5 Foods to Avoid While Pregnant

It’s no secret that once you discover you’re pregnant, thinking about what you put into your body becomes a real concern. As soon as those double lines show up on the pregnancy test, most women will trawl the internet for foods and beverages that are safe to consume, and foods to avoid while pregnant. 

Pregnant women and their unborn babies are particularly vulnerable to foodborne illnesses (listeriosis, salmonellosis, campylobacteriosis, toxoplasmosis) because the mother’s immunity is weakened while pregnant, making it difficult to fight against them. Listeriosis caused listeria bacteria is one of the more common and dangerous bacterias as it can breach the placenta and cause illnesses for newborns, stillbirths and miscarriages.

 Being pregnant has got to be one of the most challenging and rewarding times in your life. Not only does your body go through immense changes, but it’s attempting to grow another human – a process that requires support from what it’s fuelled with. Although it’s hard to limit exposure to external chemicals, it is possible to control what goes into your mouth. Your body requires additional vitamins and minerals to help your baby grow and also to maintain your own health. The overabundance of information, recommendations and reports can often make it hard to distinguish between what is fact and what is fiction and if you’re being practical or too cautious.

Gone are the days when ordering a salad from the local sandwich bar is considered safe, and most likely you’ll need to do a full inventory of your eating habits to adjust to your new bump friendly protocol and to create a list of foods to avoid during pregnancy. Most of our readers will be familiar with the more common foods to avoid during pregnancy, including foods such as soft cheeses, undercooked meat and seafood, unwashed salads, sushi, alcohol and coffee. But, don’t go reaching for that tub of hummus just yet – we investigate foods you might not know are best avoided and why.  

  1. Raw or undercooked eggs

Aside from most fresh fruit and vegetables, during your nine months, you should try to live by the rule that if It’s not cooked, don’t eat it. Cooking kills bacteria that naturally live on the surface of plants, vegetables and meat. This is also the case with eggs, which have a risk of salmonella if they are not cooked to a high enough temperature. During pregnancy, eggs should be cooked until both white and yolk are solid all the way through. Foods made using raw egg, such as mayonnaise, Caesar and Hollandaise dressings, mousse, custard, meringue and raw cookie dough or cake batter should also be avoided. This includes non-hen eggs like duck, quail and goose eggs.  

  1. Tahini and tahini containing products

Tahini has become increasingly popular in the last few years, mainly being used in dips, sauces and as a substitute for nut butters. The problem with tahini is that it’s rarely pasteurised and its composition might also allow bacteria to survive. A popular snack that contains tahini is hummus. Most commercial hummus is pasteurised, but that doesn’t mean it’s automatically safe for pregnant women to eat. This is due to its high-water content and low acidity, which is an environment where bacteria tend to thrive and contamination can often occur during storage. There is also a common threat of cross contamination when the paste is used as a dip. Roasting sesame seeds before they are ground to make tahini may be the only step that inhibits risk of salmonella. However, not many hummus products contain roasted sesame tahinis, so it’s recommended to make your own products to avoid the risk of contamination. 

  1. Herbal teas

If you’re trying to cut back on your coffee habit, you may be thinking of making the switch to herbal, but that may not necessarily be your best bet. Even though tea is all natural and, in most cases, has a wide range of health benefits, the research on herbal tea consumption during pregnancy is sparse. Some herbal teas and products including hibiscus, chamomile and fenugreek may stimulate uterine contractions or increase the risk of birth defects. It’s best to speak to your doctor first before making any food or beverage a regular part of your daily routine.

  1. Flaxseed

Flaxseeds have become popular, mainly for their ability to replace eggs in vegan baking, for its fibre supplementation and for its high content of omega 3’s and resulting lowering of inflammation. Early animal studies suggest flax may have some mild estrogenic effects and should be consumed sparingly. Some flax in your diet can help keep you regular, but there is cause for concern for estrogenic effects if you eat the seeds in large quantities. The suggested recommendation is 4-6 tablespoons a day or 2 tablespoons of flaxseed oil a day.

  1. Artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners may seem like a guilt free way to consume more cake and less calories, however sweeteners have a controversial history, including being linked to cancers, birth defects and Alzheimers. Sweeteners such as aspartame (Equal) have been attributed to birth defects, and Saccharin and Cyclamates are both banned in Canada and the US respectively. As a general rule of thumb, artificial sweeteners are best avoided during pregnancy – sugar in moderation is a much safer alternative. 


  1. Journal of Food Protection, Vol. 75, No. 6, 2012
  2. International Journal of Food Microbiology
  3. Nutrition Reviews, Volume 62, Issue 1, January 2004, Pages 18–27
  4. Herbal Medicine Use during Pregnancy: Benefits and Untoward Effects
  5. Sweeteners and Cancer

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