Foods To Avoid When Pregnant

What Food is Safe to Eat When Pregnant?

While you are pregnant/breastfeeding you and your baby require an excellent diet and good nutrition. You can achieve this by eating in a healthy manner. It is, however, a normal question to ask if there are foods to avoid when pregnant, but let’s first start talking about food that is great for a pregnant woman to eat. Pregnancy diet in Simple Nutritional Advice describes a great diet for pregnancy, however, generally speaking, you need to be consuming foods from a variety of the major food groups.

The major food groups are;

  1. Bread and cereals/rice/pasta/noodles and other grains
  2. Vegetables and legumes
  3. Fruit
  4. Meat, fish, poultry eggs and nuts and seeds and tofu
  5. Dairy products –  milk, yoghurt, cheese and or dairy alternatives with added calcium

We know it can be a hard time to eat foods from the various food groups depending on if you have any symptoms/food aversion or hyperemesis/morning sickness that you may be suffering. What to eat if you have morning sickness explains more about what to eat if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.  

What is the big deal about Sood Safety and Pregnancy?

Whilst you are pregnant your hormones are so busy in your body that your body’s immunity can sometimes be lower. This can make it a little trickier for pregnant women to deal with illnesses or infections. Foodborne illness or food poisoning is an area we can control to try to protect ourselves from food risks. This is very important in pregnancy, and it is something you can proactively make happen.

Foods to Avoid When Pregnant

Read the summary below or follow this link to the Australian NSW food authority foods to avoid when pregnant for a great table of foods to avoid if pregnant.

Meat and meat foods to avoid
  • Processed meats
  • Raw meat/seafood and pate
  • Ready to eat chilled prawns
  • Sandwich shop meat
  • Hot takeaway/takeout chicken – (unless freshly hot and eaten straight away)
  • Poultry stuffing
  • Sushi (unless homemade by you without meat or seafood and eaten straight away)
Dairy and Eggs foods to avoid
  • Soft/semi soft cheeses
  • Processed cheese products (be aware of product shelf life and discard quickly after opening)
  • Fried and Soft serve and ice cream
  • Unpasteurised dairy
  • Raw, dirty or cracked eggs
  • Watch out for hidden raw eggs in food (ie desserts or mayonnaise, aioli, cake batter etc)
Vegetables & Fruit foods to avoid
  • Pre-prepared or pre-packaged salads and fruit salads
  • Rockmelon
  • Uncooked frozen vegetables
  • Bean Sprouts – Alfalfa sprouts, broccoli sprouts, onion sprouts, sunflower sprouts, clover sprouts, radish sprouts, snowpea sprouts, mung beans and soybean sprouts

Three Major Tips for Healthy Food Safety while Pregnant

Keep it Cold
healthy eating for pregnancy
healthy nutrition and pregnancy, pregnant woman eating vegetable salad
  • Your fridge should be below 4 degrees Celsius or 41 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Don’t eat food that has been left out on the bench (either at home or at a function)
  • Defrost and marinate meat in the fridge, not the bench or outside
  • When you shop always use a cooler bag or ice block to keep things cold whilst travelling back from the shops
  • If you are out try to only consume food that you know has been freshly cooked and stored correctly – this can be very difficult
  • Get into the habit of checking the used by or before dates of your products at home, particularly of dairy products
  • Store food right away after cooking it – don’t leave it on the bench
  • Leftovers – if you really have to keep for only 1 day and cook them to an appropriate temperature again and eat them straight away
  • Canned foods- store unused portions in the fridge in clean, sealed containers and use within a day
  • Make sure you check the food expiration or use by dates, maybe the day you do the food shopping check everything in the fridge
Keep it Hot
  • Make hot food hot, hot, hot
  • When you cook, cook things really hot too as high a temperature as possible
  • If you need to reheat any food make sure the food is hot and steamy
  • Cooking meat/fish/chicken yourself is fine, ensure it is cooked thoroughly to an adequate temperature (purchase a meat thermometer) and eat it hot straight away
  • Store meat leftovers in the fridge to reheat to at least 60 degrees Celsius/140 degrees Fahrenheit and use within a day of cooking
Keep it Clean
  • Keep your kitchen and fridge clean – clean them out weekly and throw out leftovers or old food containers regularly
  • As always, wash hands before and during food preparation
  • Separate raw and cooked foods in the fridge (place cooked food higher than raw foods in the refrigerator)
  • Don’t let raw food juices drip onto any other foods in the refrigerator
  • Have different chopping boards for raw food and cooked foods
  • Chopping boards need to be washed in a hot temperature
  • If someone is sick around you do not eat any food that they have prepared
  • Wash salad ingredients well just before making and eating salads, store any leftover salads in the fridge and use within a day of preparation
  • All fruit/vegetables and herbs should be washed well before eating
Can I eat Fish?

Just a note about fish. Fish are great for us, they have minerals and protein and are low in fat. Fish also contain omega 3 fatty acids which are wonderful for our skin, eyes and our cardiovascular system. As a pregnant woman, omega 3 fatty acids also help your baby to develop its central nervous system – very important.

Some fish contain too much mercury, however, and we don’t want to have too much mercury in our bodies. You should limit your intake of high mercury foods if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant – speak to your dietitian or GP in particular for you.

Lower mercury fish are Atlantic and canned salmon, canned mackerel and canned tuna (in oil), herrings and sardines, snapper, trevally, trout, bream, garfish, whiting, and mullet. Prawns and octopus and squid are also low mercury seafood. Remember you can always ask your fish merchant or the restaurant or shop about the type of fish you are buying if you are unsure.

Food Poisoning

As we mentioned earlier, pregnancy makes our bodies more sensitive to food poisoning. Listed below are some of the bacteria types which may cause food poisoning and ways to avoid contamination whilst pregnant and foods to avoid.


Salmonella infection (salmonellosis) is a common bacterial disease that affects the intestinal tract. Salmonella can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhoea, fever and headaches. Tips;

  • Aim to avoid foods that contain raw eggs (ie desserts) and
  • Always cook meat thoroughly
  • It is also recommended to not eat any type of “sprouts” think alfalfa sprouts broccoli sprouts, snow pea sprouts and bean sprouts


Listeria is also a bacteria and can cause “listeriosis” – a flu-like illness. Listeria can be transmitted to an unborn baby so it is particularly important to stick to the following guidelines. Listeria can be a bit tricky and even if you have stored your food correctly it can still be present in the food – so it is best to simply avoid the following foods which may contain listeria. Tips;

  • Try to eat freshly cooked foods that have been well washed and freshly prepared.
  • One day leftovers can be eaten as long as they have been refrigerated very quickly after cooking.
  • Pre-packaged salads and pre-made sandwiches/wraps should be avoided as also rockmelon (some reports of listeriosis in rockmelon)


Toxoplasmosis is caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. If a woman is infected with toxoplasmosis whilst pregnant it may be transmitted to the baby. People can be infected with toxoplasma by touching cat faeces (cleaning out cat litter or playing in infected soil) or if you eat undercooked meats or unwashed vegetables and fruits (particularly if they are from gardens with household cats). Tips;

  • Remember to wash your fruit and vegetables 
  • Cook your meat well (maybe use a meat thermometer)
  • Don’t eat raw oysters, clams or mussels
  • Wear gardening gloves, when gardening
  • Wash your hands after touching any animals
  • Try not to swallow the water if swimming in a lake
  • Best not to drink unpasteurised goats milk
  • Don’t drink tap water if overseas

Pregnancy is a time where we need to pay a little more attention to our overall health and safety

  • Gilbert E: Manual of High Risk Pregnancy & Delivery, 2011
  • Pairman et al; Midwifery Preparation for Practice, 2015
  • NSW Australia Food Authority