Foods to avoid during pregnancy

There are some foods you should avoid during pregnancy because they could harm your baby. A lot of it is common sense, but it's worth having a look through this list so you know exactly what's on and off the menu

woman not eating food

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Dairy products

  • Avoid soft cheeses with a white-mould rind such as brie, camembert and goat's cheese, or soft cheese with blue mould such as Roquefort, Danish blue, Gorgonzola. This is because of the risk of infection from listeria, which can cause miscarriage and stillbirth.
  • Hard cheeses are fine as they do not provide the right soft environment for listeria to grow. Other types of cheeses should be fine but check that they are made with pasteurised milk. Goat and sheep cheeses are often unpasteurised.
  • Don't drink unpasteurised milk.
runny egg yolk soldiers


  • Advice has always been to steer clear of raw or undercooked eggs - including runny yolks, raw cake mixture and homemade mayonnaise - due to the risk of food poisoning from salmonella. However, recent research suggests the risk is 'very low' as long as you're using UK eggs produced under the Lion code, so check for a stamp.

Fish and shellfish

  • Marlin, swordfish and shark are out because of high levels of mercury, which might affect your baby's developing nervous system.
  • Stick to white fish and keep oily fish intake (mackerel, salmon, tuna, sardines) to 2-3 portions a week.
  • Stay away from oyster bars unless you like your oysters cooked. All shellfish should be thoroughly cooked to avoid food poisoning.
  • Be careful with sushi and only eat it if the fish has been previously frozen. This can be difficult to know for certain, so opt for vegetarian or cooked sushi instead.

rare meat steak


  • All meat needs to be cooked thoroughly. Avoid ordering your meat rare (and say au revoir to steak tartare) as it is uncertain whether it could carry a risk of toxoplasmosis infection, which could cause miscarriage or stillbirth.
  • Be really careful when cooking meat and wash your hands thoroughly after touching raw meat.
  • Avoid liver, liver pâté and liver sausage - it is really high in vitamin A and this can damage your baby.
  • Pâté in general should be avoided because it can contain listeria (even vegetable pâté).
  • Avoid cured meats like salami and Parma ham, again because of a higher risk of listeriosis and toxoplasmosis.

Peanuts: change of health advice 

The latest research says there is no clear evidence that eating or avoiding peanuts during pregnancy affects whether your baby develops a peanut allergy. So now you can get in a bag of dry-roasted while you're nursing your lime and soda. Hooray!

glasses of wine


Current guidance is to should avoid alcohol altogether during pregnancy, particularly in the first three months, but if you must drink, limit yourself to only one or two units once or twice a week. (If you've always thought units were something to do with kitchens, use Drinkaware's unit calculator to see how they stack up.)

Advice on drinking during pregnancy is one of those areas that seems to keep changing and experts don't seem to be able to agree on what level is safe - hence the advice to avoid alcohol completely.

But there's no doubt that drinking during pregnancy is potentially dangerous because alcohol crosses the placenta but your baby's developing liver can't process it as fast as your liver can.

Too much alcohol increases your risk of miscarriage and your baby's chance of having a low birthweight. It can also lead to foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which causes serious health problems for your baby, such as heart defects and behavioural disorders. 


You don't need to avoid caffeine completely. You can still have 200mg a day, which amounts to about one Americano and a small bar of chocolate.

Too much caffeine can cause your baby to have a low birth weight and may cause miscarriage. Remember the hidden caffeine in fizzy drinks - it's not just tea or coffee you need to have in moderation.

handful of soil


Unless you have a bad case of pica, it's doubtful you are going to be eating handfuls of earth, but make sure you wash fruit and veg thoroughly as soil can contain harmful bacteria. And ask your midwife what the latest views are about gardening - or indeed mud-wrestling - in pregnancy.

What Mumsnetters say about foods you should avoid during pregnancy

  • "My take on all of this is moan like mad if you want, as it is a pain in the bum missing out on so many of life's pleasures. But when you have finished moaning, do everything in your power to stay safe in the knowledge that it isn't forever (and chocolate is not on the list)."
  • "I was really unknowingly evil and ate about a million raw oysters when about five months pregnant with my boys and on holiday in France. I'd read the dos and don'ts religiously, but somehow missed the shellfish embargo. Good grief but they were tasty though!"
  • "Apparently, a pregnant woman has a far higher chance of becoming ill from listeriosis than a non-pregnant person. Listeriosis can cause miscarriage, premature labour and stillbirth. But just because you eat ripened soft cheeses, it doesn't mean you WILL get listeriosis."
  • "First thing I did when I got home from hospital after having my baby was get the brie, pâté and cava out. I'm not lying when I say it was better than sex."
  • "My view while I was pregnant was to eat and drink what I liked in moderation, as I figured that's what people have done since the beginning of time and before we had doctors who told us what we couldn't do."

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    Last updated: 20 days ago