What Not to Eat When Pregnant

what not to eat when pregnantIt’s pretty well-known that you shouldn’t drink alcohol in early pregnancy, but did you know there’s actually a list of things not to eat when you’re pregnant?

We’ve all had those moments at a party when we notice a girlfriend isn’t drinking alcohol and we wonder (sometimes aloud), “Is she pregnant?” But you wouldn’t bat an eye if she passed up a plate of brie or ham at a party, would you?

But if your friend says, “no thanks,” to the deli meats at your next party, she just might be doing it to protect her pregnancy.

Deli meats and unpasteurized cheeses or milks can be host to listeria, a bacteria that can cause miscarriage, premature delivery, and stillbirth if it infects a pregnant woman.

Take a look at the list of what you should not eat when pregnant. You might find another surprise or two on it.


Alcohol’s link to birth defects, mental retardation, and premature delivery has been well established. Stick to sparkling cider and virgin margaritas.


You don’t have to give up your morning coffee, but you may need to forgo your afternoon latte. Caffeine has been associated with miscarriage. Limit caffeine to no more than 300 mg a day—that’s two 8-oz cups of coffee, or three cups of black tea. Be sure to count the caffeine in any soda or energy drinks you consume as well.

Artificial Sweeteners

Saccharin should not be eaten during pregnancy. Although the FDA does approve other sweeteners like aspartame (Equal or NutraSweet) and sucralose (Splenda), many doctors suggest you stay away from these sweeteners while pregnant. Consider trying stevia, a natural herb sweetener with no calories.

Swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and white snapper

These fish contain high amounts of mercury which can be harmful for your baby. You should also limit albacore tuna to 4 ounces a week (light tuna has less mercury, so if you love tuna, choose the light variety, but still keep it under 12 ounces a week). You should also avoid all raw fish and shellfish. Don’t eliminate fish from your diet completely. There are plenty of varieties that are safe to eat. Fish and shellfish are excellent sources of Omega 3 Fatty Acids.

Deli Meats

Deli meats can become contaminated with bacteria if not handled properly. You can still eat them, but make sure you heat them until they steam to kill any bacteria. Also be sure to thoroughly cook pork, beef, and lamb for the same reason.

Soft Cheeses

Soft cheeses like feta, brie, goat, queso blanco, and camembert are often unpasteurized and may contain listeria—a bacteria that can be dangerous to pregnant women and fetuses.

Raw Eggs

Raw eggs can contain salmonella, so stay away from salad dressings and mayonnaise that contain raw eggs. Cook your scrambled eggs so they aren’t runny and don’t nibble on the cookie batter.

Rethink the sweets

It’s okay to eat a treat every so often, but remember that the empty calories in cake, cookies, candies, and other sugar-rich, processed foods don’t help your baby or your body. Instead, they put you at risk for gaining too much weight, having a higher birth weight baby, and developing gestational diabetes.

White bread, white rice, and white pasta are also low on nutrients. Choose the whole-grain varieties whenever possible. Not only do brown rice, wheat pasta, and whole-grain bread contain more nutrients, but they are also richer in fiber.

If you have any questions about what you should or shouldn’t eat or expose yourself to, err on the side of caution, and then ask your health care provider.

Remember that the best thing you can do for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby is to eat a variety of whole foods. Fortunately, the list of what you can eat when pregnant is even longer than the list of what you can’t.

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