When you learn that you’re expecting a baby, you quickly realize that while this time is exciting, it brings a lot of changes to your body. One of the less obvious changes is to the immune system, making pregnant women and their developing babies more susceptible to some foodborne illnesses.
These illnesses can be serious and in the worst case, lead to miscarriage or premature delivery. Foodborne illnesses such as listeria and toxoplasma gondii can affect the fetus even if the mother doesn’t have any symptoms at all.
Because foodborne illnesses and their potentially life-threatening affects can often be prevented, we think it’s important to empower expecting women with this important list of foods to avoid during pregnancy.
Fish can be one source of high-quality protein, minerals and vitamins, but there are some that can pose harm if consumed during pregnancy.
According to foodsavety.gov, as a general measure, all seafood should be cooked to 145°F. All raw seafood should also be avoided because it can contain parasites or bacteria, including listeria, that can sicken pregnant women and put their unborn babies at risk.
Avoid These Raw Seafoods if Pregnant
- Sushi and sashimi
- Raw Oysters, clams and scallops
When it comes to refrigerated smoked seafood such as such as salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna, or mackerel, pregnant women should also be very cautious because they can also contain listeria.
Pregnant women are advised to avoid all refrigerated smoked seafood unless it’s been cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F. Pregnant women can, however, eat smoked seafood that is canned or shelf stable.
Avoid Smoked Seafood Labeled Like This if Pregnant
Unpasteurized (Raw) Milk, Cheese and Other Milk Products
Shopping at your local farmer’s market might naturally seem like a very healthy thing to do (and it can be), but when it comes to unpasteurized milk products during pregnancy, experts recommend avoiding them entirely.
This is because they can contain harmful bacteria such as campylobacter, E. coli, listeria, salmonella and even the bacteria that causes tuberculosis. Pregnant women should only consume pasteurized milk and milk products, which is a process that kills the harmful bacteria.
Soft Unpasteurized Cheeses Pregnant Women Should Avoid
- Queso blanco
- Queso fresco
If one of the soft cheeses listed above is labeled “made with pasteurized milk,” it is OK to eat when pregnant. When in doubt, though, substitute a soft cheese for a hard one, like cheddar or swiss.
You might be surprised at the list of common foods that contain raw eggs. This is problematic because raw and undercooked eggs may contain salmonella.
All eggs should be cooked until the yolks and whites are firm to kill any lurking bacteria. If you are making a dish containing eggs, cook it to a temperature of 160°F. If you do want to eat a dish that contains raw or lightly cooked eggs, make sure that they are pasteurized.
Foods with Raw Eggs That Pregnant Women Should Avoid
- Homemade eggnog
- Raw batter or baking dough
- Homemade Caesar salad dressing
- Eggs Benedict
- Homemade ice cream
- Homemade hollandaise sauce
Premade Deli Meats and Salads
That quick grab-and-go lunch option of a deli sandwich or tuna salad is a no-go while pregnant. This is because they can contain listeria.
Premade Deli Salads Pregnant Women Should Avoid
Deli Meats Pregnant Women Should Avoid
- Hot dogs
- Deli meats
- Cold cuts
- Fermented or dry sausage
- Any other deli-style meat and poultry
- Refrigerated pâtés or meat spreads (unless it’s in a can, jar or sealed pouch)
If you are in a bind and need to eat a deli-prepared meal, one way to reduce your chances of a foodborne illness is to reheat hot dogs or deli meats until they are steaming hot or 165°F. The heat can kill listeria and make the deli or meat a safer choice.
Unpasteurized Juice or Cider
Pregnant women should avoid all unpasteurized juices and cider, even if it is fresh-squeezed. Believe it or not, these drinks can contain E. coli and other harmful germs.
A safer choice is to choose a pasteurized version. If you must drink an unpasteurized juice, bring it to a rolling boil for at least a minute before drinking it.
Although packed with nutrients, raw or undercooked sprouts can contain E. coli or salmonella. All sprouts should be cooked thoroughly before eating them while pregnant.
Raw Sprouts Pregnant Women Should Avoid
- Mung bean
Undercooked Meat and Poultry
With meat and poultry, it’s always better to err on the side of caution because they can contain E. coli, salmonella, campylobacter or toxoplasma gondii. Make sure that all meat and poultry are cooked thoroughly and checked with a food thermometer to ensure that they reach the USDA-recommended safe minimum internal temperature.
To reduce your chances of toxoplasmosis from eating meat, follow these tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Cook meat to the USDA-recommended minimum safe internal temperature.
- Freeze meat for several days at sub-zero (0 °F) temperatures before cooking.
- Wash cutting boards, dishes, counters and utensils with hot, soapy water after contact with raw meat, poultry, seafood or unwashed fruits or vegetables.
- Wash hands with soap and water.
Raw or Undercooked Cookie or Baked-Good Dough
It can be tempting to go after that spatula dripping with brownie batter, but what you can’t see is the potential E. coli from flour or salmonella from raw eggs that could make you or your baby sick. Make sure any batter-based baked good is thoroughly cooked before eating it.
We know we just crossed some tasty foods off of your midnight snack list, but let’s look on the bright side. The list of foods that you can eat during pregnancy is much, much longer than the ones to avoid. Here are a few nutrition tips for pregnancy and beyond.
If you have any questions about what you can or can’t eat during pregnancy, our Mother and Baby Care experts are here to guide you.