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What Foods Can't I Eat When Pregnant?

Updated on March 4, 2014

When I was pregnant for the first time, I found I became far more concerned about what I shouldn’t eat as opposed to what I should be eating.

I had a well balanced diet, so was happy with the nutrients I was getting, and I took Pregnacare pregnancy supplement pre-conception and throughout pregnancy, so I was happy with my vitamin intake and getting the all-important folic acid. However, the list of things to avoid seemed like an absolute minefield.

The Food Standards Agency and NHS websites became my new best friends.

After first of all thinking I had to give up pretty much everything I enjoyed, I then, after a bit of research reassured myself that not everything was a potential threat to an unborn baby. I differentiated between what could make me ill (it is easier to get food poisoning when you are pregnant and the effects are meant to be worse in pregnant women) and what was actually potentially harmful to an unborn baby. What follows is a list of things that come under the latter category.

Roquefort - sadly off the menu
Roquefort - sadly off the menu


Anything that can contain listeria bacteria can cause listeriosis. This infection in pregnant women can cause severe illness in a newborn and can even lead to miscarriage or stillbirth.

To avoid this bacteria don’t eat mould-ripened soft cheeses or soft blue-veined cheeses. This includes: brie, camembert, chèvre, Danish blue, gorgonzola and Roquefort. All types of pate are off the menu for the same reason.

Also heat ready-meals until piping hot as these can harbour listeria.


High levels of mercury can harm a developing baby’s nervous system. Therefore don’t eat shark, swordfish and marlin. Tuna consumption should be limited. However, anything up to four medium-size cans is fine (or two steaks). For the same reason you shouldn’t have more than two portions of oily fish a week (fresh tuna, mackerel, sardines and trout).

Toxoplasma parasites. Not too much to worry about for most, but pregnant women should take care to avoid exposure.
Toxoplasma parasites. Not too much to worry about for most, but pregnant women should take care to avoid exposure.


Toxoplasmosis, caused by a parasite, is fairly common and you may have already had it without even knowing it. However, if contracted when pregnant it can cause problems such as blindness and brain damage. The parasite can be found in undercooked or raw meat, so make sure meat is well cooked and, in the case of red meat, there is no pink showing. It can also be found in cured meat such as salami and Parma ham; and in unpasteurised goats' milk.

Also remember to wear gloves when gardening or changing a cat litter tray as soil and cat poo are another potential source of the parasite that can lead to toxomplasmosis.

Vitamin A

Too much vitamin A can damage the development of cells in foetuses and lead to conditions like spina bifida. Aside from not having any supplements containing vitamin A, you should avoid eating things such as liver.


When I was pregnant with my first daughter I experienced an energy slump on my way back from work and devoured a Snickers bar in five seconds. I then realised with horror that peanuts were iffy at best and a complete no-no if there was a family history of allergies such as hay fever, asthma or eczema. No damage was done and now the advice to avoid them has been revised.

I talk about all things pregnancy, baby and child-related over on The Parent Social.


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