Banner Health Services  

Foods to avoid during pregnancy


Dr. Corinne Jedynak-Bell is an OB/GYN on staff at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center. Her office can be reached at (623) 936-1780.

Question: There’s so much information and opinion out there about foods pregnant women should and should not eat. Will you please discuss which foods women should avoid or be careful of during pregnancy?

Answer: Due to changes in the immune system during pregnancy, certain types of food that are generally safe may lead to potentially serious complications – from dehydration to miscarriage. As a result, certain foods should be considered off-limits during pregnancy. Here’s a brief list of foods or drinks that pregnant women should avoid or, at the very least, consume in moderation.

Foods to Avoid:

  • Eggs. Raw eggs may contain salmonella, which can cause fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. Avoid any dish in which the eggs (both yolk and white) are not cooked completely. 
  • Sushi. Except for California rolls and other cooked items, sushi is not safe when you're expecting because raw fish may contain illness-inducing parasites.
  • Unpasteurized Drinks and Cheeses. Pasteurization kills bacteria and toxins. Though most juices, milk, and cheeses sold in stores today are pasteurized, some brands are not. Always read the labels.
  • Fish with High Mercury Levels. Some varieties of fish have high levels of methyl-mercury – a pollutant that can potentially affect baby's nervous system. Steer clear of swordfish, shark, tilefish, and other species that are large and live long. 

Eat in Moderation:

  • Nitrate-Rich Foods. Go easy on hot dogs and cured meats, such as bacon and sausage. These contain nitrates, which are additives that have possible links to brain tumors and diabetes. These foods have low nutritional value anyway, so it makes sense to limit your consumption.
  • Caffeine: Pregnant women should limit caffeine to 300 milligrams or less per day – roughly the amount found in two or three 8-ounce cups of coffee.
  • Diet Soda: Along with low nutritional value, as well as high amounts of caffeine, diet sodas often contain the artificial sweetener saccharin. Saccharin does cross the placenta, so drink in moderation.

Obviously this list isn’t exhaustive and doesn’t provide much detail. Speak with your healthcare provider to make sure your dietary choices are appropriate for a healthy and happy pregnancy.

Page Last Modified: 04/05/2013
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