The 12 Foods to Avoid While Pregnant, According to a Nutritionist

Updated 04/17/19

We've heard the rumors that there are certain foods to avoid while pregnant, but has this changed since our parents' time? After all, we know that the methods for laying the baby in the crib seem to change year by year (on their stomach, side, swaddled, not swaddled), so we figured this might be a similar situation. And if there are still no-no foods once you conceive, we're hoping to figure out some awesome alternatives to get through the next nine months.

That's why we decided to tap Juliana Shalek, MS, RD, CDN, and founder of The Nutrition Suite, to break down some rules regarding which foods you should ban from your pregnancy diet. "I always tell my clients 'what you eat, baby eats—so make it count!'" she tells MyDomaine. She explains that there are some foods moms-to-be should steer clear of (more on that below), but she also advises against the "eating for two mentality." In fact, she says you should only really be increasing your food intake beginning in the second trimester, but you should be trying to follow a more nutritious diet all nine months.

a pregnant woman eating grapes out of the fridge
@gerihirsch

Raw Fish

Stay away from sushi, sashimi, and tartare. "They may have harmful bacteria that can cause you and your baby to get sick," advises Shalek. Sometimes, bacteria can even lead to a serious blood infection.

Safe swap: Order cooked fish or shellfish or tempura rolls

Deli Meat

Even though a sandwich makes an easy lunch on the go, deli meat can contain listeria bacteria that leads to food poisoning, says Shalek. And even though brands now spray cold cuts with an additive that prevents Listeria, pregnant women are still more prone to contracting it.

Safe swap: Warm-up deli meat on the stove (cooking it will kill bacteria)

Hot Dogs

This favorite picnic food can also contain bacteria that cause food poisoning. It's technically safe to eat if you reheat the meat to 165°F, but that's hard to ensure when you're at a barbecue or ball game.

Safe swap: Opt for a well-done hamburger, steak, or grilled chicken

Raw Sprouts

Raw sprouts—this includes alfalfa, clover, mung bean, and radish—all have the potential of harboring bacteria. This is because salmonella, listeria, and e.coli can seep into sprout seeds through cracks in the shell.

Safe swap: Cook sprouts by baking them in the oven or sautéeing them in a frying pan

a chicken salad
Broma Bakery

Mercury-Rich Fish

"Fish high in mercury can be toxic for baby's brain and nervous system," explains Shalek. This means you should avoid swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and bigeye tuna.

Simple swap: Switch it up with low-mercury fish and shellfish like shrimp, salmon, crab, cod, catfish, and tilapia

Raw Eggs

Raw or not fully cooked eggs are a no-no. "Raw eggs can contain salmonella," says Shalek. "Avoid consuming raw batter as well as sauces and dressings that contain uncooked eggs." In general, eggs should be well-done and never "runny."

Simple swap: Go for scrambled eggs or an omelet instead of over easy

Alcohol

"I know there are some differences in professional opinion on this matter," says Shalek. "I'm an overly cautious person in both my professional and personal life, so I advise against even a glass of wine during pregnancy." Although, if you had been consuming alcohol before you knew you were pregnant, it's typically not something to get stressed or upset over, says Shalek. She says if you have any questions to be sure to talk with your OB-GYN.

Simple swap: Sip on seltzer water with lime or lemon if you're out at a social gathering

Canned Foods

"Canned foods are typically high in sodium, which can cause swelling and elevated blood pressure during pregnancy," explains Shalek. Instead, incorporate as many fresh foods into your diet as possible.

Simple swap: Get fresh beans, fruits, and vegetables instead of the canned variety

Unpasteurized Food

"Be sure that products say 'pasteurized' before consuming them, otherwise they can make you very sick," says Shalek. Avoid imported soft cheeses like brie, feta, and gorgonzola unless they explicitly say they are pasteurized (other countries don't tend to pasteurize things like milk, juices, or soft cheeses). The same goes for milk—unpasteurized dairy can contain listeria.

Simple swap: Go for pasteurized milk and juices, and eat soft cheeses from the U.S. since they will be pasteurized

an hors d'oeuvres platter
Half Baked Harvest

Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are okay in moderation, but Shalek says she typically urges clients to stay away from them, especially during pregnancy. Eventually, she says your body will not crave sugar or sweeteners.

Simple swap: Add fresh fruit to flavor your water or try a little bit of vanilla almond milk in your coffee or tea

Caffeine

You're fine to sticking with about an eight-ounce caffeinated beverage a day, but that should be it. "Consuming caffeine in excess can cause a low birth weight for your baby and can cause you heartburn," says Shalek.

Simple swap: Stick to seltzer water or hot water with lemon

Sugar-Sweetened Drinks

Put down the soda, juice, iced, tea, and lemonade. These types of drinks contain sugar, and soda is actually dehydrating, which is not what you need when pregnant.

Simple swap: Stick to water or seltzer for optimal hydration sans sugar

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