Foods and Beverages to Watch Out for during Pregnancy

Part of the Pregnancy Cooking & Nutrition For Dummies Cheat Sheet

You may have been told that pregnancy is a time to eat whatever you want, but that’s not entirely true. Not all foods and beverages are safe to consume while pregnant. Some can cause serious infections in you or your baby; others can lead to miscarriage or developmental issues in your child.

The following table shows you which foods to avoid throughout your pregnancy and why. To make your life a little easier, the third column tells you what you can eat in place of the taboo foods.

Foods to Avoid during Pregnancy
Don’t Eat/Drink This Why to Avoid Alternative Strategy
Raw or undercooked meat, fish, or eggs May contain dangerous bacteria Always cook meat to the proper internal temperature. Cook all eggs until they’re no longer runny and bake cookies without licking the spoon.
Alcohol Passes to the fetus and can cause developmental delays or brain damage; can also increase your risk of miscarriage or stillbirth Have a virgin cocktail.
Unpasteurized milk, cheese, juice, or honey May contain dangerous bacteria Always look for the word pasteurized on the label.
Raw sprouts (alfalfa, mung bean, clover) May contain dangerous bacteria because they’re difficult to wash properly Ask for sandwiches and salads without sprouts.
High-mercury fish (shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, albacore tuna) Can cause problems with your baby’s developing nervous system Choose low-mercury fish, such as salmon, shrimp, crab, clams, scallops, catfish, tilapia, pollock, cod, and light tuna, instead.

The following table lists some of the foods you need to be cautious of while pregnant. It also explains why they can be a problem and tells you what to do if you just can’t give them up.

Foods to Be Cautious of during Pregnancy
Use Caution with This Why to Use Caution Alternative Strategy
Deli meats Can contain harmful bacteria that can survive even at refrigerator temperatures Heat deli meats until steaming hot if you choose to eat them.
Liver (beef and chicken) Can contain high levels of vitamin A, which can be toxic to your baby, especially in the first trimester Limit intake and enjoy other meats in place of liver.
Homemade ice cream, custard, eggnog, mousse, meringue, and Caesar dressing May contain raw, unpasteurized eggs Avoid eating it if you don’t know whether raw eggs were used or use pasteurized eggs if you’re making it yourself.
Caffeine Can increase your baby’s heart rate or slow his or her growth Limit your caffeine intake to no more than 200 milligrams per day.
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