What You Can And Can’t Eat During Pregnancy

It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction when it comes to what we can and can’t eat during pregnancy. You hear old wives’ tales, information from different countries which can often be different to our guidance, and stories from different generations about ‘back in our day…'

And it can be confusing!

But now you are pregnant, there are some foods and drinks that are best to be avoided because of the small risks they can pose to baby (or yourself).

Make sure you know the facts and follow the guidance about which foods are ok to eat and which to avoid.

Here is our list of foods to avoid in pregnancy:

Raw or undercooked meat:

Yes, I’m afraid that means no nicely cooked steak. It needs to be either cremated or simply avoided. Just make sure that all meat is cooked thoroughly, so there is no trace or pink or blood.

The risk is low but you may also prefer to avoid cured meats too, such as salami, prosciutto and pepperoni.

Raw or undercooked meats can contain parasites such as toxoplasmosis which can have serious implications for your baby’s health.

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Unpasteurised milk and dairy products

Unpasteurised products may contain bacteria that could make both you and baby poorly, which is why they are best avoided when pregnant.

The milk we drink from shops, supermarkets and restaurants in the UK is pasteurised and is fine to drink. However if you use farmers’ markets, the milk and products made from it may be unpasteurised so it is best to ask first.  

The reason that unpasteurised is fine at ant other time besides when pregnant is due to your immune system being lowered during pregnancy. Also the bacteria that may be found in unpasteurised milk and cheese, although rare, can be very harmful to baby.

Soft cheeses are made with unpasteurised milk so should also be avoided. This also applies to goat's milk and sheep's milk.

Raw eggs or undercooked eggs

Some eggs are produced under a food safety standard called the British Lion Code of Practice. Eggs produced in this way have a logo stamped on their shell, showing a red lion.

Recent research suggests that these eggs (as long as they have this red lion stamp) are safe to eat in pregnancy in all forms. So that means you can have your morning runny eggs and soldiers even when pregnant.

If the eggs are not Lion Code, it is important that you cook them until the whites and yolks are properly cooked all the way through. This includes in homemade mayonnaise. In restaurants it is best to ask!

Non-hen eggs such as duck, goose and quail eggs should always be cooked thoroughly.

Certain kinds of fish

  • Avoid shark, swordfish and marlin
  • Limit tuna to no more than two fresh steaks or four medium cans of tinned tuna a week (4 cans a week! Wow!)
  • Limit oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout, herring, pilchards) to no more than two portions a week.
  • Avoid eating raw shellfish, such as oysters, as they may give you food poisoning. (Cooked shellfish are fine – these include cold pre-cooked prawns.)

Caffeine

You should limit your caffeine intake to no more than 200mg a day during your pregnancy.

A can of cola has around 40mg of caffeine, a mug of tea has around 75mg, a bar of plain chocolate has around 50mg, a cup of instant coffee has around 100mg, a mug of filter coffee has around 140mg.

Other foods to avoid in pregnancy are liver and pate. Be careful to wash all fruit and vegetables. And of course avoid alcohol!

Can I eat peanuts during my pregnancy?

You are fine to eat peanuts or food containing peanuts (such as peanut butter), during pregnancy, unless of course you are allergic to them.

The guidance used to be that peanuts should be avoided during pregnancy. This is because the government previously advised women to avoid eating peanuts if there was a history of allergy – such as asthma, eczema, hay fever and food allergy – in their child's immediate family.

The advice has changed now however, because the latest research has shown no clear evidence that eating peanuts during pregnancy affects the chances of baby developing a peanut allergy.

What about pre-packed meat?

Pre-packed meats such as ham and corned beef are safe to eat in pregnancy. Some websites based in other countries may suggest that you avoid pre-packed meats when pregnant, but this is not the advice in the UK.

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