Staying Safe: Foods and Drinks to Avoid During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is an exciting time, but it also requires some extra care when it comes to what goes on in your body. As your baby grows, you want to avoid anything that could potentially cause harm. Here’s a helpful guide to foods and drinks that are best to avoid over the next 9 months.

Undercooked Meat and Seafood

Consuming raw or undercooked meat, poultry, fish and shellfish puts you at risk for food poisoning from bacteria and parasites. Specifically, toxoplasmosis from undercooked meat can lead to serious problems.

The Fix: Cook all meat and poultry to safe internal temperatures. Use a food thermometer if needed:

  • Beef, Pork, Veal, Lamb: 145°F.
  • Ground Meats: 160°F.
  • Poultry: 165°F.
  • Fish: 145°F or flakes easily with a fork.
  • Shellfish: until shells open.

Frozen meat can also be safer if frozen for a few days at sub-zero temperatures before cooking.

Undercooked Eggs

Raw, runny eggs may contain salmonella bacteria. This includes licking spoonfuls of cookie dough or cake batter with raw eggs.

The Fix: Cook eggs until yolks are firm. Cook egg-containing dishes like frittatas and quiches to 160°F. Opt for pasteurized egg products when raw eggs are called for.

Deli Meats

Pre-packaged deli meats and prepared salads from the refrigerated section may be contaminated with listeria. This includes all deli meats, smoked/pickled fish, meat spreads, potato/pasta salads, etc.

The Fix: Heat deli meats and prepared salads to 165°F until steaming hot before eating. Canned shelf-stable meats are safe, but high in sodium.

High-Mercury Fish

Fish is very healthy, providing protein, omega-3s, and other nutrients. But some fish contain too much mercury which can affect a baby’s brain development.

The Fix: Avoid king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, tilefish, and bigeye tuna. Focus on low-mercury choices like salmon, shrimp, tilapia, trout, and canned light tuna (limit to 6oz per week).

Unpasteurized Dairy

Raw milk and soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk can contain harmful bacteria like listeria, and salmonella.

The Fix: Choose pasteurized milk and check labels to confirm soft cheeses are made with pasteurized milk. Ask about the use of unpasteurized cheese in restaurants.

Leftovers and Picnic Foods

Bacteria multiply quickly in foods left out too long at room temperature. This includes picnic foods, buffets, and leftovers.

The Fix: Discard food left out over 2 hours (1 hour if above 90°F). Keep cold foods chilled on ice. Reheat leftovers until steaming hot.

Raw Sprouts

The warm, moist conditions needed for growing sprouts also encourage bacterial growth.

The Fix: Avoid raw alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts. Cook sprouts thoroughly if you wish to eat them.

While pregnancy comes with some dietary restrictions, there are still plenty of delicious healthy options to enjoy over the next 9 months. Focus on safe food handling and preparation, and consult your doctor with any concerns.

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