Foods To Avoid During Pregnancy

There are many foods you should avoid when trying to conceive and during pregnancy, including raw sprouts, certain fish, and deli meat. The reason you should avoid these foods while trying to conceive is because you typically won't know immediately that you are pregnant. Therefore it is important that the foods that could be harmful for the baby are eliminated prior to conception so they are never introduced to the baby. You should also regularly visit and read the USDA Food recall and the FDA safety and recall website to get updates on most recent recalls.

A pregnant woman can help protect herself and her baby from problems by following these guidelines and learning more about which foods you should avoid during pregnancy:

  • Do NOT eat hot dogs or luncheon meats (including deli meats such as ham, turkey, salami and bologna) unless they are reheated until steaming hot.
  • Do NOT eat warm foods served in fast food places.
  • Do NOT consume unpasteurized milk, unpasteurized juices, cider, or foods made from unpasteurized food.
  • Do NOT eat soft cheeses, such as feta, brie, Camembert, Roquefort, blue-veined, queso blanco, queso fresco or Panela, unless the cheese is labeled as made with pasteurized milk. Hard cheeses, processed cheeses, and cream and cottage cheeses are safe.
  • Do not eat refrigerated pates or meat spreads because listeria thrives at refrigerator temperatures. Canned and shelf-stable versions are safe.
  • Do NOT eat salads made in a store (like ham salad, chicken salad, seafood salad, etc.).
  • Do NOT eat raw or undercooked sprouts (e.g. alfalfa, clover, mung beans, radish).
  • Do NOT eat these 4 fish because of their high mercury levels: shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish.
  • Do NOT eat raw cookie dough or cake batter (don't lick the spoon either!).
  • Do NOT eat refrigerated smoked seafood unless it has been cooked (as in a casserole). Canned and shelf-stable versions are safe.

Soft Cheeses

All forms of soft cheeses should be avoided because of the harmful bacteria (listeria) they contain. Some examples of cheeses to avoid are feta, brie, and various soft white cheeses. If you are an avid fan of cheese try to fill your cravings with hard cheeses such as cheddar and other processed cheeses. Heating up cheeses to 165 will kill the bacteria.

Raw/Undercooked Eggs

Raw eggs are among the foods you should avoid during pregnancy because they may contain Salmonella, a bacteria that can make you sick. There are some methods of egg preparation are safe. If the yolk and white of the egg are fully cooked they can be considered safe. However, it is best to be very careful to avoid eggs that are raw or are partially cooked. Eggs that have not been properly cooked can expose you to salmonella which is harmful to both you and the baby. Additionally, foods that contain partially cooked or raw eggs should also be avoided. Some examples of dishes you should avoid while trying to conceive and while you are pregnant are mayonnaise, homemade ice cream, and homemade or unpasteurized eggnog.

Certain Fish

It would be wrong to avoid fish all together during pregnancy. Fish is a healthy choice for the diet when eaten in moderation. Choosing light, white fish is often a healthy choice. Most fish are safe to eat in pregnancy, but there are some that should not be eaten because of high levels of mercury. Mercury is dangerous for both you and your baby and so exposure should be limited. 

In addition, you should not eat smoked fish because of risk of listeriosis.

The following is a list of safe and unsafe fish to eat during pregnacy:

Fish with the highest levels of mercury (should NOT be eaten in pregnancy) High Mercury (Eat no more than three 6-oz servings per month)
  • Grouper
  • Marlin
  • Orange roughy
  • Tilefish
  • Swordfish
  • Shark
  • Mackerel (king)
  • Bass saltwater
  • Croaker
  • Halibut
  • Tuna (canned, white albacore) See tuna chart below
  • Tuna (fresh bluefin, ahi)
  • Sea trout
  • Bluefish
  • Lobster (American/Maine)

Undercooked Meat and Cold Cuts

All meats and dishes containing meat should be well cooked before you consume them.  You should avoid rare or raw meats such as home-made sausages, lamb, and rare steaks.  There are a variety of bacteria that can thrive in raw meat (but especially toxoplasma) that can be harmful for you and your baby.


Chicken needs to be cooked thoroughly before consumption at all times. Chicken can harbor salmonella which can be harmful to mom and fatal to baby. Salmonella outbreaks in recent years have been linked to tomatoes and jalapeños among other food sources.

Deli Meats

While many women think sandwiches are a healthy choice when pregnant, recent research has found the bacteria called listeria to be common in deli meats so deli meat is among the foods you should avoid during pregnancy. Listeria can lead to early loss of the fetus. Listeria crosses into the fetus and can lead to blood poisoning and / or infection.


Caffeine consumption in excess of 300 mg per day during the first trimester has been linked to early miscarriage as well as low birth weight and withdrawal symptoms in the infant. It is therefore not recommended to drink more than 2 cups of coffee per day during pregnancy.

When it comes to eating a healthy diet during pregnancy, the best foods are those that are cooked thoroughly and contain no chance of bacteria.