After the initial congratulations for your pregnancy confirmation appointment, your doctor may hand you a pamphlet or quickly go over all the things you can and can’t eat while pregnant. With the whirlwind of finding out you’re having a baby, the excitement of seeing that baby on the ultrasound, and all the other information thrown at you, it’s likely that this information doesn’t quite stick.
There are many different opinions and approaches when it comes to eating while pregnant. Some women may be so sick that all they can eat is toast in their first trimester. While other women may have weird cravings and eat pickles dipped in peanut butter (it happens!). Regardless of your appetite and cravings, there are certain foods you should avoid throughout your pregnancy.
Things You Shouldn’t Eat While Pregnant
Raw or Undercooked Meat
Protein from meat is important to help a growing baby. But it’s important to be careful about how that meat is cooked. Avoid raw meats entirely, and be sure that any meat you order is fully cooked. Unfortunately, this means that you can no longer order that steak medium rare or enjoy a tartare of any kind. Most restaurants are good about this, but it never hurts to double-check. When cooking at home, aim for a temperature of 165° F for chicken, 160° F for ground meat, and 145° F for whole cuts.
One of the most common no-no’s in pregnancy is deli meats. Deli meat has a high chance of containing listeria, which can be extremely dangerous to a growing baby. If you have a craving for a turkey sub, ask them to heat it for you, or heat the meat in your microwave when you get home.
Seafood High in Mercury
Mercury is a big concern in pregnancy as too much of it can lead to developmental delays. So it’s important to avoid fish that contain high levels of it. This includes:
- bigeye tuna
- king mackerel
Canned tuna does contain mercury, but the amounts are small enough that the American Pregnancy Association recommends eating it in moderation, about once per month.
Pregnant women should also avoid raw seafood, including sushi, raw oysters, scallops, and clams. Instead of your usual spicy tuna roll, opt for a cooked roll like shrimp tempura. Smoked salmon, lox or nova, should also be avoided.
Vegetables: Raw Sprouts
Veggies are great during pregnancy. If you can stomach them, the more, the better! The only thing to watch out for with vegetables is how they are washed. You likely don’t need to worry about popular restaurants, which have guidelines to follow about washing their product. But if you are washing them at home, be sure to be thorough about it. Veggies can carry bacteria that can pass to you if not washed correctly.
As for avoiding, there is only one type of vegetable you should take off the menu completely: raw sprouts. Steer clear of alfalfa sprouts, clover, and radish.
You’ll hear this word a lot when looking at things you can’t eat during pregnancy. Unpasteurized items have a higher risk of containing harmful bacteria such as listeria or E. coli. When an item is pasteurized, it kills those bacteria, making it safe for pregnant women to consume. The most common items to watch out for are soft cheeses such as brie, feta, and queso fresco. If these items are labeled as pasteurized, enjoy them! But always be sure to triple check the label or ask the waiter before indulging.
You should also avoid fresh squeezed and unpasteurized juices. If you can’t go without your fresh-squeezed morning beverage, boil it for at least one minute before enjoying it.
Raw or Undercooked Eggs
Eggs that have not been thoroughly cooked, whether by themselves or as part of a sauce or dish, should be avoided during pregnancy. Many of our favorite dishes use raw egg, so try to avoid:
- raw cookie or brownie batter
- Caesar dressing that is not pasteurized
- eggs benedict
- hollandaise sauce
When making a casserole or egg-based dish at home, make sure the temperature reaches 160° F.
Don’t worry, caffeine is allowed—just in moderation! If you are used to your double shot of espresso twice a day, you may want to limit that intake. The general rule is to stick to 200mg of caffeine a day, including sodas and even chocolate.
While most of the above items have a “go around” like heating it or cooking it differently, there is no moderation for alcohol. The rule across the board is to avoid alcohol completely. If you crave a glass of wine a few times during your pregnancy, consult with your doctor before taking a sip.
While it may seem like many rules, don’t let yourself stress too much about what you can and can’t eat during pregnancy. Avoid the things above and try to keep a healthy diet, but remember: you are already the perfect mother to your baby, whether you just had veggies and rice for dinner or ordered a large pizza (for yourself).