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  • Writer's pictureSecond Opinion Magazine

Seven Foods to Avoid While Pregnant and the Reasons Why

Pregnancy is a dichotomic journey of things you have to do and things you cannot do. Your doctor will recommend many items in each category. Of these, possibly the nearest and dearest to your heart (or more appropriately, your stomach), will be what you cannot eat. Below is a list of the most common foods doctors recommend limiting or avoiding during pregnancy, and the reasons why.


A minimal amount can be harmful to brain development, facial features, and overall growth of the embryo. Excessive amounts can led to fetal alcohol syndrome. It’s okay if you had a drink or two before discovering you’re pregnant, but it is important to stop as soon as you find out.


The developing fetus cannot metabolize caffeine and this can cause increased heart rate. Also, there have been inconsistent findings linking caffeine consumption to miscarriage, and because of this, most doctors recommend no more than 12 ounces of coffee per day.

Deli Meat and Smoked Seafood

These foods can contain Listeria, which has been linked to miscarriage, stillbirth, and preterm labor. While Listeria is not very common, pregnant women are more susceptible to catching it. Babies born with listeriosis can have a variety of complications such as blood or brain infections, lifelong health problems, or intellectual disability.

Unpasteurized Soft Cheese

Another risk for containing Listeria. Read product labels here—if your favorite soft cheese says, “Made with pasteurized milk,” it’s still okay to eat!

Raw and Undercooked Foods

Again, these might contain Listeria. Additionally, raw and undercooked foods (such as sushi, rare beef, sunny side up eggs) might also contain salmonella. The only way to get rid of these harmful bacteria is to make sure your food is thoroughly cooked and heated through.

Fish with Mercury

Excessive mercury is harmful to the developing nervous system. While fish is essential to the pregnant woman’s diet (so many omega 3s!), you should specifically avoid king mackerel, tilefish, shark, swordfish, marlin and orange roughy. Tuna is a great way to get good nutrients—the best option is canned chunk light tuna, and you can have up to 8-12 ounces weekly.

Unwashed Vegetables

Can carry toxoplasmosis which causes serious eye or brain damage in a developing baby. This parasite, which comes from the soil, can be removed by thoroughly scrubbing those veggies. Please still eat veggies! They are a huge source of nutrients for you and your growing baby.

It might feel like an incredible challenge to go without your normal, or even daily, intake of some of the above. But play it safe until you are able to hold that sweet little baby in your arms at the end of this journey, and it will all have been worth it!

Source: Gorman, Rachael Moeller. “Why Experts Tell You to Avoid...” Eat Well. May 2020. 99.

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