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27th June 2018

Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a very special time and there is a lot of information to take in.  In a recent post we discussed the what to eat during pregnancy to ensure your body gets the right nutrients but avoiding certain foods is just as important.  In this post I focus on the foods and nutrients that should either limited or removed from your diet during pregnancy.


High levels of caffeine can result in baby having low birth weight and can increase risk of miscarriage.  It is best to try and avoid caffeine completely whilst pregnant; however levels up to 200mg daily are considered safe.  It can be difficult to understand how much caffeine is contained in drinks, see below for an approximate guide:

  • Mug instant coffee – 100mg caffeine
  • (Coffee shop) espresso – about 80mg caffeine
  • Filter coffee – 140mg caffeine
  • Cup of tea – 75mg
  • Can of cola – 40mg

Raw Eggs

Raw eggs can harbour salmonella and therefore eggs should be consumed only when thoroughly cooked. Watch out for soft boiled eggs, chocolate mousse, fresh mayonnaise/ hollandaise sauce, fresh gelato which may contain raw eggs without you realising.

Raw/ Undercooked Meat

Raw or undercooked meat may carry the ‘toxoplasma’ parasite and there is a risk to the expectant mum of becoming infected.  Ensure all meat is thoroughly cooked, but not burnt.  Good kitchen hygiene is also critical; ensure hands are washed and any utensils/ chopping boards are thoroughly cleaned after preparing raw meat.

Certain cured meats are not actually cooked so can still harbour toxoplasmosis eg. Parma ham, chorizo, salami.  If you wish to eat these meats, heating them before eating will make them ‘safe’, alternatively freeze them for 4 days prior to eating.

Oily Fish

The advice around oily fish can be a bit confusing.  Oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring and trout contain high levels of omega 3 fats. These are essential for helping develop baby’s brain. However certain oily fish are very toxic, and should be avoided.

Due to sea pollution, fish farmed from the sea is usually contaminated with mercury and PCBs. The larger the fish, the higher up the food chain it is and this means that the toxicity levels are much higher than smaller fish. Shark, marlin and swordfish are best avoided during pregnancy. Tuna, also a large fish, and has a high mercury content and should only be consumed a maximum of once a fortnight. Canned tuna is generally a smaller tuna species and is canned without the fish oils meaning it’s safe to consume during pregnancy, however does not provide the omega 3 benefits.

Smaller oily fish, such are sardines, anchovies and mackerel are ‘safe’ and it’s recommended they’re consumed 2 -3 times a week. Many women, especially in the first trimester, go off the taste and smell of oily fish, so it’s worth mixing canned sardines into a tomato and vegetable sauce, or anchovies with black olives for a tapenade spread.

During pregnancy fish should always be thoroughly cooked as raw fish can harbour parasites which can infect the mother.  If raw fish is frozen before consuming then this will kill the parasite.  For this reason sushi is safe to eat, only if you can be sure the restaurant uses frozen fish. If not, then don’t eat it.

Smoked fish eg smoked salmon, is safe to eat during pregnancy, but treat as an oily fish – so consume max 3 times a week.

Unpasteurized/ Blue Cheese

Unpasteurized cheeses can harbour listeria and there is a risk of listeriosis.  Avoid cheeses with a white rind, as these have been mould ripened such as Camembert, Brie and some goat’s cheese.  Soft blue cheese such as Gorgonzola, Roquefort and Danish Blue are not safe to eat during pregnancy unless they have been cooked.

Liver / Pâté

Vitamin A is vital for baby’s development, but too much can be dangerous. Liver contains high levels of vitamin A, so limit eating liver to no more than once a week.  Avoid all types of pâté, including vegetable pâtés, as they can contain listeria.


The best advice is to abstain from alcohol during pregnancy.

Laura Southernis Nutritional Therapist at London Gynaecology and supports patients and their treatment plans with targeted nutritional intervention.  If you would like more information about our early pregnancy or our early pregnancy package, click here.

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