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Food Safety During Pregnancy

What Foods and Drinks Should I Avoid During Pregnancy?

Foods that are more likely to be contaminated with bacteria or to contain heavy metals are ones to skip or limit during pregnancy. They include:

  • soft, unpasteurized cheeses (often advertised as “fresh”) such as some feta, goat, Brie, Camembert, and blue-veined cheeses, and Mexican queso fresco. Soft cheeses labeled as “pasteurized” usually are OK, especially if they’re individually packaged and not cut at the deli counter from a larger piece.
  • unpasteurized milk, juices, and apple cider
  • raw eggs or foods that contain raw eggs, including mousse, tiramisu, raw cookie dough, eggnog, homemade ice cream, and Caesar salad dressing
  • raw or undercooked fish (sushi), shellfish, or meats
  • paté and meat spreads
  • processed meats like hot dogs and deli meats (these should be well-cooked before eating)

What About Seafood?

Fish and shellfish can be a healthy part of a pregnancy diet because they contain beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and are high in protein and low in saturated fat. But avoid the kinds that can have high levels of mercury, which can damage the brain of a developing fetus. Fish to avoid:

  • shark
  • swordfish
  • king mackerel
  • tilefish
  • tuna steak (limited amounts of canned, preferably light, tuna is OK)

When you choose seafood, eat a variety of fish and shellfish and limit the amount to about 12 ounces per week — that’s about two meals. Common fish and shellfish that are low in mercury include canned light tuna, catfish, pollock, salmon, and shrimp. Albacore (or white) tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna, so it’s best to eat no more than 6 ounces (or one meal) of albacore tuna a week.

What Else Should I Know?

You may have to skip a few foods during pregnancy that you normally enjoy. But just think how delicious they’ll taste when you can enjoy them safely again.