tell me to avoid eating pineapple during early pregnancy. 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 about fruits, so I wanted to include pineapple on my list of foods to avoid during pregnancy so that you are at least aware of potential risks.

I did read one article from a reputable site that said the amount of bromelain consumed in a moderate helping of pineapple is minimal. Talk to your OB.


avoid eggplant during pregnancy
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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 research and talk to your healthcare provider before adding eggplant to your pregnancy diet.

Feel well-informed, mama!

What Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy
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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 unsure about 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 avoid during early pregnancy, make sure to speak to your doctor.

Most 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.

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.

I hope you feel better knowing what foods to avoid during early pregnancy and that can you 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?

This article was originally posted on Mom Blog Life.

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