Short Answer – Wondering what foods to avoid during pregnancy? It’s a good question. You want to avoid foods that are raw, undercooked, high in mercury, or potentially spoiled. This means you should stay away from sushi, raw oysters, fish with high mercury levels, raw or undercooked eggs, deli meats and hot dogs (just to name a few). Read on to learn more…

You’re pregnant, congratulations! Before you give in to those pregnancy cravings, take a minute to learn about which foods to avoid during pregnancy in order to protect yourself and your unborn baby from food borne illness and other potential harms. And don’t worry, ice cream isn’t on the banned list!

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, when you become pregnant, your body naturally undergoes hormonal changes. Some of these changes impact your immune system, making you more susceptible to contracting a food borne illness. This means pregnant women need to be even more cautious.

The main goal of any expectant mom is to have a healthy pregnancy.  Your unborn baby’s immune system is not developed enough to fight off harmful food borne microorganisms. This is why you need to be especially careful with what you eat. First off, follow the FDA’s recommendations for safe food handling. Be sure you wash, separate, heat, and chill foods as needed. Spoiled, undercooked or cross-contaminated foods are a prime source of illness.

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Foods To Avoid During Pregnancy:

#1 – Food Left Out Too Long
Many outbreaks result from food left for long periods on steam tables (like at a buffet) or at room temperature. If you are unsure of how long something has been sitting out, don’t eat it.
#2 – Hot Dogs And Deli Meats
Improperly reheated hot dogs, luncheon meats, cold cuts, fermented or dry sausage, and other deli-style meat and poultry are another source of food borne illness. It’s best not to eat these, but if you do make sure they are reheated until steaming.
#3 – Raw, Undercooked or Contaminated Seafood
Examples include sushi, sashimi, raw oysters, and seafood labeled “nova style”, lox, kippered, smoked or jerky. It’s OK to eat smoked seafood if it’s an ingredient in a casserole or other cooked dish, but smoked seafood in the deli section should be avoided. Canned and shelf-stable versions are okay. If you eat fish from local waters, pay attention to local fish advisories, especially if water pollution is a concern.
#4 – Fish With High Levels of Mercury
Not sure what these are? Check out the Natural Resources Defense Council (NDRC’s) Seafood Buying Guide.
#5 – Raw Sprouts
Avoid raw sprouts including clover, alfalfa, mung bean, radish, onion, soybean, and snow pea sprouts. Sprouts are highly prone to listeria, salmonella, and E.coli bacteria. If you are going to eat them, be sure they are cooked.
#6 – Unpasteurized Juice
Unpasteurized fruit and vegetable juice, including packaged juice, may carry harmful bacteria. This includes “fresh” apple cider. If you’re making juice yourself, so you know the fruit was washed and the juice is fresh, that’s one thing…but if you’re buying from a vendor, you don’t know if food safety protocols were followed. Better to be safe.
#7 – Store-Made Salads
Such as ham salad, chicken salad, or seafood salads that may have been sitting out or not chilled properly. Mayo and other ingredients in these types of salads can spoil easily. 
#8 – Undercooked Beef
Especially ground beef which is prone to E.coli and other bacteria.
#9 Herbal Teas And Supplements
Some herbs used in teas and supplements can be harmful to mother and fetus. Ingredients like ephedra, angelica, kavka kava, yohimbe, black and blue cohosh, mugwort, comfrey, fenugreek, echinacea, goldenseal, saw palmetto, St. John’s wort, wormwood, and more can cause reactions and complications. To be safe, it’s best to avoid herbal blends all together. If there is a particular tea or supplement you feel strongly about taking, talk to your healthcare provider first to get the okay.
#10 Licorice
Avoid eating black licorice during pregnancy because one of its compounds, glycyrrhizin, has been associated with several fetal development issues. Glycyrrhizin is known to cause higher blood pressure and shorter pregnancies. A new research study conducted by the University of Helsinki suggests that high amounts of glycyrrhizin may also be  linked to lower IQs for children years after birth. It’s best to just stay away from licorice when you’re expecting.
#11 – Contaminated Raw Fruits and Vegetables
Cooked veggies are the best choice, but if you go with raw try and go organic and be sure to wash everything thoroughly before consuming to reduce risk.
#12 – Raw or Undercooked Eggs
This includes sunny side up and any other egg that is still runny. Eggs are prone to bacteria, be sure they are cooked all the way through.
#13 – Soft, Unaged Cheeses
A risk of Listeria during pregnancy comes from soft, unaged cheese; both raw and pasteurized. For that reason it is recommended you avoid them to err on the side of caution. Aged, hard cheeses are okay.
#14 – Caffeine and Alcohol
The Mayo Clinic and others recommend pregnant women avoid caffeine and alcohol while pregnant as these beverages may impact your developing fetus. This includes energy drinks which are often high in caffeine and other ingredients not recommended during pregnancy. 

Many sources will also tell you to be cautious of unpasteurized raw milk. And we agree, be cautious. But we, and many women we know, drank raw milk during pregnancy because clean whole raw milk from healthy animals is a nutrient-dense food. The key here is “clean whole raw milk” meaning organic grass-fed raw milk from a reputable source that you know is fresh and has not been left out. The reason the FDA and big dairy companies don’t want you to drink raw milk is that it requires healthy animals and sanitary dairies. And we know that not all dairies are sanitary.

Whole raw milk is a complete source of amino acids, good carbohydrates, and important nutrients such as calcium and vitamins A, C and D. Your body needs the fats in it to properly use and absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A and D. And it has the phosphate your body needs to digest the calcium, something that’s completely destroyed by pasteurization. Think of raw milk as ‘living’, it’s rich with enzymes. The beneficial bacteria (those great probiotics we’re all trying to get more of in our diet) are still in there because they haven’t been wiped out through pasteurization. Whether you drink raw milk or not is a personal choice, but if you can find a quality local source you trust, we’re all for it.

If you ever have any questions about whether a particular food or beverage is safe to consume while pregnant, don’t guess, discuss with your doctor or healthcare provider. If you feel absolutely clueless about what to eat now, this cookbook can give you some great recipe ideas.

Have you heard any good advice about what foods to avoid during pregnancy? Share them in our Pregnancy Community.