10 Worst Foods for Pregnant Women

One of the first things people learn when they are pregnant is what not to eat. This can be very disappointing if you are a big fan of sushi, coffee or rare steaks.

Luckily, you can eat more than you can’t. You just need to learn how to navigate the waters (that is, low-mercury waters). You have to watch what you eat and drink to stay healthy.

Some foods should be eaten infrequently, while others should be avoided altogether.

High-mercury seafood

Shark, swordfish, and canned tuna (literally) top the list of fish to skip. Mercury accumulates over time, and because these large fish live longer, they store more mercury in their flesh, explains Sara Krieger, MPH, RDN, spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Mercury also accumulates in humans and can damage a baby’s brain, hearing, and vision, so put fish high in mercury on your “don’t eat” list.

Low-mercury fish like tilapia, cod, salmon, trout, catfish, and crustaceans are actually good for you and your baby. They are an excellent source of lean protein, B-12 and zinc. And salmon, trout, and mackerel are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA (which can boost baby’s brain development). But they have some mercury in them, so stick to 12 ounces or less per week. Also, make sure that any fish and seafood you eat is very fresh and well-prepared.


Speaking of cooking fish, here’s what you should do. This means that sushi and sashimi are prohibited. Some bacteria can only be killed by heat, and because sushi is served raw, there is an increased risk of food poisoning. Some moms-to-be order fish rolls cooked at sushi bars, but Krieger even recommends avoiding them because of possible cross-contamination. Opt for a teriyaki or hibachi appetizer instead.

Deli meat

Skip the ham and cheese sandwiches—cold cuts of meat (including ham, turkey, charcuterie, and more) are actually harmful to you and your baby. That’s how hot dogs are. These meats can be contaminated with Listeria, the only bacteria known to survive refrigerator temperatures of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. And unlike other types of foodborne illness, listeriosis, an infection caused by listeria, enters the bloodstream directly and can reach the baby through the placenta. Listeriosis is very scary because it can cause miscarriage. Luckily, heating the food to at least 145F degrees (165F if it’s leftover) kills the bacteria so you can grill that ham sandwich and enjoy it again.

Ready-made delicious food

Basically, you should avoid the deli counter completely (sorry!). The problem, says Krieger, is that you don’t know how long the food has been in the refrigerator, what temperature it’s in there (and whether it’s kept constant at 40F degrees or less) and whether all the ingredients are in the container. pasteurized salad or dish. Instead, make your own potato salad or pasta so you know exactly what you’re eating.

Unpasteurized Cheese

What to watch out for with cheese: Pasteurization. Always check the label. While feta or mozzarella can be pasteurized, they may not be. The same goes for Brie, Camembert, blue cheese, and some Mexican cheeses. If it’s fresh or homemade, such as mozzarella or artisan cheese, check with the maker. And when in doubt, skip it for now, says Krieger, because unpasteurized cheese can contain Listeria. Choose safer cuts like cheddar or swiss.

Raw bean sprouts

They add a satisfying crunch to salads and under Thai meals — and they look super healthy — but sprouts can harbor bacteria like salmonella, listeria, and E. coli. “Any raw vegetables floating around in their packaging are at high risk for bacteria,” Krieger says. So you should also throw away a bag of lettuce if it gets soaked. Speaking of packaged salads, eat them within a day or two of opening.

Raw dough and batter

We know you crave it. But for baby’s sake, don’t lick the spoon while baking. Unbaked dough can contain salmonella, which can cause foodborne illness. Plus, “Although some commercial cookie dough lists pasteurized eggs in the ingredient list, I don’t recommend eating raw cookie dough,” says Krieger. “It lacks nutrition.”

Unpasteurized juice

Out at the farmers market? If you’re not sure whether the juice or cider is pasteurized, puree it. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires warning labels on all unpasteurized fruit or vegetable juices. However, these agents do not require labels for fresh juices or ciders sold by the glass (for example, health food stores, juice bars, farms, and apple orchards). Krieger’s rule of thumb: if a fruit or vegetable is juiced on the spot and eaten within an hour, it’s safe. But fresh juice sitting for longer is too risky for pregnant women.

Venti size caffeinated drink

While caffeine may be safe in small amounts (one to two cups of coffee per day), pregnant women with high blood pressure or anxiety should avoid it completely, as stimulants can make these conditions worse. “Careful recommendations as high caffeine levels during pregnancy are unknown,” Krieger added. “We know it’s best to stay on the less side.” So if you drink more than two small cups of coffee a day, get the rest decaffeinated.

Herbal tea

Surprisingly, you should also avoid tea—even if it’s decaffeinated. “There’s not a lot of research on herbs in pregnancy,” Krieger says. Go ahead and stick with decaffeinated black, white, or green tea, or familiar herbs like lemon verbena, spearmint, or chamomile. But if it’s something you’re not sure about, don’t have it. And completely avoid anything in excess during pregnancy. In other words, if you drink tea, mix up the types you drink so that nothing potentially harmful can build up in large amounts in your body.

Source: Expert: Sarah Krieger, MPH, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics