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Foods to Limit & Avoid

There are certain dietary recommendations of which foods and drinks to limit and which to avoid through pregnancy.   The following advice is backed by extensive research and evidence and helps it being so restrictive by showing you ways you can eat most foods just by knowing how to cook them.

Foods to Avoid

Unpasteurised Foods & Raw Foods

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Pregnant women are at risk of 2 types of food poisoning which can have very serious consequences – Listeriosis and Toxoplasmosis.

Listerosis may cause miscarriage, stillbirth and pre-term labour

Toxoplamosis can cause problems such as blindness and mental disability in the baby

The following foods below are unsafe to eat in pregnancy.  However they can be made safe if heated to the required temperature to pasteurise the foods.   The table below shows the temperatures they need to be.

  • Unpasteurised milk and cheese
  • Unpasteurised meat and fish pates, confits and meat spreads
  • Blue veined cheeses
  • Unpasteurised raw eggs including uncooked cake mix, dough, drinks using egg whites, fresh mayonnaise
  • Hot dogs and cold cuts – unless cooked
  • Store bought deli salads containing cold meats, fish or seafood
  • Rare, raw or undercooked meats and poultry
  • Raw fish foods such as sushi, sashimi, ceviches and carpaccio
  • Raw and undercooked shellfish such as clams, mussels, oysters and scallops

If heat the food to the required temperature stated in the table below it pasteurises the food and kills bacteria.   Devices such as Food Thermometers and Sous Vides can help with this.  The entire food needs to reach this temperature including the inner core to make it safe.

Foods to Limit

Caffeine

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The jury is still out on the relationship between caffeine and miscarriage in the early stages and decreased growth and preterm birth in the later stages.  With the lack of certainty it is recommended to limit caffeine intake to 200mg per day. Check out our table below which will help you monitor the amount of caffeine you are consuming a day and gives alternatives which are lower or very low in caffeine that you can substitute your usual caffeine high beverages with.

Alcohol

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Alcohol can pass directly to the fetus through the umbilical cord and heavy consumption has been linked with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders which cause physical, learning and behavioural problems in babies and children.  A 2021 study found that a womans risk of miscarriage increased every week they drank low levels of alcohol.  The time to try and completely avoid alcohol is the first trimester where the baby’s brain, spinal cord and nervous system is developing at an incredible rate.  Dont panic if you drank before you found out you were pregnant.  There are many babies born where the mother did not realise she was pregnant and drank alcohol for the first several weeks and reported no issues. It’s just better to be stay on the side of caution when you know.

If you do feel that completely abstaining from alcohol will be too difficult for the pregnancy then try to avoid alcohol in the 1st trimester and then limit as much as possible in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters.   The NHS guidelines recommend if you are pregnant you should avoid alcohol. If you choose to drink, the NHS recommends that you drink only once, or at most twice, a week and have no more than one or two units each time.

A guideline to Units:

  • Alcopop – 1.5
  • 125ml glass of wine – 1.5      175ml glass of wine – 2.1
  • 330ml Bottle of 5% lager, beer or cider – 1.7
  •  Single shot of spirits 25ml – 1

Sweeteners

Excessive sugar in pregnancy has the same undesirable consequences as when not pregnant.  Sugar is very high in calories and when not used can convert to fat and gain in weight.   It also increases your chance of tooth decay.  There are slightly healthier natural alternatives to sugar being honey, raw sugar and coconut sugar but these are still high in calories.

There are then artificial sweeteners and stevia extracted from plants which either zero calories or very low calories.   You may be surprised how many products out there particularly ones that state ‘diet’ or ‘no sugar’ or ‘sugar free’ contain these sweeteners.   A number of them have been deemed safe to use by the FDA in pregnancy but advised to moderate intake for example limiting to 5 sticks of no sugar chewing gum a day or only one diet drink.  Excessive amounts can lead to side effects such as headaches and upset tummys, bloating or diarrhea.  The table below advises which ones are safe and which ones are not.

Check the back of the products to see which sweeteners they contain.

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