What to eat during pregnancy

Getting the nutrients your body needs is important during pregnancy, but it’s also important to know which foods to avoid while pregnant. You may have questions about what’s safe and what’s not for the health of you and your baby. For example: Can you eat seafood when you’re pregnant? Can you eat deli meat while pregnant? We answer these questions and more in this guide to food and drinks to avoid completely when you’re pregnant. We also explain which foods can be safely consumed in moderation during pregnancy.

If you’d like to know more about what’s in a healthy pregnancy diet, download our Nutrition During Pregnancy Guide. At the same time, you may be wondering how much weight is healthy and appropriate to gain during pregnancy. Our Weight Gain Calculator can provide some accepted weight gain ranges based on your pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI), but your healthcare provider is your best source of information about weight gain and the right pregnancy diet for you.

Is It Safe to Drink Alcohol and Caffeinated Beverages While Pregnant?

In addition to having questions about what not to eat when pregnant, you may be wondering whether you should say no to that glass of wine or cup of coffee.

Drinking alcohol while pregnant is best avoided entirely. Alcohol consumption during pregnancy is linked to a higher risk of miscarriage and stillbirth, and excessive alcohol consumption can even lead to fetal alcohol syndrome. Your safest bet is to turn down that glass of wine once you know you’re pregnant.

If you indulged in the occasional beer or wine before knowing you were pregnant, it’s unlikely any serious harm will come to you or your baby. The important thing is to not consume any alcohol for the rest of your pregnancy, because experts believe that no amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy. If you are worried about the effects of any drinks you had before your pregnancy was confirmed, talk to your healthcare provider.

When it comes to drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages, most experts agree that sticking to less than 200 milligrams per day is safe. That’s one 12-ounce cup of coffee a day. To give you a rough guide as to what a 200-milligram portion of caffeine looks like in other beverages, it could be 4 cups (8 ounces each) of brewed black tea, 6 cups of brewed green tea, or 4 cups of cola.

Is It Safe to Drink Herbal Tea?

Because you want to keep your caffeine intake down, you may want to sip on a cup of herbal tea. However, there is little data on the effects certain herbs can have on a developing baby. This is why it’s best to play it safe and avoid herbal tea unless you get the OK from your healthcare provider. Check with your provider about those herbal teas marketed as safe for moms-to-be, too.

Can You Eat Meat, Poultry, or Pâtés?

Meat and poultry are an important part of a healthy, nutritious diet; however, make sure you fully cook all meat and poultry before eating. You can use a meat thermometer to guarantee food is fully cooked.

Opt for canned and shelf-stable pâtés rather than refrigerated ones. This helps to avoid foodborne illnesses like listeriosis. Listeriosis is a serious illness caused by bacteria in food, and it can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, or premature delivery. Hot dogs, deli meats, and bacon can also potentially carry the bacteria that causes listeriosis.

If you’re eating bacon, make sure it’s cooked thoroughly. It’s best to avoid deli meats and hot dogs while you’re pregnant, but if you can’t resist, make sure you heat them to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit, or until they start to produce steam.

Low-fat dairy products, such as skim milk, mozzarella cheese, and cottage cheese, can play a great role in a healthy pregnancy diet, but you should avoid unpasteurized milk and cheeses while pregnant. These can lead to foodborne illnesses like listeriosis. This is why it’s a good idea to avoid foods like unpasteurized Brie, feta, queso blanco, queso fresco, and blue cheeses while pregnant.

Like dairy foods, eggs are also highly nutritious, but you should avoid raw and undercooked eggs. Raw eggs can be contaminated with harmful bacteria, which can be risky for anyone, but especially pregnant women.

When you’re pregnant, it’s best to avoid food made with raw or partially cooked eggs, so you'll want to forgo foods like raw batter, homemade Hollandaise sauce, Caesar salad dressing, and eggnog.

Can Pregnant Women Have Seafood?

Seafood is a good choice for pregnant women, but it is important to be careful with the type of fish you eat and where it’s sourced from. Seafood that’s high in mercury (see list below) poses a risk to your baby’s developing nervous system, which is why it’s important to avoid older, larger fish that could contain higher quantities of mercury.

To be safe, it’s best to avoid

  • shark

  • swordfish

  • king mackerel

  • tile fish

  • raw shellfish like oysters and clams.

For the latest information on fish caught in local waters, check with your state health department or with the US Environmental Protection Agency.

When preparing fish and shellfish, it’s also important that you cook

  • fish to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, until the flakes are opaque

  • shrimp, lobster, and scallops until they turn milky white in color

  • clams, mussels, and oysters until the shells open. Throw away those shells that remain closed.

You may also be wondering whether pregnant women can eat sushi. Uncooked fish and shellfish come with an increased risk of harmful bacteria, so avoid sushi made with uncooked fish or shellfish, as well as refrigerated smoked fish, like salmon. The good news? There are plenty of sushi alternatives you can eat while pregnant, like vegetarian sushi or sushi rolls made with cooked fish or seafood, like shrimp tempura.

Continue eating a variety of fruits and vegetables during your pregnancy, but remember to always wash raw fruits and vegetables to get rid of any harmful bacteria. Carrots and leafy greens are excellent sources of vitamin A, and strawberries and tomatoes can each provide a good dose of vitamin C. You can also ask your local grocer what fruits and vegetables may be in season at the moment, and you might find that you can add something more exotic, like papaya or pineapple, to the mix from time to time.

Most fruits and vegetables are safe to eat if washed properly; however, raw sprouts carry a higher likelihood of carrying foodborne illnesses. Unlike most other fresh vegetables or fruits, sprouts are grown in warm, humid conditions, which is the ideal breeding ground for bacteria such as salmonella, listeria, and E. coli. This is why it’s safest to avoid raw sprouts like alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung beans.

If you do want to consume sprouts, make sure you cook them thoroughly.

For a handy checklist of foods and drinks not to eat during pregnancy, check out the below:

More Foods to Avoid While Pregnant

It may seem daunting to keep track of all the foods you can and can’t eat while pregnant. Here, we’ve compiled some frequently asked questions about specific foods to help make it a little easier.

It may seem like a lot to consider, but a healthy pregnancy diet is as much about enjoying what you can eat as it is about looking out for what you cannot eat while pregnant. You might see this as an opportunity to sample some previously unknown foods — a fruit or vegetable you’ve never tried, for example. Or, you might even learn how to cook an old favorite in a new way, like baked salmon prepared at home instead of salmon rolls from your neighborhood sushi spot.

Try not to dwell on any food restrictions, and instead focus on the endless opportunities to enrich your pregnancy diet. You can have a lot of fun sampling a rich variety of foods during your pregnancy, with your prenatal vitamins providing any extra nutrients you need.

As you get ready for the arrival of your little one, you may want to download the Pampers Club app. You have a lot to think about in the coming months, but we’re here to help make this journey easier. With the app you can get great rewards for all those diapers that are in your future!