It’s important to know which foods are safe to eat and which you need to avoid while pregnant.  As with any diet, it is important that you consult your physician for any advice she may have regarding foods to avoid.

The following list, while not exhaustive, is a good place to start:

Raw meats such as sushi, seafood (especially shellfish), rare or uncooked beef or poultry should be avoided due to the risk of coliform bacteria, toxoplasmosis and salmonella. 

Salmonella may also be found in raw eggs, foods containing raw egg such as Caesar dressing, mayonnaise, homemade ice cream or custard, unpasteurized eggnog or Hollandaise sauce. 

Soft cheeses such as blue cheese, feta (goat cheese), brie, cambert, Latin-American soft white cheeses (such as queso blanco and queso fresco) and blue-veined cheeses (such as roquefort) may become contaminated with the Listeria bacteria.  Listeria could cause sickness or death in you or in your child.

Fish should raise a flag.  In may places in the U.S. there are high levels of Mercury or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the fish.  When you consume large amounts of mercury, your baby may suffer brain damage resulting in developmental delays (for example, delays in learning to walk or talk).  Consumption of fish containing high levels of PCBs in their fatty tissues is linked to decreased attention, memory, and IQ in babies. Check with your local Health Department to determine which fish in your area are safe to eat.

Deli meats (including hot dogs) have led to outbreaks of a form of food poisoning called Listeriosis.  Listeriosis is particularly harmful to fetuses. While the risk is low, you may want to thoroughly reheat deli meats to an internal temperature of 165 degrees or avoid them altogether.

Minimize the amount of liver you eat.  Animal liver contains very high levels of vitamin A. While vitamin A is good for you, women who consume too much may risk a higher incidence of birth defects in their babies. Since you’re probably already taking prenatal vitamins and eating other vitamin A-containing foods, it’s better to be safe and not consume liver on a regular basis.

The consumption of artificial sweeteners, such as can be found in diet soda, is safe for the general public. No studies show conclusively that it’s harmful for humans to consume artificial sweeteners during pregnancy.  The risk seems to be lowest with aspartame, while Saccharin has been shown to cause birth defects and cancer in rodent studies.  you might choose to limit your consumption of artificial sweeteners during pregnancy. Instead, substitute fruit juice, milk or water.

Some studies have shown that raw sprouts may lead to some incidents of salmonella outbreaks. They advise that pregnant women eat sprouts that are cooked, or avoid eating them altogether.

Finally, it is important to remember that food handling and preparation are essential in avoiding bacterial infections.  Make sure to cook all of your foods thoroughly, avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods and don’t consume foods that have been frozen or refrigerated longer than recommended by the FDA.

Foods to avoid during pregnancy