Guide on foods and drinks to limit or avoid during pregnancy

There are some foods to avoid or take care of when you're pregnant because they might make you ill or harm your baby. Make sure you know the important facts about which foods you should avoid or take precautions with when you're pregnant. You can read this whole page and learn which food and drinks to limit or avoid during pregnancy.

Pregnant woman shopping for groceries

Table of foods and drinks to limit or avoid during pregnancy

FoodHealth adviceReason to avoid or limit. 
Raw eggs and raw egg products. Home-made mayonnaise. Mousse and some desserts.Avoid foods made with raw eggs. Boil eggs until whites and yolks are hard.Increased risk of food poisoning from Salmonella bacteria.
Unpasteurized milk and products.Use pasteurized milk and dairy products only. Or thoroughly boil unpasteurized milk before using it.Increased risk of: - Listeriosis - Toxoplasmosis - Campylobacter
Soft mold-ripened cheeses Brie, Camembert, soft goat's cheese and blue-veined cheesesAvoid completely.Increased risk of Listeriosis,
Pâté All types of pâté, including vegetable pâtés.Avoid completely.Increased risk of Listeriosis. High levels of vitamin A should be avoided.
Raw or undercooked meat Particularly poultry and minced meat, salami and Parma ham (prosciutto).Cook all meat and poultry thoroughly so there's no trace of pink meat or blood.Increased risk of Salmonella - Toxoplasmosis.
Liver and liver productsAvoid liver and liver products during pregnancy.These foods have a high retinol (vitamin A) content and this can be dangerous to the fetus if large amounts are consumed.
Undercooked ready meals and other ready-prepared dishes Ready-made salads, quiches, microwave meals, meat pies/ pasties.Cook thoroughly before eating, or make your own from fresh.Increased risk of Listeriosis.
Unwashed fruit and vegetablesWash thoroughly, making sure there are no traces of soil left before using.Increased risk of Listeriosis - Toxoplasmosis.
Untreated waterAvoid completely.Increased risk of Campylobacter
Some fish and shellfish Some types of fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout, fresh tuna, dogfish (rock salmon), sea bass, sea bream, turbot, halibut, and crab. Raw fish and raw shellfish. Shark, marlin, and swordfish.Limit these types of fish to a total of two portions a week. Have no more than two fresh tuna steaks in a week (about 140 g cooked or 170 g raw each) or four medium-sized cans of tuna a week (about 140 g when drained). Avoid eating raw fish that has not been previously frozen or smoked. Avoid raw shellfish as it can cause food poisoning. Avoid shark, marlin, and swordfish.High levels of pollutants can be found in some types of fish and in crab. These pollutants can affect the development of a baby's nervous system.
Alcohol: All alcoholic drinks such as wine, lager, beer, cider, spirits or alcopopsAvoid drinking alcohol completely if you're pregnant or trying to get pregnant. If you choose to drink alcohol, have no more than 1 or 2 units of alcohol once or twice a week. (1 unit = ¹/₂ a pint of lager, a small glass of wine, or 1 pub measure of spirits.)High intakes can cause miscarriage or fetal abnormalities, such as fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), or may mean babies are born with some learning disability that can affect their learning and behavior.
Caffeine is found in many drinks and some foods but is particularly high in drinks such as coffee and tea, energy drinks, cola drinks, and cocoa-based drinks and foods. Many soft drinks do not provide information on the caffeine content, and if products are not labeled these should be avoidedHave no more than 200 mg of caffeine a day. • 1 mug of filter coffee = 140 mg • 1 mug of instant coffee = 100 mg • 1 mug of tea = 75 mg • 1 can of cola = 30-50 mg • 1 can of energy drink = 80mg or more • a 50 g bar of plain (dark) chocolate = 50 mg • a 50g bar of milk chocolate = 25 mgHigh intakes can cause miscarriage or fetal abnormalities.
Certain food additives Artificial colors E102, E104, E110, E122, E124, E129, or the preservative sodium benzoate (E211).Avoid these additives.These additives have been linked to increased hyperactivity among some children and many people now choose to avoid these. To find out if a food or drink contains any of these additives, check the Ingredients list on the packet or label.
Vitamin A supplements • Any supplements containing vitamin A • High-dose multivitamin supplements • Fish liver oil supplements.Avoid completelyHigh intakes can cause miscarriage or fetal abnormalities.
Kava kava: This is wrongly suggested as an aid for anxiety and sleep. Calabash chalk This is not a conventional food but is eaten by some pregnant women, traditionally those from the Nigerian and wider West African community, as a remedy for morning sickness. Blue or black cohosh Wrongly suggested as inducing labor.Avoid all these completely.These herbs are prohibited in the EU but people can access them through the internet. They are considered harmful if consumed. The Food Standards Agency has advised people, especially pregnant and breastfeeding women, not to eat Calabash chalk, because samples tested have revealed high levels of lead. Cohosh can be toxic and cause blood to thin, as well as being potentially damaging to the liver.
Certain herbal preparationsThe following should be avoided as they may not be safe: aloe, angelica, apricot kernel, asafoetida, buckthorn, burdock, calendula, coltsfoot, cotton root, devil's claw, echinacea, eucalyptus, evening primrose, fenugreek, feverfew, foxglove, gentian, germander, gingko biloba, ginseng, hawthorne, hops, horseradish, horsetail, juniper, mandrake, meadowsweet, milk thistle, mistletoe, myrhh, nettle, passionflower, pennyroyal, red clover, senna, St Johns wort, valerian
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