Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

It’s important to eat a range of nutritious foods throughout your pregnancy, but there are some foods that you’re advised to either limit or avoid. This is mainly due to certain foods increasing your risk of food poisoning. So in this blog we’ll explore the foods you need to both limit and avoid, to help keep you and your baby safe and healthy.

Dairy foods to avoid during pregnancy, include:

Dairy foods to avoid in pregnancy - Mould-ripened soft cheese with a white coating Such as Brie, Camembert and Chevre - Soft blue cheese Such as Danish blue, Gorgonzola and Roquefort - Unpasteurised milk and dairy products

Dairy foods to avoid during pregnancy, including: - mould-ripened soft cheeses with a white coating on the outside - soft blue cheeses - unpasteurised cows' milk, goats' milk, sheep's milk or cream, and any other foods made from unpasteurised milk

Fish to limit and avoid during pregnancy, include:

Raw Shellfish Such as oysters- Avoid completely- Can contain harmful bacteria, viruses and toxins, which can cause food poisoning. Shark, Swordfish, Marlin- Avoid completely- Can contain more mercury than other types of fish, which can damage a developing baby's nervous system. Oily Fish Such as salmon, mackerel, sardines- Limit to two portions a week- Can contain pollutants, such as dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls, which can harmful to babies. Sea bream, Sea bass, Turbot, Halibut & Rock salmon- Limit to two portions a week- Found to have similar levels of pollutants as oily fish. Tuna- Limit to two fresh tuna steaks a-week, or 4 tins of tuna a- week- Can contain more mercury than other types of fish, which can damage a developing baby's nervous system.

Fish to avoid and limit during pregnancy. Including: - Raw Shellfish - Shark, Swordfish, Marlin - Oily Fish - Sea bream, Sea bass, Turbot, Halibut & Rock salmon - Tuna.

A note on smoked fish

Due to a listeria outbreak linked to smoked fish, people at higher risk of serious infection (including people who are pregnant) should only eat smoked fish products that have been thoroughly cooked. It is currently advised that when cooking smoked fish products (e.g. smoked salmon or trout) at home, make sure they are steaming hot all the way through.

You can find additional information on the NHS (opens in new tab) and the Food Standards Agency (opens in new tab).

What about sushi?

It’s usually safe to eat sushi in pregnancy, but it does depend on what fish the sushi is made from:

Raw fish made sushi:

  • Occasionally, raw fish like salmon contains small parasitic worms, such as anisakis
  • These worms can cause health problems if eaten raw or in undercooked fish infected with them
  • Freezing raw wild fish kills any worms that may be present and makes it safe to eat
  • Certain farmed fish, destined to be eaten raw in dishes like sushi, such as farmed salmon, no longer need to be frozen beforehand. This is because these particular types of farmed fish are very unlikely to contain parasitic worms because of the rearing methods used.

sushi in pregnancy

Cured fish made sushi:

  • Some fish used to make sushi, such as smoked salmon, doesn’t need to be frozen before it’s used because most smoking processes kill any parasitic worms in the fish.
  • Other methods, such as salting or pickling, also make raw fish safe to eat.

Shellfish made sushi:

  • A lot of sushi contains shellfish
  • It’s recommended that pregnant women should only eat cooked shellfish. Raw shellfish can contain harmful viruses and bacteria that can cause food poisoning.

 Sushi in restaurants:

  • If you want to eat sushi in a restaurant, it’s always best to ask how it’s been prepared, so you can see if it’s safe for you to have.

 Homemade sushi:

  • If making home-made sushi-, with fresh fish, make sure to freeze the fish for at least 4 days before using it.

A note if you’ve breastfeeding or planning to breastfeed:

It’s recommended that you have no more than:

  • one portion of either swordfish, marlin and shark each week due to their high levels of mercury
  • two portions of oily fish each week as they contains pollutants.

oily fish in pregnancy

Other proteins foods to avoid during pregnancy, include:

Pâté, including vegetarian pâté - Avoid completely- Increased risk of listeriosis and can contain high levels of vitamin A which can be harmful to babies. Liver and liver products- avoid completely- can contain high levels of vitamin A which can be harmful to babies. Game meats E.g. goose, partridge, pheasant-Avoid completely - May contain high levels of lead, which can harm the developing brain and nervous system of babies. Raw or partially cooked hen eggs that are not British Lion stamped. Raw or partially cooked duck, goose & quail eggs- Avoid eating raw. Ensure they're fully cooked through- May contain Salmonella which could cause food poisoning. Raw & undercooked meat- Avoid eating raw Ensure they're fully cooked through- Risk of toxoplasmosis which can increase the risk of miscarriage. Cold cured meats E.g. salami, prosciutto- Avoid eating unless cooked through- Cured meats are not cooked, so they may have parasites in them that cause toxoplasmosis.

Other Protein Foods to avoid during pregnancy image: - Pâté, including vegetarian pâté - Liver and liver products - Game meats - Raw or partially cooked hen eggs that are not British Lion stamped. - Raw or partially cooked duck, goose & quail eggs - Raw & undercooked meat - Cold cured meats.

Unwashed fruits, vegetables and salads

Unwashed fruits, vegetables and salads can have soil on them. Most of the bacteria will be in the soil attached to the produce. Washing will help remove bacteria, including E.coli, from the surface of them. Washing loose produce is particularly important as it tends to have more soil attached to it than pre-packaged fruit and vegetables.

When you wash vegetables, wash them under a running tap and rub off the soil and dirt.

For more information, visit the NHS website (opens in new tab).

Person washing carrots and sweetcorn before eating them

Liquorice Root

While liquorice is safe to eat, liquorice root should be avoided as it contains high levels of glycyrrhizin.

Pregnant woman should avoid eating liquorice root during pregnancy


Hot drinks, such as tea and coffee, can contribute to your fluid intake. However, it’s important to limit your caffeine intake to 200mg per day, as having more than this can increase the risk of miscarriage or having a low birth weight baby. This is also the advice if you’re breastfeeding.

Let’s take a look at the caffeine content of these common drinks and foods:

Caffeine Chart: Cup of instant coffee = 100mg. Cup of tea = 75mg. Can of energy drink (250ml) = 80mg. Cup of filter coffee = 140mg. Can of cola = 40mg. 50g chocolate = dark 25 mg = milk 10mg.

So as you can see, two cups of instant coffee would bring you to the maximum recommendation of 200mg of caffeine a day.

It might not always be obvious that drinks and foods contain caffeine either, so it’s a good idea to check food labels so you can keep a check on the amount that you’re having.

The following foods and drinks can also contain caffeine:

  • Green tea
  • Cocoa beans and chocolate, including some hot chocolates
  • Coffee-containing foods, such as coffee flavour ice cream and frozen yoghurt
  • Some chewing gums
  • Some fizzy drinks, such as cola
  • Energy drinks.

It’s also best to avoid herbal teas, except for those made with ingredients that would be a normal part of the diet, such as mint, peppermint, lemon. The NHS also recommend no more than 4 cups of herbal tea a- day and encourage you to opt for a variety of different teas so you’re not having too much of any one kind.

herbal tea in pregnancy

A note if your breastfeeding or planning to breastfeed:

Caffeine is a stimulant and can pass through your breast milk and make your baby restless. It’s therefore a good idea to cut caffeine out while breastfeeding , however, if you do drink caffeine, try to have less than 200mg a day.


It’s recommended that you avoid alcohol as there are no known safe levels for drinking during pregnancy.

This is especially important during the first 3 months of pregnancy (the first trimester), when your baby is growing and developing quickly.

Drinking alcohol at any stage of pregnancy has been linked to complications, such as miscarriage, premature birth and low birth-weight.

If you drink heavily or you’re having trouble stopping, speak to your GP or midwife. They will be able to give you specialist advice and support.

For more information and links to support services, visit the NHS website (opens in new tab).

Pregnant woman turning down a glass of wine

A note if you’re breastfeeding or planning to breastfeed:

When you’re breastfeeding, the safest approach is to avoid drinking alcohol. While the occasional drink is unlikely to harm your breastfed baby, if you choose to consume alcohol, it’s recommended that you have no more than 1 or 2 units once or twice a week

If you’d like more information on alcohol and breastfeeding, visit the Start4Life (opens in new tab) website here.

Eating Well During Pregnancy Online Course

You can also find additional information on how to eat well during your pregnancy, by signing up to our FREE online course here (opens in new tab)

Eating Well In Pregnancy Parents Course

You can also check out our blog ‘How to Eat Well During your Pregnancy (opens in new tab)‘.

1 Comment

  1. Vikash Kumar on July 6, 2023 at 9:36 am

    This informative blog post on foods to avoid in pregnancy is a valuable resource for expectant mothers. It offers important insights into potential food risks and provides guidance on maintaining a healthy diet during pregnancy. Thank you, Early Start Group, for sharing these helpful recommendations!

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