These Are the 19 Forbidden Foods During Pregnancy

It's important to be aware of the forbidden foods during pregnancy so you can avoid them. Eating them can cause serious damage to the baby.
These Are the 19 Forbidden Foods During Pregnancy

Last update: 09 July, 2024

If you want to know which foods are forbidden in pregnancy, you’re on the right track with your eating plan. To comply with good nutrition at this stage, you should know the foods that should be excluded from the diet, especially for food safety reasons that put your health and your baby’s health at risk.

In this article, we’ll give you a list of forbidden foods for pregnant women and explain the reasons for their exclusion. You can consult with your obstetrician about each one of them. So, let’s get started!

Why are there foods that can’t be consumed during pregnancy?

Drs. Gil Mor and Ingrid Cardenas, through their detailed analysis in an article published in the American Journal of Reproductive Immunology, highlight the vulnerability of pregnant women to certain infectious diseases. This susceptibility is linked to the modifications in the immune system that pregnant women experience as a natural part of pregnancy.

During this period, the woman’s immune system adapts to tolerate the presence of the fetus, thus avoiding its rejection as a foreign body. However, this adaptation can also make pregnant women more prone to infections and foodborne illnesses.

The alteration can affect the body’s ability to fight certain pathogens, increasing the risk of illness for the mother and fetus.

Foods not allowed for pregnant women

In this context, it’s crucial that pregnant women understand the importance of a safe diet. Some foods can carry bacteria and toxins that, while they may not significantly affect a healthy person, could pose a significant risk during pregnancy. Some of these foods include the following.

1. Unpasteurized milk

Raw milk from any animal species can infect a pregnant woman. Because it’s not subjected to temperatures between 160 and 195 degrees Fahrenheit, these milks don’t eliminate pathogenic disease-causing bacteria that could contaminate the product.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), some dangerous bacteria, such as Campylobacter, Listeria, E. coli, and Salmonella, are responsible for food poisoning caused by unpasteurized milk. For safety reasons, pregnant women should consume industrially pasteurized or sterilized milk. But never raw.

2. Soft cheeses

Soft cheeses are made from raw milk. Therefore, they have a high water value in their composition, which can function as a breeding ground for the development of pathogenic bacteria. Like raw milk, these cheeses can be vehicles for food poisoning.

The U.S. FoodSafety portal explains that cheeses to avoid during pregnancy include the following:

  • Brie
  • Roquefort
  • Feta cheese
  • Camembert
  • Queso fresco
  • White cheese
  • Panela cheese
The only way to consume them is if the label says: “Made with pasteurized milk”

3. Raw or undercooked eggs

Be careful with some preparations containing raw or undercooked eggs, mainly because they can be a vehicle for Salmonella, a bacterium that causes food poisoning.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most common symptoms of salmonellosis include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and intestinal cramping. This can cause contractions in the uterus and premature delivery or stillbirth.

So, avoid lightly scrambled eggs, homemade mayonnaise, hollandaise sauce, homemade ice cream, raw dough, cake frosting, homemade salad dressings, eggs Benedict, or poached and beaten eggs with raw egg.

The minimum cooking time to ensure optimal cooking of the yolk and white is 10 minutes from boiling water. Also, it’s advisable to use pasteurized eggs.

4. Fruits and vegetables without proper washing

Both vegetables and fruits are exposed to different points of contamination from the time they’re harvested. In processing, storage, transport, or retail handling, they’re exposed to pathogenic bacteria and parasites.

For example, Toxoplasma, which may be present in unwashed fruits and vegetables, is a parasite that crosses the placenta and causes vision loss in infants and learning difficulties in infancy. Therefore, these foods should be washed thoroughly before handling, as explained by the FDA website.

5. Raw fish and seafood

Raw fish and seafood, to be safe for pregnant women, should be cooked at 145 degrees Fahrenheit, as they may contain listeria and other agents that endanger the health of pregnant women and babies’ lives. You should avoid sushi, cebiche, sashimi, oysters, scallops, and raw clams.

6. Smoked seafood

Cold smoking is a procedure that isn’t safe for pregnant women. Smoking temperatures range from 50 to Fahrenheit, which doesn’t guarantee the destruction of listeria and other pathogenic bacteria.

Smoked fish can only be eaten cooked, such as in a casserole, where the internal temperature can reach a minimum of 165.2 degrees Fahrenheit. Products of this type can also be eaten canned if they’re not perishable or have been cooked at appropriate temperatures.

7. Unpasteurized juices

It’s best to avoid unpasteurized juices, including fresh and freshly squeezed juices, when their preparation is out of our control.

If fruits or vegetables haven’t been well handled and sanitized, they could cause outbreaks of foodborne infections such as E. coli, a pathogenic bacterium that causes risks in pregnancy, as described by the National Library of Medicine.

8. Cured ham (uncooked)

The Spanish Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics prohibits the consumption of cured ham, such as Serrano and Iberian ham, during pregnancy. This is because this type of derivative is made with raw meat, and there’s no application of heat or pasteurization in its manufacture.

For this reason, it can be a carrier of Toxoplasma gondii, the cause of toxoplasmosis. Listeriosis can also appear with the consumption of these products.

However, some specialists consider that this type of ham requires at least 18 months of maturation or 24 months in the case of Iberian ham for pregnant women to be able to eat it. In addition, they should be cooked until they’re piping hot and eaten immediately.

Consult your doctor regarding this type of product!

Undercooked beef and poultry

For some people, it’s custom to eat beef or chicken almost raw. However, this should be ruled out during pregnancy. As we’ve seen, raw foods and meats of any kind can be carriers of germs and parasites that harm the health of mother and baby. These include Salmonella, E. coli, Campylobacter, Listeria monocytogenes, and Toxoplasma .

That is why health agencies recommend a minimum safe internal cooking temperature for each type of meat. For example, for chicken, it’s 165 degrees Fahrenheit, while 145.5 degrees Fahrenheit is required for beef cutlets and 160 degrees for ground beef.

10. Raw dough

Raw dough can cause illness in pregnancy, as it’s prepared with raw eggs and flour, which are a possible vehicle for Salmonella and E. coli bacteria. Therefore, it’s important that dough be well cooked before consumption.

11. Fish containing mercury

Mercury is a contaminant found in large fish such as shark, bluefin tuna, blanquillo from the Gulf of Mexico, pike, mackerel, and swordfish. These are among the forbidden foods during pregnancy, as the baby may suffer from brain damage and vision and hearing problems.

12. Raw sprouts

Sprouts, such as alfalfa sprouts, radish, mung beans, and clover, which are often used in salads, should also be avoided in the pregnant woman’s diet. There’s a high likelihood that these small sprouts are contaminated with Salmonella due to the moist conditions in which they grow.

In addition, it’s almost impossible to eliminate this bacterium by washing the sprouts. However, the FDA recommends cooking them before consumption to destroy the bacteria in case of contamination.

13. Refrigerated pâté

The American Pregnancy Association reminds us that meat spreads, including refrigerated pâté, may be contaminated with Listeria bacteria. Therefore, it’s best to consume them only when canned or in sealed jars or bags, which should remain stored refrigerated before uncovering.

14. Ready-to-eat sandwiches

These types of sandwiches may be contaminated with some harmful microorganisms, especially if they contain vegetables, eggs, sausages, or meats whose cooking temperature is unknown. Therefore, it’s preferable to prepare them at home.

15. Ultra-processed foods

Ultra-processed foods should be avoided during pregnancy, as they contain additives, sugars, sodium, trans fats, and calories that are detrimental to a healthy diet. Therefore, they hinder good weight control during pregnancy and the nutrient supply necessary for the baby’s growth.

These include sodas, candies and sweets, sweetened powdered drinks, pastries and cakes, commercial potato chips, frozen pizzas, commercial dressings, cold cuts, and breakfast cereals, among others.

16. Energy drinks

The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends avoiding energy drinks because of their high caffeine value for pregnancy and the amount of ingredients and additives in their formulation.

For example, some of these drinks have ginseng, carnitine, inositol, and other stimulant compounds that haven’t been tested and approved for pregnancy.

17. Herbal infusions

A wide variety of herbs are contraindicated in pregnancy because they can cause premature labor by increasing uterine contractions or producing toxicity in the baby. This is according to a review published in the Journal of Medicine and Life.

Some of these are licorice, parsley, sage, thyme, fennel, horsetail, anise, juniper, lavender, dragonfly, juniper, and wormwood. Therefore, you should consult your doctor before using any infusion to relieve some ailments.

18. Viscera

Viscera, such as liver or kidneys, are a type of meat that provides good amounts of key nutrients for pregnancy. But they also have high values of vitamin A, which, when consumed in excess, causes toxicity during the first trimester of pregnancy. This was reported in a paper published in the journal Nutrients .

19. Alcohol

The National Health Service (NHS) of the United Kingdom is emphatic in not recommending alcoholic beverages during pregnancy. Ethanol crosses the placenta, reduces the baby’s weight, and can cause premature delivery or an increased risk of miscarriage.

In addition, according to the American Addictions Centers (AAC), prolonged exposure can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) that affects the physical, mental, and emotional development of the baby.

Avoid these foods for a safer pregnancy

Don’t forget that in a healthy diet for you and your baby, there should be no risk of consumption. Therefore, don’t consume the foods on this list unless you’ve consulted with your doctor and assured certain conditions regarding pasteurization, cooking, refrigeration, disinfection, and proper handling handling.

You should avoid raw foods, such as milk and cheeses made with unpasteurized milk, unpasteurized juices, raw and smoked fish and shellfish, undercooked meats, sprouts, offal, ultra-processed, cured sausages, refrigerated pate, raw dough, fish rich in mercury, energy drinks, herbal infusions, and alcohol.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.