7 foods to avoid while pregnant

Healthy eating during pregnancy is a well-researched area, the benefits are well documented, and no one can argue the value of a balanced diet during pregnancy.   It is equally as important to be informed as to what foods could potentially harm your baby. For all the moms-to-be out there, we have summarised these potential risky foods for you.  Remember, these foods are recommended to be avoided as a precaution and for your and baby’s safety.

You will see below that we make reference to Listeria quite often.  So what exactly is Listeria? Listeria is a bacteria which is commonly found in soil and water. Animals may carry the bacterium and potentially contaminate foods of animal origin, such as processed meats and unpasteurised dairy products.  Listeria is resilient in that it can grow in cold refrigerator temperatures but luckily, it can be destroyed by cooking and pasteurization.  Listeriosis is the infection caused by Listeria and pregnant women are sadly one of the at risks groups.  According to the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention, pregnant women suffering from Listerosis may experience a fever, fatigue and aches. Infections during pregnancy are very serious as it may lead to miscarriage, stillbirth or premature delivery.


1. Raw or undercooked meat and seafood

If you are a fan of a juicy rare steak, unfortunately you are going to need to leave it on the braai for slightly longer whilst you pregnant.  It’s is recommended for all pregnant women to ensure all meat, chicken, fish and seafood are well cooked.  Raw or uncooked meat may place you at risk of listeria and salmonella poisoning.  Choose good quality cuts of meat and stay away from meat that looks discoloured or that has potentially been frozen, defrosted and refrozen.

Sushi and sashimi are sadly advised to be avoided during pregnancy due to the potential risk of food poisoning.  You may however opt for rolls that contain cooked fish or seafood and/or vegetables.  Fish such as marlin, swordfish and shark should be avoided due to the high levels of mercury.

2. Raw or undercooked eggs

Raw eggs and products containing raw eggs should be avoided, due to the risk of salmonella poisoning.  Always remember to cook eggs well.  Be careful of raw eggs which can be hidden in  cake batter, cookie dough, homemade ice creams, custards, mayonnaise, unpasteurised eggnog or hollandaise sauce and Caesar salad dressing.


3. Deli meats, pates and meat spreads

Refrigerated meat products such as pates, ham, salami and cold meats may be contaminated with listeria and therefore it is best to avoid these.

4. Liver

Liver is a great source of iron, but it also contains high levels of vitamin A.  If eaten in excess, this can be harmful to your baby and due to this, it is best to avoid liver or liver products such as chicken liver pate during your pregnancy.

5. Dairy Products and Pasteurisation

Louis Pasteur was responsible for the discovery of pasteurization and is regarded as one of the greatest saviours of humanity.  I think we can amend that to say he is also one of greatest saviours to pregnant women as well.  Pasteurisation serves as an effective method to protect you and your baby from harmful bacterial infections such as listeria.  Be careful when choosing dairy products and may sure any milk, cheeses etc. are pasteurised.

Linked to this are your delicious cheeses served on your favourite cheese platter.  Cheeses such as feta, brie, ricotta, camembert or blue vein cheeses may also be contaminated with listeria, so it is recommended to avoid these during your pregnancy.

6. Alcohol

For all the wine drinkers out there, this is probably the most missed beverage during pregnancy.  According to The British Dietetic Association, it is currently not known what level of alcohol is safe during pregnancy. It is known however that alcohol enters the foetal bloodstream in about the same concentrations present in the expectants mother’s blood.  Your baby will also take twice as long to eliminate alcohol from its system. Due to this, it is recommended to avoid alcohol during pregnancy and especially during the first trimester when there is a higher risk of miscarriage.  Do not worry about the odd drink you had before you found out were pregnant, but definitely change your drink orders going forward and for the remainder of the pregnancy.  For special occasions, opt for a sparkling juice or alcohol free champagne so that you can still participate in a toast and not feel left out.

7.  Caffeine

Hot drinks such as coffee and tea contain caffeine which be harmful to baby if taken in large amounts.  Unfortunately, you won’t be able to indulge in bottomless coffee as The British Dietetic Association recommend no more than 200mg of caffeine daily, which equates to no more than 2 cups of coffee or 3 cups of tea.  It is better to switch to decaf coffee or Rooibos tea as they are both caffeine free.  Remember cola drinks and chocolate also contain caffeine so monitor your intake of these as well.


Now that list doesn’t seem too bad, if you compare to how many foods there are available to eat.  Food safety is always important and always follow proper hygiene practices when cooking, preparing and storing foods.  Remember, this guide is given as a precaution.  You may hear many stories of mom’s to be who ate sushi or enjoyed a rare steak regularly throughout the pregnancy with no complications.  Again to reinforce that you may well eat the above foods and be fine, but there is always that possibility of something you eat being contaminated, and therefore it is encouraged not to take the risk.  Nine months is a short time if you place it in the context of a lifetime so be safe, enjoy your pregnancy and remember to always eat healthy.