Foods to avoid while pregnant

Hormonal changes in your body during pregnancy don’t just affect your emotional balance. The changes also lower your immune system – making it harder to fight infections and other illnesses.

Without the right dietary care and food hygiene, you and your baby could be at risk. By following basic safety tips, though, problems can be easily prevented.

Ensure that cold food is kept below 5 Celsius and hot food kept above 60 Celsius before serving. This will help stop the growth of bacteria that can cause food poisoning.

Make sure raw and cooked foods are kept separate. Never use the same utensils, such as knives, plates and chopping boards, for both. Never defrost frozen food by leaving it at room temperature all day. Defrost overnight in the fridge, or use a microwave.

Use cooked food within 12 hours.

Wash hands thoroughly with warm, soapy water, then dry them, before and after handling food.

Follow these food facts to help keep you and your baby healthy


Listeria can cause listeriosis – a very serious infection. Symptoms can take up to six weeks to occur. If the bacteria is transmitted to your newborn baby, it can cause miscarriage, infection, or stillbirth. Hygienic storage and handling of food is critical.


This can cause headache, fever, abdominal cramps, nausea, diarrohea and vomiting. In some cases, it may also cause miscarriage.


A parasitic infection carried by cats and also found in raw or undercooked meats. It can lead to brain damage or blindness in your unborn child.


Avoid changing the cat litter and when gardening ensure you wear gloves to protect yourself from coming into contact with cat poo. Avoid any foods or drinks that contain raw egg. All types of sprouts, such as alfalfa sprouts, broccoli sprouts, onion sprouts, sunflower sprouts, radish sprouts, snowpea sprouts, mungbeans and soybeans (raw or cooked) are also best avoided.

Other foods to avoid include:

  • Cold smoked and raw seafood, oysters
  • Cooked diced chicken
  • Pate
  • Ham and other manufactured meats
  • Self-service salad bars or packages salads, such as coleslaw and pasta salad
  • Soft cheese, such as brie, camembert, feta, cottage and ricotta
  • Soft-serve ice-cream and thick-shakes
  • Liver. Although liver is a rich source of iron, it also contains high levels of vitamin A – something which, in excess, can be harmful to a developing baby. Liver should only be consumed in small amounts during pregnancy (a maximum of 50g per week).

Mercury in fish

Fish is a great food for pregnancy and breastfeeding mothers but be careful which fish you choose. While some fish contain Omega 3 fatty acid – important for the development of the central nervous system in babies, before and after they are born – other fish may contain mercury levels that can affect the development of your baby’s nervous system, leading to delayed speech and movement.

Studies have shown that the foetus is most at risk from mercury levels in fish during the third and fourth months of gestation.

Women who are already pregnant, or planning to become pregnant within the next six months, should avoid fish with high levels of mercury, such as shark, swordfish, orange roughy, gemfish, ling, southern bluefin tuna and barramundi.


  1. kymmage 31/03/2019 at 11:24 pm

    It’s so important to check at every new pregnancy as well. So many things that were deemed okay with my eldest were not okay with my youngest and many mums who get food poisoning when pregnant are actually on their second or third baby. They get lulled into a false sense of safety because nothing happened last time.

  2. dawnblyth 31/03/2019 at 10:50 pm

    I didn’t restrict myself to anything much when pregnant other than making sure my meat was cooked throughly – no medium steaks etc and no raw fresh. I can understand why some people choose to restrict their foods though.

  3. felicity beets 31/03/2019 at 9:02 pm

    It was very hard to find foods I could eat – foods that I should not have and foods that made me feel ill made it a very long 9 months for my pregnancies.

  4. Alezandra 29/03/2019 at 10:21 pm

    Good article but not anything new as the midwife, or the clinic would have similar reminders about what type of food to avoid. Nothing much has been changed from before.

  5. Bevik1971 28/03/2019 at 10:52 am

    I remember being very careful when I was pregnant – but my eating habits didn’t really change much apart from dropping aioli (which I loved!) and not buying prepackaged foods from deli’s etc to be safe. We always observed the cook, cover, chill rules and still do

  6. Mands1980 26/03/2019 at 1:38 pm

    I was very careful when pregnant with my 3 children especially with the cats and cat litter. You need to be so careful with what you eat and that it hasn’t been out on a bench for a long period of time and all foods are fresh and refrigerated.

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