If you’re pregnant, or are thinking of getting pregnant, then you likely know there are certain foods you’ll need to avoid while expecting. Things like alcohol and coffee are known to increase the risk of birth complications, and it’s always recommended to eat as healthy and balanced a diet as possible while pregnant (if not always). Sounds easy enough, right?
With that being said, most expectant mamas aren’t aware of all the foods they need to skip before baby. There are tons of perfectly normal (and seemingly healthy) foods that can affect both unborn baby and mom - everything from your average frozen pizza to basic salad dressing can have an impact, and mom likely isn’t even aware of it. That’s why we’ve put together this list of 20 foods you probably have no idea you should avoid during your pregnancy.
Just remember that different foods affect different people differently - what works for one mom-to-be might not work for you. It’s always important to consult your doctor, especially if you’re planning on making any big dietary changes. Above all, the most important thing to do while you’re pregnant is ensure you're eating nutritious, balanced meals that are putting you and your baby’s health first.
20 Hollandaise Sauce
If you’re a brunch lover, then you’ve likely had eggs with hollandaise sauce. But this is one breakfast meal you can’t enjoy while pregnant! That’s because hollandaise sauce is known to have traces of raw eggs in it, which can cause Salmonella poisoning.
Symptoms of Salmonella include a whole host of flu-like symptoms, including fever, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and nausea, Health Line explains. This can harm the development of the baby and lead to lower birth rates. In rarer cases, Salmonella infections have caused cramps in the uterus, which may lead to premature births or stillbirths.
19 Frozen Pizza
Sometimes after a long day, all you’re looking forward to is putting an easy pizza in the oven and eating something quick and yummy. So, we’re sorry to be the ones to have to tell you that frozen pizza may not always be the best meal option when you’re expecting.
Frozen pizza is one of those foods that often contains sneaky sugars. Alongside simply not being healthy for baby, an increased sugar intake has been linked to a higher likelihood of obesity and diabetes in both mom and child, Baby Center explains. Likewise, if you're predisposed to gestational diabetes, your body may not produce enough insulin to deal with the extra sugar, which can lead to birth complications.
A good rule of thumb? It’s better to grab something healthier rather than defaulting to pizza!
18 Unpasteurized Milk and Juice
Although there are some health benefits associated with drinking unpasteurized milk and juice, most experts warn expecting moms to cut these beverages out of their diets altogether. Unpasteurized milk and juice can increase the risk of your unborn baby contracting listeriosis, a bacterial infection that can be fatal.
This bacterium is often found in unpasteurized liquids, and can grow while the drink is stored in the fridge. Remember that your immune system is more compromised during pregnancy, so you're at a greater risk of passing on such an infection to your infant. It’s best to avoid all unpasteurized drinks entirely.
17 Cold Cuts
Just as listeria can be caused by mom consuming unpasteurized beverages, she can also pass it on to her infant by eating refrigerated deli meats. Anything from turkey and ham cutlets to hot dogs and roast beef should be considered unsafe unless they are served steaming hot at at least 165 degrees, Baby Center explains.
So, that means anything that contains refrigerator meats is off limits, whether it’s a deli salad, like a potato salad or coleslaw, or a pre-made sandwich. Also, when ordering meat at a restaurant, make sure that it is fully cooked all the way through, for your health and your baby's - no rare steaks, sorry!
Whether you like red or black licorice, you’re going to have to quit it entirely if you’re pregnant. Mom Junction explains that one of the main components of this candy, glycyrrhizin, has been linked to developmental issues in unborn babies.
“The component impairs the placenta allowing the stress hormone to enter the baby, affecting its IQ,” the site explains. “Research shows that ADHD issues in children and early puberty in girls are also side-effects of licorice.” They add that licorice is also known to increase blood pressure and chances of pre-term labor.
Best to avoid this candy entirely it looks like!
15 Foods High In Trans Fat
It's no big surprise that trans fats are bad for you, and so should be avoided in general. But this is especially important for pregnant women, as these foods are known to result in pregnancy complications if consumed too regularly.
Baby Center explains that food rich in trans fat works to increase cholesterol levels while decreasing levels of heart-protective cholesterol. When pregnant, this can lead to lower birth weights in infants. It also increases the chance your child will be born with a small gestational age. Trans fats have also been linked to increased infertility and endometriosis in women.
14 Pancakes & Waffles
As we’ve established that foods high in trans fat can be harmful to pregnancy, it should also be noted that pancakes and waffles might also pose a risk. That’s because a lot of pancake mixes are high in trans fat as it adds to the fluffiness and texture. The same can be said for waffles - even the frozen kind.
To avoid this safety hazard, look for pancake mixes that claim to have zero trans fat. You may have to go the organic route, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Also check to see if ‘partially hydrogenated oil’ is included in the ingredients, as this works to reduce the trans fat found in the product, so it's a good sign.
13 Salad Dressing
Just like frozen pizza can be harmful due to hidden sugars, the same can be said about pre-made salad dressing. Even if you think you're eating healthy by choosing salads, the dressing you're putting on top can actually be putting your baby at risk.
Many salad dressings can contain up to 8g of sugar per 2 tablespoons, Baby Center reports - and the average person often sloshes their salad in more than a mere two tablespoons. When salad dressing shopping, try looking for a healthier version with zero trans fats and sugars, or better yet, try making your own at home.
12 A Bag Of Chips
Cravings for salty things are to be expected when you're expecting. And, when this happens, your first thought will be to reach for the nearest bag of chips. But moms-to-be need to be careful about eating processed junk food, like chips, which are high in trans fat and sugars, as they carry a handful of negative consequences for both you and your baby.
First, they increase the likelihood that you'll gain too much weight during pregnancy, which can lead to complications down the line and obesity post-pregnancy. Health Line reports that this also increases the risk of future obesity for your child, and the chance of developing diabetes for both mom and child.
Snack on something healthier when the cravings hit you!
Cereal is America’s favorite breakfast food, right?
Well, you might reconsider keeping it in your pantry when you learn how unhealthy it can be. Just like other foods rich in sugars, most cereals feature a whopping dose of sugar in order to enhance the flavor. Even the ones that claim to be healthy or filled with dry fruits and nuts have a high sugar count - often 14 to 16g of sugar per serving, Baby Center predicts.
Oatmeal is a healthier option versus sugar, or at least buying one that is primarily filled with granola and dried fruits. Never let the sugar count sneak up on you!
You'd think that fruit would be a safe choice for a sweet and healthy snack, but this is one fruit that can actually cause complications during pregnancy, even though most moms-to-be are none the wiser.
Mom Junction explains that pineapple is rich in bromelain, which is know to soften the cervix and could possibly lead to early labor. Having a premature baby comes with a whole truckload of health consequences, including developmental delays and low birth weights. What's more, pineapple is high in sugars, which can increase the chance of diabetes in both mom and infant.
9 Chocolate Bars
Anyone who’s pregnant knows what it’s like to get serious sugar cravings. When you have one, you’ll do just about anything to satisfy it. But - and we're sorry to tell all you chocoholics - it turns out that it’s better to get your sugar fix any other way than by eating chocolate.
Most chocolate has caffeine in it, which is known to be unhealthy for unborn babies. Likewise, you should also limit your intake of food or beverages that also contain caffeine - this includes things like Coke and Pepsi. Experts say about 300 milligrams (so, about two cups of coffee) should be the maximum daily intake. So you should avoid snacking on too much chocolate, especially if you've already had some caffeine that day.
8 Unwashed Produce
If you’re a mom-to-be who’s gotten into the bad habit of never washing her fruits and veggies, then you need to stop it right now! Consuming unwashed produce in general carries risk, but it's all the higher when you're pregnant and your immune system is compromised, the Mayo Clinic explains.
If you eat unwashed produce, you could risking contracting toxoplasmosis (which is caused by a parasite) and then passing it on to your baby. You're also at a higher risk if you're eating bruised produce, as bacteria are able to thrive in areas where the food has been damaged. If you gets toxoplasma, you will start experiencing flu-like symptoms, which can put the pregnancy at risk if left untreated.
7 Energy Drinks
Why would you be able to drink energy drinks if you can’t drink coffee?
All expectant moms should apply the same logic they have towards coffee as they do to energy drinks, as both beverages tend to carry the same levels of caffeine. Yet, energy drinks can be even more harmful for a pregnancy since they sometimes contain more sugars than a black coffee or tea, Baby Center explains. Energy drinks are known to increase blood pressure and cause abnormal heart rhythms, all of which can be harmful to a pregnancy.
Likewise, the site says to stay away from any ‘natural’ energy boosters that may contain ginseng, yerba mate, green tea extract, or guarana. These are all stimulants of which the effects on pregnancy are still undetermined.
6 Soft Cheeses
While you may have been looking forward to satisfying your pregnancy cravings with a delicious cheese platter, you’ll have to rethink that plan. It turns out that soft cheese is something that pregnant moms definitely need to avoid, due to the increased risk of incurring listeria upon eating them.
This means that all sorts of soft cheeses should be cut out of your diet - including brie, Gorgonzola, Camembert, feta, and Roquefort. Actually, the only cheese you should be ingesting while pregnant is that which is made from pasteurized milk. Anything unpasteurized poses harm to mom and subsequently to the unborn baby.
5 Margarine and Creamer
Many pregnant women report experiencing serious dairy cravings while expecting, but it turns out you need to be on alert to make sure the dairy products you’re consuming aren’t harmful to you or your baby.
The problem is that many of these products, like margarine, creamer, and even frosting, contain high rates of trans fat, which we’ve established have been linked to high cholesterol, low birth weights, and even small gestational age. Check to make sure the product you’re buying has zero or little trans fat.
Beware - most companies aren’t obligated to list their trans fat if the product has less than 1g, Baby Center warns. So, you’re probably still ingesting some even if the label is leading you to believe otherwise.
4 High-Mercury Seafood
A nicely-cooked fish dinner can be a treat every once and a while. But if you’re pregnant, thinking about becoming pregnant, or even breast-feeding, then it’s highly recommended you stay away from high-mercury seafood.
This includes fish like king mackerel, tilefish, shark, and swordfish, which are all known to have high mercury rates, Baby Center explains. The reason is that seafood with mercury can potentially damage the baby’s developing brain and nervous system.
With that being said, there are other types of seafood with low levels of mercury that can be healthy for a pregnancy diet, as fatty acids found in seafood can be beneficial for neural development in the fetus. You'll definitely want to stay away from all raw fish though, so no sushi or poke bowls for a while.
3 Unripe Papaya
We’re sorry to tell any and all papaya lovers out there that eating this fruit unripe can be harmful to pregnancy!
Most unripe papayas are green in color, which luckily makes them easy to spot. The reason these are unsafe for pregnant women to snack on is because they contain a latex substance that can cause uterine contractions, as it replicates the hormones used to start labor, Baby Center says. This could ultimately result in an early labor, compromising your baby’s safety.
Unripe papayas tend to be served in Thai restaurants, so be on the lookout if you’re grabbing Thai food in the near future - green papaya salad is sadly a no-go for for the next nine months.
2 Canned Soup
Canned soup can be an easy meal option, especially on a day where you just want to feel cozy. But this is another item you likely want to avoid during pregnancy due to its high sodium content, often featuring over 900mg per serving, Baby Center says.
Increased sodium intake during pregnancy can lead to all sorts of side effects, including high levels of swelling and water retention. It can make you feel uncomfortable and unwell, thus potentially leading to pregnancy complications. Being wary of the amount of sodium you’re ingesting is crucial if you want to continue working canned soup into your pregnancy diet.
1 Raw Sprouts
If you always hated eating your leafy greens as a kid, then you’ll have no problem avoiding raw sprouts during pregnancy.
Experts recommend staying away from the likes of alfalfa, clover, radish, and bean sprouts, as they can be infected with Salmonella, Health Line reports. The humid environment needed to grow them is a great host for bacteria, and they’re difficult to completely wash off.
As we’ve established, Salmonella poisoning will cause a slew of flu-like symptoms, which can be harmful to your pregnancy. In rare cases, Salmonella has led to stillbirth and premature birth. So, it’s best to avoid raw sprouts while expecting.