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Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

Melissa Sulley | | Comments 0

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Embarking on the journey of pregnancy can often feel like deciphering a cryptic menu of do’s and don'ts, especially when it comes to what to eat. With an avalanche of advice from various sources, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and lost in a sea of information. But fret not, we've got your back! 

While nothing beats an in-depth conversation with your healthcare provider (please consult with them directly), we’ve sifted through the plethora of voices to bring you our ultimate guide on foods to avoid during pregnancy. We are simplifying which foods pose a risk to mom and babe, ensuring you and your little one have a smooth and healthy ride throughout these precious nine months. 

Join us as we dive into the forbidden realms of pregnancy cuisine and uncover why these culinary delights should be avoided. 
 

Why Food Safety Matters 

One of the major reasons you need to be aware of the do’s and don’ts of food safety during pregnancy is because the changes in your immune system and digestive tract can make you more susceptible to food-borne illnesses and its complications. Certain bacteria, such as Listeria and Salmonella, can cross the placenta and directly infect your baby, leading to miscarriage, premature birth, or even life-threatening complications.   

It’s extremely important to be vigilant about food safety, including proper food storage and thorough cooking, and avoiding high-risk foods. By prioritizing safe eating habits, you can significantly reduce the risk of food poisoning and ensure a healthy pregnancy journey. 

What to Avoid & Why 

Alright, let’s talk about specific foods! From raw meats to unpasteurized dairy, raw eggs and fish, and even sprouts, we cover it all! Here’s what to avoid and why.  

Raw or Undercooked Meat 

While sinking your teeth into a juicy steak or chomping down on a rare burger might sound like heaven, it's time to pump the brakes during pregnancy. Raw or undercooked meats, including poultry, seafood, and even those cold hot dogs and deli meats you've been eyeing, can play host to some seriously nasty bacteria like salmonella, E. coli, and listeria. Trust us, you don't want to mess around with those bugs—they can lead to some pretty nasty food-borne illnesses and even put your pregnancy at risk. 

As much as you might be tempted by liver or refrigerated pâtés, it's best to skip those too. Liver packs a punch of vitamin A, which can be a bit too much for your growing baby to handle. And those pâtés? Well, they've got a knack for harbouring that sneaky listeria bacteria, which can spell trouble for you and your little one.   

But don't worry, there are still plenty of delicious options to sink your teeth into during pregnancy. Opt for fully cooked meats, like well-done steaks and burgers, and swap out deli meats for freshly cooked alternatives. If you're looking for a little liver fix, try adding in some other vitamin-rich foods like spinach or carrots to get your fix without the risk. Your taste buds might thank you later!  

Unpasteurized Dairy Products 

While indulging in artisanal cheeses might seem like a gourmet treat, unpasteurized dairy products like soft and semi-soft cheeses, raw milk, and certain yogurts can play host to listeria. Listeria isn’t the kind of guest you want crashing your pregnancy party. It’s best to avoid that tempting brie, camembert, and blue-veined cheeses (even the pasteurized ones). If you’re really craving them, just cook them up until they hit 74 degrees Celsius to keep listeriosis at bay. 

But fear not, cheese lovers! There are still plenty of options that'll satisfy those cravings. Hard cheeses like cheddar, mozzarella, parmesan, and Romano are your go-to picks — they're pasteurized and safe to snack on during pregnancy. So go ahead, indulge in those cheesy delights guilt-free, knowing you're keeping both you and your growing baby healthy and happy!  

Raw Eggs and Foods with Raw Eggs 

 As much as you might crave that cookie dough, homemade holiday egg nog, or Caesar salad dressing, raw eggs are a no-go zone during pregnancy due to the risk of salmonella contamination. This unfortunately means homemade mayonnaise, eggs prepared with a runny yolk, and hollandaise sauce used on those much-coveted eggs benny are also off the table. 

Opt for pasteurized egg products or fully cooked alternatives to safely satisfy those cravings. If cookie dough ice cream is your thing, don’t fret! Store-bought usually contains pasteurized eggs, but always be sure to check the label just in case.  

Raw Fish and Shellfish 

When you're expecting, it's best to skip out on those fancy raw shellfish feasts, like oysters, clams, scallops, and mussels. They might sound tempting, but chomping down on them raw or barely cooked could invite some unwanted bacteria, causing tummy troubles and potentially messing with your little one's well-being.  

For all you sushi lovers — sadly, it’s a no-go zone during pregnancy. Raw fish dishes like sushi, sashimi, and ceviche can hide all sorts of nasty bugs that you don't want to crash your pregnancy parade. Oh, and smoked fish sitting chill in the fridge? Yeah, better pass on that too. 

If you're craving some shellfish, go for the ones cooked until the shell pops open — they're safe to munch on. If you're eyeing canned smoked seafood that stays chill until you crack it open, feel free to dig in without any worries. 

High-Mercury Fish 

While it's true that fish is packed with those brain-boosting omega-3s, not all fish are created equal, especially when you've got a bun in the oven. Stay clear of the big predators like shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish — they tend to pack more mercury than your average fishy friend. Even canned tuna can have its fair share of mercury, so Health Canada says to keep it to about two cans per week. 

But don't fret, fish lovers! There's still plenty of good stuff out there. Opt for the low-mercury champs like salmon, trout, and sardines — they're just as tasty and way safer for your little one. If you're snagging fish from local waters, be sure to check the advisories to see how often it's safe to chow down. 

Raw Sprouts 

While munching on raw sprouts might seem like a healthy choice, it's best to skip them during pregnancy. These little guys, like alfalfa, bean, and clover sprouts, can be a breeding ground for bacteria like salmonella and E. Coli. These bacteria can enter sprout seeds through cracks in the shell before the sprouts are grown, and once present, they are challenging to wash out. Since pregnant women are at a higher risk of experiencing severe complications from food-borne illnesses, it’s best to steer clear. 

However, you can still get your sprout fix without the risk! Just toss those sprouts in a pan and give them a quick steam or stir-fry. It'll zap any pesky bacteria while keeping that satisfying crunch intact.  

Caffeine 

While that morning cup of joe might feel like a sacred ritual, it's important to keep tabs on your caffeine intake during pregnancy. Knocking back too much caffeine has been linked to a higher risk of miscarriage and lower birth weight for your little bundle of joy. But caffeine isn't just lurking in your morning brew — it's hiding in tea, soda, energy drinks, chocolate, and even some meds. So, keep an eye on how much you're consuming. 

Aim to keep your caffeine fix below 200 milligrams per day, which is roughly equivalent to one 12-ounce cup of coffee. That means you might want to dial back those second and third cups if you're a coffee lover.  

While there's not a ton of research on whether going over this limit is cool for you and your baby, it's best to err on the side of caution. Consider making the switch to decaf drinks to satisfy your cravings without the caffeine jolt.  

Unpasteurized Juices 

While those fresh-squeezed drinks might seem like a healthy choice, they can actually pose some risks for you and your little one. Unpasteurized juices, like apple cider or orange juice, haven't been heat-treated to kill off any harmful bacteria, like E. coli or salmonella, which could be lurking inside.  

So, to play it safe, it's best to stick with pasteurized juices, which have been treated to zap any potential nasties.  

Some Herbal Teas 

While sipping on herbal teas might seem like a cozy way to unwind during pregnancy, it's actually best to proceed with caution. Some herbal teas can contain ingredients that might not be safe for you or your baby. 

Certain herbs, like chamomile, peppermint, and ginger, are generally considered safe in moderation during pregnancy. However, others, like licorice root, sage, and raspberry leaf, can potentially cause complications. Some herbs are uterine stimulants which can lead to early contractions, miscarriage, or early labour. Some can even lead to birth defects or blood clotting. 

Plus, herbal supplements aren't regulated like medications, so there's less certainty about their safety and effectiveness. Try to stick with caffeine-free options and consult with your healthcare provider before indulging in any herbal teas during pregnancy.  

Alcohol 

Perhaps the most well-known taboo of pregnancy, alcohol consumption can have devastating consequences for the baby, leading to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) that can cause lifelong physical, behavioural, and intellectual disabilities. 

If you found out you were pregnant after a few too many drinks, don't panic — talk to your healthcare provider pronto. If you're struggling to kick the habit, don't hesitate to reach out for support. Whether it's a health clinic, social services, or your trusted family and friends, there are folks out there who've got your back. Cutting back on drinking as much as possible is a healthier choice for you and your little one.  

Safe Cooking Practices 

In addition to avoiding these culinary landmines, practicing safe food handling and cooking is really important. Here are some things to keep in mind when cooking up a storm in the kitchen.  
 

  • Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly. 
  • Make sure your meats and poultry are cooked all the way through. A meat thermometer is your best buddy for checking! 71°C for beef and 74°C for poultry) or warmed to piping hot (74°C) before you eat it. 
  • Heat your hot dogs and lunch meats until they're steaming hot. 
  • Cook your eggs until both the yolks and whites are nice and firm. 
  • Cook fish to an inside temperature of 145°F (63°C). Fish is done when it flakes with a fork and looks milky white throughout. 
  • Refrigerate perishable foods within two hours of purchasing or cooking. 
  • Store raw meats separately to prevent cross-contamination. Store them in sealed containers or plastic bags on the bottom shelf to prevent juices from dripping onto other foods. 
  • Store leftovers and prepared foods in airtight containers to prevent bacteria from contaminating the food. Label containers with the date to track how long they've been stored in the refrigerator. 
  • Regularly check the expiration dates on packaged foods and discard any items that are past their expiration date. 
  • Practice good hygiene in the kitchen to minimize the risk of food-borne illnesses 
     

Final Thoughts 

While pregnancy might come with its fair share of food rules to follow, keeping you and your growing little one healthy is what really matters. From raw meats to unpasteurized dairy, caffeine, and beyond, we've covered it all to help you make informed choices. By prioritizing food safety and making mindful decisions about what you eat, you can reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses and safeguard your pregnancy. 

For more info on maintaining a healthy diet during pregnancy, check out Snuggle Bugz's articles on Foods to Make You Feel Your Best During Pregnancy and Nutrition Throughout Your Pregnancy. For more health and wellness articles head on over to our Learning Centre 

Your journey to motherhood should be nourishing, both inside and out. You got this mama! 

  

DISCLAIMER; This article is not meant to replace professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor first should you have any questions or concerns. 


Melissa Sulley

Pregnancy & Infant Loss Coach

Melissa Sulley is an accredited Pregnancy + Infant Loss Grief Coach with a Bachelor of Psychology and Education from Western University. She is the mother of three children earth-side and seven children waiting for her in the stars. 

Her personal experiences with pregnancy, parenting, and loss have fuelled her passion to empower families through parenthood and grief. She has chronicled her journey on her blog and built an online coaching business to support others through loss. 

Aside from her work, you can often find Melissa sipping margaritas with her single mom friends, café hopping, laughing at ridiculous memes, or curled up with a good book on the couch.  

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