6 foods to avoid during pregnancy

6 foods to avoid during pregnancy

There are many rules and food restrictions when you’re pregnant, so knowing what to eat when pregnant and what to avoid when you are pregnant can be tough. Especially when you factor in all the cravings (50 to 90% of pregnant women experience them). You may need to skip some of your favorite foods while pregnant, while others can be consumed in moderation. And even once you have the restrictions down, you may still need a cheat sheet from time to time. So here’s a handy list of the most important foods to avoid when pregnant.

1. Raw meat & deli meat

If you’re a long-time carnivore, you may have to adjust your habits while pregnant. It's generally advisable to pass on the rare steak, since eating rare or undercooked beef or poultry increases the risk of salmonella, contamination with coliform bacteria, and even contraction of the parasite toxoplasmosis.

Deli meats or “cold cuts” may also be contaminated with listeria, a form of bacteria that may be particularly risky for pregnant people to consume, and the same goes for refrigerated pate spreads. If you absolutely must have that Italian sub while pregnant, be sure to reheat the deli meat until it is steaming hot to prevent listeriosis.

When preparing meat at home, heat cold cuts up to 145°F, ground meats to 160°F, and chicken breasts to 165°F.

2. Unpasteurized milk, eggs, juice, & soft cheeses

Consuming two to three daily servings of dairy while pregnant can help you gain calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and vitamin A, but any dairy you consume while pregnant should be labeled “pasteurized.” Unpasteurized milk may contain listeria, and the same goes for imported soft cheeses. Cheeses you may want to avoid include:

  • Brie
  • Camembert
  • Roquefort
  • Feta
  • Gorgonzola
  • Queso blanco
  • Queso fresco

If the label clearly states that the cheese is made from pasteurized milk, it’s safe to eat. 

Any raw eggs you eat should also be pasteurized to avoid the risk of salmonella. You might be surprised at the amount of common foods that contain raw eggs, including:

  • Homemade ice cream or custards
  • Homemade salad dressings (such as Caesar)
  • Mayonnaise
  • Hollandaise sauces
  • Cookie dough
  • Homemade eggnog

Finally, fresh-squeezed juice is typically unpasteurized and should be avoided while pregnant, to protect against salmonella and other bacteria like E.coli. Raw, unpasteurized juice is required to come with a warning label when sold, so just be sure to check (or ask if you’re being served at a restaurant).

3. Alcohol 

Drinking alcohol while pregnant or breastfeeding is a topic that has sparked much debate. While recommendations often advocate for complete abstinence, some research suggests that occasional light drinking may not have a significant impact. It's important to approach this issue with a critical eye, as many studies linking light drinking to negative outcomes have been criticized for flawed methodology. As always, it's best to make informed decisions based on the available evidence and consult with your healthcare provider. If you choose to drink alcohol during pregnancy, moderation is key.

4. Anything from a dented can

Here’s one you may not have heard before: Consuming food from a dented or damaged can while pregnant increases the risk of botulism. This foodborne illness can be dangerous to anyone and is caused by a pathogen that thrives in a can-like environment, especially when food is improperly preserved or spoiled. While botulism is rare, taking this simple step can help protect your health.  Keep in mind that minor dents are generally fine, but if the dent is particularly large or near the seam of the can, it’s best to avoid. 

5. Unwashed produce & raw sprouts

Vegetables are a crucial part of any diet, especially while pregnant. Just be sure to wash vegetables well, as they may harbor the parasite toxoplasmosis.

Raw sprouts are also not advised during pregnancy, as their seeds may have been contaminated with harmful bacteria, covering them in germs that are notoriously difficult to wash away. Some examples include alfalfa sprouts, clover, and radish.

6. Anything that’s not food

Some people experience pica, or cravings to eat objects with no nutritional value, like charcoal, toothpaste, coffee grounds, or plaster, while pregnant. While it’s fine to honor your pregnancy cravings most of the time (pickles and ice cream? You do you, Mama!), avoid eating non-edible foods to keep you and your baby safe. Tell a healthcare provider who can help you cope with pica if you experience these kinds of cravings.

Evidence-based approach to pregnancy nutrition

When it comes to navigating the do's and don'ts of pregnancy, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the abundance of advice out there. While it's important to be mindful of what you eat during this special time, it's also important not to get bogged down by unnecessary fear-mongering. For a trusted evidence-based resource, consider reading Emily Oster's "Expecting Better," which dives deeper into the data behind pregnancy do's and don'ts. In our Pro Parent Shop, you can find this book along with other resources that support you through pregnancy, the fourth trimester, and beyond. 

Prepare through pregnancy with Nanit

There’s a lot to keep track of during pregnancy, from maintaining healthy eating habits to following your pregnancy dietary restrictions to stocking up on all the nursery must-haves. 

Let Nanit take some of that heavy lifting off your plate. With our baby monitor, you can check in on your baby anytime via an app on your phone. You can also retrieve data about your little one’s sleep to stay on top of developmental milestones. 

Make Nanit’s Sound + Light Machine a key part of a healthy bedtime routine, elemental in helping your baby fall and stay asleep. These are just a couple of the ways you can trust Nanit to set your baby up for a good night’s rest now and in the future.

Key takeaways

  • Avoid Certain Foods. Foods such as raw meat, pasteurized dairy, and unwashed vegetables, should be avoided or restricted while pregnant.
  • Know the Risks. For pregnant women, certain foods present a risk as they may harbor bacteria or cause disease or birth defects.
  • Get Support if You Experience Pica. If you experience pica, ignore the cravings and contact your healthcare provider.


SUNY Albany. Expectant Mothers Take Note: Pregnancy Food Cravings May Be Psychological. https://www.albany.edu/news/55801.php

Parent Data. More Studies on Coffee. Can it really save your life? https://parentdata.org/more-studies-on-coffee/ 

American Pregnancy Association. Foods to Avoid While Pregnant. https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-health-wellness/foods-to-avoid-during-pregnancy/

American Pregnancy Association. Listeria in Pregnancy—Risks, Treatment, & Prevention. https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-concerns/listeria-during-pregnancy/

Hopkins Medicine. Nutrition During Pregnancy. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/nutrition-during-pregnancy

UC Davis. 10 foods to eat and avoid during pregnancy. https://health.ucdavis.edu/blog/good-food/10-foods-to-eat-and-avoid-during-pregnancy/2019/09

CDC. About Botulism. https://www.cdc.gov/botulism/general.html

American Pregnancy Association. Pica Cravings During Pregnancy. https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/is-it-safe/unusual-cravings-pica/

March of Dimes. Foods to limit or avoid during pregnancy. https://www.marchofdimes.org/find-support/topics/pregnancy/foods-to-avoid-or-limit-during-pregnancy

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Natalie Barnett, PhD serves as VP of Clinical Research at Nanit. Natalie initiated sleep research collaborations at Nanit and in her current role, Natalie oversees collaborations with researchers at hospitals and universities around the world who use the Nanit camera to better understand pediatric sleep and leads the internal sleep and development research programs at Nanit. Natalie holds a Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of New England in Australia and a Postgraduate Certificate in Pediatric Sleep Science from the University of Western Australia. Natalie was an Assistant Professor in the Neurogenetics Unit at NYU School of Medicine prior to joining Nanit. Natalie is also the voice of Nanit's science-backed, personalized sleep tips delivered to users throughout their baby's first few years.

Kristy Ojala is Nanit’s Digital Content Director. She spends way too much time looking at maps and weather forecasts and pictures of Devon Rex cats and no-cook dinners. A former sleep champion, she strives to share trustworthy somnabulism tips with other parents—praying for that one fine day when no tiny humans wake her up while it’s still dark out. Her kids highly recommend 3 books, approximately 600 stuffies, Chopin’s “Nocturnes,” and the Nanit Sound + Light for bedtime success.

Mackenzie Sangster is on the Brand and Community team at Nanit. She supports content development and editing for Nanit’s Parent Confidently blog as well as other marketing initiatives. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her friends, cooking, being active, and using the Pro + Flex Duo to keep an eye on her fur-baby, Poppy!

Holly Hays is a contributor and writer for Nanit, channeling her years as a mama and former magazine editor to create fun, useful content for fellow busy, trying-to-do-their-best parents and caregivers. Holly has written for a wide range of brands and media outlets (Ergobaby, HGTV, Manhattan Toy Company, OXO), loves to cook and read mystery novels, and leans heavily on her two daughters to keep her up to date on all the latest slang.