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Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy Part 1: Food-borne illness.

Since pregnancy is so important for the growth of an infant, pregnant women are considered at high risk when it comes to food-borne illnesses. For this reason, there are a few foods to avoid during pregnancy.

Just as a precursor, we want to explain that we avoid some foods because they could potentially not only hurt you but your baby. Foods like alcohol and caffeine can cross into the placenta and negatively impact growth and development.

Although you may believe that some foods will ONLY impact YOU if you get sick, the real issue is when you are unable to properly nourish your body due to your illness. This will most likely lead to a lack of nutrition (due to reduced intake) for your developing baby, which is of course, is not optimal in any way.

What foods should be avoided?

Similar to any other time in your life, raw foods should be avoided. This is especially important for pregnant women because they are more susceptible to contracting foodborne illnesses due to their lowered immune system during pregnancy.

Raw meats should definitely be avoided due to bacterial risks and salmonella.

Most seafood-borne illnesses are caused by undercooked shellfish, therefore, raw shellfish should be avoided (such as oysters). Cooking can help-- but may not prevent algae related infections. Pregnant women should not be consuming raw fish such as sushi, sashimi, or poke. Find out more here!

Lastly, raw eggs should not be consumed. Although the idea of bodybuilders drinking raw eggs to "boost protein" comes to mind (currently picturing Gaston from Beauty and the Beast), this isn't exactly what we are referring to.

Raw eggs can be found in some unlikely sources such as homemade Caesar salad dressings, mayo, homemade ice cream or custard and hollandaise sauce. Unless the cook uses pasteurized eggs, (which is the case for most restaurants) these foods should be avoided during pregnancy.

Pregnant women should also avoid fish with high levels of mercury (check out our post on fish and mercury levels during pregnancy here)! Be aware of fish caught in local lakes and rivers due to possible contamination in the waters. Check mercury levels with your local regulatory agency before you personally fish -- OR purchase your fish at a local grocery store to be safe.

PSA: All meats should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145F except for chicken and eggs, which should be cooked to 165F.


Pregnant women are at a heightened risk for listeria, a bacteria that can cross the placenta and cause infection for you and your baby. Foods that you should avoid that may contain listeria include; deli meat, hot dogs, smoked seafood, pate or meat spreads, unpasteurized milk, and cheese made with unpasteurized milk/soft cheeses in general, and egg/chicken salad.

How to avoid foodborne illnesses?

Drink pasteurized milk and find cheeses that are made from pasteurized milk. Cheeses to avoid are brie, camembert, feta, Roquefort, gorgonzola, and Mexican style cheeses aka queso fresco.

Some canned smoked seafood is also safe to consume as opposed to their refrigerated counterparts.

Make sure you reheat all foods to 165F to kill off any foodborne illnesses. You can eat hotdogs and lunch meat if you also cook them so that they reach this temperature first.

Caffeine and Alcohol?

Both Caffeine and Alcohol may be harmful during pregnancy due to the risk of FASDs (fetal alcohol spectrum disorders) and miscarriages. Check out our post on caffeine and alcohol in pregnancy here!

Fruits and vegetables?

Make sure you wash all of your vegetables before consuming them. While fruits and vegetables are encouraged to be consumed before, during, and after pregnancy--- unwashed vegetables may retain some contaminants from the soil that they were grown in.

Lastly, watch out for public pools, lakes, and other places that the water may not be 'the most' cleanly. This is because there is a risk for fecal contamination (from humans or animals) that could also put you at risk for developing an undesired illness.

Thanks for reading and as always...

Your health today is a LIFETIME of health for you AND your baby.

Until next time!

Mikayla and Cassie

Mamas Maternal Health Registered Dietitians/Lactation Counselors

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