Foods to avoid while pregnant

There is a lot of information about what to eat while pregnant, but it's also important to follow these guidelines on what not to eat to avoid foodborne illness.

Pregnant women get a lot of information about what they should eat while they are carrying their babies. They are told how important it is to have a balanced diet with a variety of different food. How often are expectant women and their families given advice about what not to eat for food safety reasons?

According to, pregnancy affects the immune system of the mom and her unborn baby, making them more susceptible to bacteria, viruses and parasites that cause foodborne illness. It is possible for the baby to become infected by a “bug” like listeria and toxoplasma, causing serious health problems, but the mom may not experience any symptoms. The baby is also sensitive to toxins from food that is consumed by the mom, like mercury in certain kinds of fish.

Here is a table of foods to avoid while pregnant and foods that can replace them:

Foods to avoid

This is Why

Foods to Consume

Raw seafood

May contain parasites or bacteria

Fish cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit

Unpasteurized, juice, cider and milk

May contain E.coli or listeria

Pasteurized versions are safer choices

Soft cheese and cheese made from unpasteurized milk

May contain E. coli or listeria

Hard cheese & cheese made with pasteurized milk

Undercooked eggs

May contain salmonella

Eggs with firm yolks

Premade deli salads (egg, pasta, chicken, etc.)

May contain listeria

Make these dishes at home

Raw sprouts

May contain E. coli or salmonella

Cook thoroughly

Cold hot dogs and luncheon meats

May contain listeria

Reheat until 165°F or steaming hot

Undercooked meat and poultry

May contain E. coli, salmonella, campylobacter, toxoplasma gondii

Meat and poultry at or above USDA recommended internal temperatures

For the full checklist, visit the Food Safety website.

An article posted by Michigan State University Extension shares more in-depth information about listeria and pregnancy. It is important for women and their families to understand how sensitive they are to the potential of foodborne illness. Taking precautions, avoiding potentially hazardous foods and practicing food safety may eliminate the risk of food poisoning. 

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