Should I Avoid Certain Foods During Pregnancy?

I’ve heard that there are certain foods I should avoid during pregnancy. Is that true?

Yes. Although most foods are safe to eat, some might be problematic during pregnancy. For example, you should avoid or limit your exposure to foods that are more likely to be contaminated with bacteria (such as raw meat and fish), since food-borne infections may cause birth defects or miscarriage. And foods that might contain high levels of mercury (such as certain types of fish) can cause damage to the developing brain of a fetus.

Foods to steer clear of altogether during pregnancy include:

  • soft, unpasteurized cheeses (often advertised as "fresh") such as feta, goat, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheeses, and Mexican queso fresco
  • unpasteurized milk, juices, and apple cider
  • raw eggs or foods containing raw eggs, including mousse, tiramisu, raw cookie dough, eggnog, homemade ice cream, and Caesar dressing
  • raw or undercooked fish (sushi), shellfish, or meats
  • p?té and meat spreads
  • processed meats such as hot dogs and deli meats (these should be very well cooked before eating)
  • fish that may contain high levels of mercury (shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, and tuna steak). Limited amounts of canned, preferably light, tuna are OK.

You may have to forego a few things during pregnancy that you normally enjoy. But just think how delicious they’ll taste after waiting 9 months!

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: October 2009

Have a question? Email us.

Although we can't reply personally, you may see your question posted to this page in the future. If you're looking for medical advice, a diagnosis, or treatment, consult your doctor or other qualified medical professional. If this is an emergency, contact emergency services in your area.

Kids Health

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2016 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.