Overall Tips for Foods to avoid During Pregnancy & Breastfeeding
Pregnancy and breastfeeding will likely make you take a closer look at the foods you eat. Your nutritional needs aren’t the only consideration any longer—you also have to eat for your little one. There are a number of specific foods to avoid while pregnant, but a good rule of thumb is to avoid foods with “extras” in them when pregnant or breastfeeding. This can be anything that contains added sugars and fats—like desserts, candy, soft drinks, and other sweetened beverages. Fried foods, fatty meats, and certain cheeses should also be avoided if possible.
Instead, opt for healthy choices to ensure you and baby are getting all of the nutrients you both need.
Foods To Avoid When Pregnant
Foods with Chemicals
These chemicals found in food and drinks should be avoided when pregnant:1,2
- Alcohol. There is no known safe amount of alcohol that can be consumed during pregnancy. This includes hard liquor, wine, and beer. Alcohol consumption can cause a host of developmental problems and may lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
- Caffeine. Caffeine isn’t just found in coffee and tea—soda, chocolate, and some over-the-counter medicines can also include this chemical, so make sure you check labels. Up to a 12-ounce cup of coffee’s worth of caffeine may be safe each day, but since there are a few sources of caffeine in a typical diet, instead aim for less than 200 milligrams daily.
- Mercury. Shark, mackerel, swordfish, tilefish, and some fish used in sushi are notoriously high in mercury, which has been linked to developmental delays and brain damage when consumed while pregnant.
Foods with Contamination Risks
Foods that are more likely to contain bacteria are important foods to avoid when pregnant, as they can potentially cause food-borne illnesses. Foods that may contain bacteria to avoid when pregnant include:
- Raw eggs. Avoid the urge to eat that raw cookie dough—raw eggs come with the risk of salmonella exposure.
- Raw fish, meat, and poultry. These foods may be contaminated with coliform bacteria, toxoplasmosis, and salmonella and should be avoided raw or undercooked.
- Raw shellfish. Oysters, clams, mussels that are undercooked or raw can cause algae-related food-borne illness.
- Hot dogs, lunch meats, smoked seafood, pate, and cold deli meats. These items can carry listeria, which can cross the placenta and cause miscarriage.
- Unpasteurized fruit juice and cider. Skip the juice and opt for the fruit instead, especially if the fruit juice is unpasteurized. Unpasteurized fruit juice is prone to bacterial contaminants.
- Unpasteurized milk and milk products. Milks and cheeses that are unpasteurized may carry listeria.
- Unpasteurized soft cheeses like feta, Brie and Roquefort. These can stay on the menu if the package clearly states they’ve been made with pasteurized milk.
- Untreated drinking water. Your tap water is likely safe to drink if it’s been treated, but untreated water can contain several dangerous contaminants.
- Unwashed fruits and vegetables. Thoroughly clean your fruits and veggies to ensure you don’t come into contact with toxoplasmosis, a rare and serious blood infection caused by a parasite found in cat feces.
Foods to Add to Your Diet When Pregnant
There are also plenty of foods that are beneficial to add to your diet during pregnancy. These foods are rich in important nutrients that you and your baby both need during pregnancy and beyond:
- Milk, hard cheese, yogurt
- Vegetables, especially dark green or leafy greens, and raw colorful ones
- Potatoes, brown rice, pasta
- Whole grains, wheat germ
- Fortified cereals
- Lean meat
- Salmon with bones, sardines, and herring
Foods to Avoid when Breastfeeding
If you choose to breastfeed your little one, you’ll have to continue considering their nutritional needs as well as yours when you eat. Since there are so many foods that are off the menu while pregnant, many people believe the same is true while breastfeeding. However, there is no specific list of foods to avoid when breastfeeding. Instead, continue the healthful diet you kept while pregnant, and allow yourself to slowly start enjoying anything you may’ve missed while avoiding certain foods during your pregnancy.
Of course, chemicals that were avoided during pregnancy remain off limits while breastfeeding your baby. This also extends to certain nutritional supplements and foods that may contain environmental pollutants.
Foods to eat When Breastfeeding
While there aren’t foods to avoid when breastfeeding, there are certainly foods worth adding to your diet to ensure your body has the calories and nutrients you need for producing breastmilk. Breastfeeding moms need an additional 330 to 400 calories daily—aim for these additional calories by choosing from these nutrient-dense foods high in the needed additional protein; vitamins A, B12, C, D, and E; selenium; and zinc:
- Fish and seafood low in mercury and other pollutants
- Meat and poultry, including organ meats
- Fruits and vegetables
- Nuts, seeds, and legumes
- Healthy fats from foods and cooking oils
- Starches that are also full of fiber
To learn more about how to structure your diet for the health of yourself and your little one and other food-related topics, explore our Guideline to Eating Seafood During Pregnancy, get help for first-trimester food aversions, and more in our Pregnancy Nutrition library.