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    Home ›› Foods to avoid during pregnancy

    Foods to avoid during pregnancy: tips and guidance


    Reading time: 8 mins


    Your body is beautifully equipped to support your baby but eating a healthy diet (and knowing which foods to avoid when pregnant) will help Mother Nature do her best work. So, how does a pregnant woman’s diet differ from regular advice on eating well? What exactly should you be eating, and what can’t you eat when pregnant? 


    Many women have a vague idea of what foods to avoid when pregnant, but we’ve compiled this list so you can be certain.

    Remember, all pregnancies are different, and our advice doesn’t replace seeing a doctor. Talk to your GP to discuss any specific diet changes.

    Pregnancy: What not to eat


    The good news is that a healthy diet while you’re pregnant is very similar to a healthy diet when you’re not. You should aim to eat regular meals, whilst keeping foods that are high in sugar or saturated fat to a minimum. Fruits, vegetables, carbohydrates, protein and the calcium in dairy are all valuable when you’re pregnant.1

    When you’re choosing your dairy, bear in mind that some cheeses make the list of things not to eat when pregnant. For more detail, take a look at the list below.


    For safety reasons, foods not to eat when pregnant include raw or rare meats, liver, raw fish or shellfish, raw eggs, unpasteurised or mould-ripened cheeses and unpasteurised milk or juice. Below, we’ve put together some more details on a few of the things not to eat when pregnant:2


    • Fish with mercury, raw fish and shellfish
      Can you eat prawns when pregnant? To the disappointment of all sushi lovers, raw fish and shellfish are among the foods not to eat when pregnant, although you can still enjoy some sushi if the fish has been thoroughly cooked. You should also make sure smoked fish is completely cooked and steaming hot throughout.3

      Do not eat fish with high mercury content, such as marlin, swordfish or shark – and only consume tinned tuna in moderation. The NHS recommends keeping to a maximum of two portions of oily fish and 140g of tinned tuna per week.2

    • Soft cheeses with mould or made from unpasteurised milk 
      To avoid bacteria such as listeria, certain soft cheeses also make the list of what pregnant women should not eat. The main rules are to avoid unpasteurised soft cheeses and to avoid mould, even in cheeses that are intentionally mould-ripened. You’ll find mould in blue cheeses, such as Roquefort or Gorgonzola, and in soft cheeses with a white coating, such as Brie and Camembert. 

      If you’re a cheese connoisseur and you can’t face nine months without your favourite soft cheese, you can cook soft or blue cheese until it’s steaming hot to kill bacteria.2

      It’s okay to eat hard cheeses, such as cheddar or parmesan, even if they’re unpasteurised.2

    • Unpasteurised milk and juice
      Just like soft cheeses, you should make sure any milk or juice you consume during pregnancy is pasteurised to kill bacteria. Bear in mind that unpasteurised juices include freshly squeezed juice. 

    • Raw eggs
      Also on your list of what not to eat when pregnant should be raw eggs or foods containing raw or undercooked eggs, such as cake batter, cookie dough, soft boiled or scrambled eggs. Watch out for foods that might contain undercooked or lightly cooked eggs such as salads, dressings, eggnog and ice cream. 

      What if you don’t want to give up your scrambled eggs? The good news is that, according to the NHS, it’s okay to eat raw or partly cooked eggs in pregnancy if the eggs have the British Lion stamp on them, which indicates that they’re unlikely to contain salmonella bacteria.2 If your eggs don’t have the lion symbol, though, they should be fully cooked before you eat them. 

    • Undercooked or raw meat and poultry 
      Undercooked or raw meat may harbour parasites. If you’re eating meat in pregnancy, it doesn’t necessarily have to be hot when you eat it, but it needs to have been cooked all the way through.

      If you’re looking for cold meats to put in a sandwich, packaged ham or corned beef is fine. However, cured meats such as salami, chorizo and prosciutto haven’t been cooked, so you should either avoid them or cook them thoroughly before you eat them. Pâté, liver and game are also off-limits. 

      As for whole cuts of meat, make sure they are cooked all the way through before consuming, with no pinkness or blood.2

    • Unwashed fruits and vegetables
      Unwashed fruits, vegetables and salads may have traces of soil on them, and it won’t surprise you to learn that soil is among the things not to eat when pregnant. Make sure you wash your fruits or vegetables before you eat them.

    • Alcohol
      This is one you probably know already. The NHS recommends not drinking alcohol at all when you’re pregnant, as the alcohol passes from your blood to your baby and can cause developmental problems.4

    • Vitamin A supplements
      You can have too much of a good thing. Too much vitamin A can be bad for your unborn baby, which is why, as we mentioned earlier, you should avoid liver and pâté. Similarly, you should avoid taking vitamin A or multivitamin supplements until your baby has come into the world.5

    Advised (but not required) foods to avoid when pregnant:


    Although you needn’t ban them completely from your diet, some foods are better reduced or avoided during pregnancy to keep you both happy and healthy:


    • Sugar and fat
      If you find yourself craving sweets, fast food or foods high in fat, you may be unhappy to hear that the NHS recommends cutting down on sugar and saturated fat during pregnancy.1 Still, you can always explore healthier options. Craving chips with every meal? Why not fry your food with little or no oil, using an Airfryer?

    • Excess caffeine
      During pregnancy, what not to eat often overshadows what not to drink! However, this is equally important, and the NHS recommends limiting your caffeine intake to 200mg per day.2 Although caffeine is usually associated with drinks, such as tea, coffee and cola, bear in mind that there’s also caffeine in chocolate.

    What you need

    Healthy eating when pregnant


    Pregnancy is a time of intense growth and physiological development for both mother and child, and your nutrition should help you in that journey. It’s always helpful to speak to your GP or another healthcare professional to ensure your body is getting all the right nutrients, in the right amount. 


    Here are some more key tips for a healthy, balanced diet during pregnancy:


    • Eat whole grains such as wholewheat bread and pasta.1
    • Opt for lean meat or poultry and try to eat two portions of cooked fish per week, one of which should be oily fish. Remember to choose fish low in mercury!1
    • Soups and smoothies are nifty ways to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet, and using a soup/smoothie maker is a hassle-free way to prepare healthy dishes in no time.
    • Speak to your GP about a nutrition plan and prenatal vitamins like folic acid and iron. During pregnancy you have a higher need for some vitamins and minerals, and it’s hard to get everything you need from food alone.
    •  Aim to eat unsaturated fats like olive oil and avocados, and limit saturated fats and ‘empty calories’, such as sweets or sugary drinks.1  


    Always consult a doctor before embarking on any specific diet.


    Understanding which foods to avoid during pregnancy is just a small part of your journey. Stay on top of your health with the Pregnancy+ mobile app. The app provides daily support, helping you through every step of your pregnancy. 


    For more about pregnancy and caring for your baby when they arrive, have a look at our parents’ guide

    Meet the Baby+ App

    Meet the Baby+ App

    Get the app that supports you in tracking your baby’s development and allows you to save those special moments forever.

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    1 Have a healthy diet in pregnancy, NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/have-a-healthy-diet/

    2 Foods to avoid in pregnancy, NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/foods-to-avoid/ 

    3 Vulnerable consumers advised of ongoing risk of Listeria associated with ready to eat smoked fish, Food Standards Agency. https://www.food.gov.uk/news-alerts/news/vulnerable-consumers-advised-of-ongoing-risk-of-listeria-associated-with-ready-to-eat-smoked-fish

    4 Drinking alcohol while pregnant, NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/drinking-alcohol-while-pregnant/

    5 Vitamins and minerals: vitamin A, NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-a/ 

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