Foods to avoid during pregnancy

It’s a really good idea to eat lots of healthy, nutritious foods while you are pregnant to support your growing baby but there are some foods and drinks that you should avoid at this time as they may be harmful to both of you. Here is a list of food and drinks to avoid.

  • Unpasteurised milk and cheese and all soft cheeses
  • Rare of raw meat, chicken or fish
  • Raw or undercooked eggs and products made with raw eggs such as homemade cheesecake
  • Pate – whether made from meat, fish or vegetables
  • Mercury containing fish such as swordfish needs to be avoided and tuna should be limited
  • Liver and liver products
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine should be limited (1-2 cups of coffee per day is okay)

Unpasteurised milk and cheese and all soft cheeses

Fortunately you don’t need to worry about finding unpasteurised milk in the supermarkets as all milk is pasteurised. However, there are many raw milk cheeses available – particularly in delicatessens or at the cheese counter so always check the label. It’s a good idea to avoid all soft cheeses such as brie and camembert and blue cheeses, whether they are pasteurised or not as they may make you ill and could harm your baby.
Swap: Choose cheddar, edam or gouda instead of brie camembert or blue cheese

Rare or raw meat, chicken or fish

It is important to make sure that everything you eat is well cooked through, to ensure that any harmful bugs are killed off before you eat the food.

Swap: Choose your steak well done and cooked fish over sushi

Raw eggs or products made with raw eggs

Raw eggs can contain salmonella which may cause harm to you and your baby. Although it may seem obvious to suggest refraining from raw eggs, they are often hidden in many foods like homemade cheesecake, mousse or Caesar dressing. Many of them are made with raw eggs so it’s important to be eggs-tra cautious and avoid them if you are unsure. And if you fancy a boiled egg or poached egg for breakfast, just cook them until the yolk is hard.
Swap: A soft boiled egg for a hard boiled egg or choose shop bought dressings/desserts that state they have been pasteurised

Pate

Whether made from meat, fish or vegetables pate should be avoided during pregnancy. It may contain higher levels of bacteria called listeria than other foods. Another reason to avoid eating pate is that it often contains liver which should be avoided during pregnancy.

Swap: Try hummus or cream cheese instead

Mercury containing fish – swordfish, shark and limit tuna

Shark, swordfish and marlin certainly won’t make the dinner menu every night! But it’s important to note that these fish may contain high mercury levels so it is best to choose other fish instead.Tuna, which is much more popular in Ireland, may also contain mercury, so it is advisable to limit your tuna intake to 2 medium tins of tuna or 1 fresh tuna steak per week.

Swap: Choose cooked oily fish like salmon or white fish like cod

Liver and liver products

Fried or grilled liver may not be the regular staple it was when your parents were young, but it is still on sale in all butchers today and is a very nutritious offal meat, packed full of iron. However, it is also very high in Vitamin A – a good thing if you were not pregnant but high intakes of Vitamin A are not recommended in pregnancy as they may be harmful to your baby. So avoid liver, liver sausage, pate and any fish liver oils or multivitamins containing Vitamin A. In fact, always check with your doctor or pharmacist before you take any supplements or medications while pregnant.

Swap: Choose other iron rich meats like beef, lamb or chicken and try hummus and cream cheese instead of pate.

Alcohol

You may have heard that an occasional alcoholic drink is okay, but it’s best to err on the side of caution when you’ve a baby on board. Cutting it out altogether removes any possible risks to your baby. So it’s mocktails for the next 40 weeks!

Swap: Water is the best drink you can choose. Try flavouring fizzy water with fruit for a refreshing drink.

Caffeine

Caffeine can act as a stimulant so it is best to limit your coffee intake while you are pregnant. So besides kicking the coffee habit, it’s important to keep your eyes peeled for other sneaky sources of caffeine found in some fizzy drinks, tea and even chocolate! Try to keep your intake to less than 200mg/day, in terms of coffee that is 1-2 cups per day.

Swap: If you do crave coffee or tea, choose decaf options instead to keep your intake down