Foods to Avoid in Pregnancy

Foods to Avoid in Pregnancy

With so much information available on the internet, it can be difficult to know which foods you actually need to avoid in pregnancy. 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.

While it’s important for you to eat a range of nutritious foods throughout your pregnancy, there are some foods that you’re advised to either limit or avoid. This is mainly due to said foods increasing your risk of food poisoning.

The dairy foods to avoid in pregnancy:

Dairy foods to avoid in pregnancy

Cheese to avoid in pregnancy

The fish to limit and avoid in pregnancy:fish to avoid in pregnancy

Fish to Be Careful With:

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 NHS and the Food Standards Agency.

What about sushi?

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

Sushi made with raw fish

  • 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

Sushi made with cured fish

  • 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.

Sushi made with shellfish

  • 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 in pregnancy:

protein foods in pregnancy

eggs to avoid in pregnancy

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.


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


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 in pregnancy

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.

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.

alcohol in pregnancy

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 website here.

For more information on how to eat well in pregnancy, sign up to our FREE e-guide here

You can also check out our blog ‘How to Eat Well During your Pregnancy‘.

eating well in pregnancy e-guide

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