Safety and Wellness
Should I Avoid Certain Foods During Pregnancy?
I've heard that there are certain foods I should avoid during pregnancy. Is that true?
Yes. Although most foods are safe to eat, some might be problematic during pregnancy. For example, you should avoid or limit your exposure to foods that are more likely to be contaminated with bacteria (such as raw meat and fish), since food-borne infections may cause birth defects or miscarriage. And foods that might contain high levels of mercury (such as certain types of fish) can cause damage to the developing brain of a fetus.
Foods to steer clear of altogether during pregnancy include:
- soft, unpasteurized cheeses (often advertised as "fresh") such as feta, goat, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheeses, and Mexican queso fresco. Soft cheeses that are clearly labeled pasteurized are safe.
- unpasteurized ("raw") milk and juices, including "fresh" apple cider
- raw eggs or foods containing raw eggs, including mousse, tiramisu, homemade raw cookie dough, eggnog, and Caesar dressing. Foods prepared with pasteurized eggs are safe.
- raw or undercooked fish (sushi), shellfish, meat, or poultry
- unpasteurized pâté and meat spreads
- processed meats such as hot dogs and deli meats that have not been reheated (these should be cooked to 165ºF before eating)
- fish that may contain high levels of mercury (shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that pregnant and breastfeeding women can eat up to 12 ounces a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury, including shrimp, salmon, light canned tuna, pollock, and catfish. Limit the amount of fresh tuna steak and albacore ("white") tuna to no more than 6 ounces per week.
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: January 2014