Foods to Avoid in Pregnancy


Being pregnant opens up a whole new world of foods to eat and foods to avoid.  When you are pregnant, changes in your circulation and digestive patterns make you more sensitive to bacteria and viruses.  To protect both your health and the health of your baby, avoid the following foods beginning in your first trimester:

High mercury seafood

Fish can be a great source of protein and the omega 3 fatty acids that will help your baby’s brain develop.  The FDA recommends you avoid the following high mercury seafood sources, which may compromise the development of your baby’s nervous system: swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish (or white snapper).  For lower mercury varieties of fish, plan on consuming less than 12 ounces per week of: shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish.

Raw meat and fish

Eating undercooked or raw fish and meat can put you at risk for harmful bacteria and viruses like toxoplasmosis and salmonella.  To be safe always ask for well done meat at restaurants and when cooking at home, make sure your meat is fully cooked through (with no juices).  Be sure to avoid sushi as well, though cooked rolls may be fine.

Soft cheeses and un-pasteurized dairy

To avoid the bacteria listeria, do not eat soft cheeses and milk products unless they are clearly marked pasteurized.  Listeria is bacteria found in undercooked meats as well as un-pasteurized dairy products and processed foods (like deli meats and hot dogs).  The Center for Disease Control claims that pregnant women account for 27% of reported cases each year and are 20 times more likely to be affected by listeria than non pregnant adults.  Soft cheeses avoid include: brie, feta, camembert, blue cheese, mexican-style cheeses, such as queso blanco, queso fresco, queso de hoja, queso de crema and queso asadero.  You can still enjoy full fat milks and hard cheeses that are pausteurized.

Artificial Sweeteners

Although saccharin is the only artificial sweetener that is strongly discouraged for pregnant women, it is a good idea to use your own discernment with others like aspartame (Equal or NutraSweet) and sucralose (Splenda).  It’s always a good idea to replace foods that have no nutritional value with healthier, less processed varieties.  Consider using grade B maple syrup and honey.

5 Comments to “Foods to Avoid in Pregnancy”

  1. Avatar Meagan says:

    Hi Kathryn,
    I just found out that I am pregnant, it is my 2nd pregnancy and the reason that I am writing is that in my first pregnancy I had gestational diabetes that we were able to control with diet and without insulin. I also found out last year that I have a few cysts on my ovaries. I am just busy processing the fact that I am actually pregnant and will make an appointment to go and see an OBGYN but would love and appreciate any light and information you could shed on this for me. I have read your articles on Gestational Diabetes and the PCOS. My last pregnancy was great but this is 8 years down the line.
    Kind regards,

    • Avatar Kathryn says:

      Hi Meagan,

      Congratulations! Hopefully you are still following the diet recommendations for regulating gestational diabetes. According to Chinese medicine, limiting sugar and damp heavy foods like ice cream can also help with the resolution of cysts. Luckily, some of the foods you are probably already avoiding!

      Best, Kathryn

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  2. Avatar Donna Newcomb says:

    My daughter is 24. She has pcos and just found out she is pregnant. What foods should she avoid to prevent gestatational diabetes? What foods should she eat more of?

    • Avatar Kathryn says:

      Here are some basic suggestions to educate your daughter about what foods to eat and what not to eat for regulating blood sugar levels in pcos/gestational diabetes. Hope this is helpful!

      • Reduce intake of refined carbohydrates and sugar, which spike blood sugar levels (yams are also overly sweet for those with PCOS)
      • Eat balanced protein, carbohydrate meals and snacks to keep insulin levels steady
      • Consume lots of organic leafy greens, whole grains and lean sources of protein

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  3. […] practices become even more important when germs can effect your growing fetus. Understanding which foods to avoid during pregnancy and keeping clear of infections keep you and your baby […]

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