Pregnant woman, healthy food

Foods that pregnant women shouldn’t eat and other recommended ones

Published: 10 April 2023|Last updated: 13 April 2023|Emotional aspects.|

Pregnancy is the period during which a human being develops from a fertilised egg. Most of the products eaten and drunk by a woman are in varying concentrations carried in the blood through the umbilical cord to the foetus. Because of this, it is important to tailor the diet so that it is as safe as possible for the child, which is why many people ask about the foods that a pregnant woman cannot eat.

Here we will tell you what a pregnant woman cannot eat, taking into account the tolerance range, the nutrients in the food and the needs of the expectant mother and her baby throughout the 40 weeks of pregnancy. Since pregnancy is a different experience for every woman, it is difficult to limit the diet to certain foods, but limits can be set to influence a sudden desire to eat a specific product or a combination of seemingly incompatible products. Not all ingredients are healthy for the baby, and knowing what not to eat during pregnancy is extremely important for mothers-to-be.

So, while we will go into more detail on why you should not eat certain foods, here’s a sneak preview: these include liver, peanuts (they may contain aflatoxins that can harm the foetus), coffee and strong tea (they can cause foetal heart problems), grilled and smoked products (they tend to use a lot of salt, and there are a lot of harmful substances in them).

First of all, how do you know if you are pregnant?

Although we can find certain symptoms of pregnancy 7 days after conception that may lead you to think that you are pregnant, confirmation usually comes when you stop menstruating and the pregnancy test is positive. However, the pregnancy must be confirmed with an ultrasound scan. If this is your case, you should take into account the following recommendations.

What food can’t a pregnant woman eat?

A balanced diet is good for all women, whether or not they are pregnant. A balanced diet is regarded as one that is mainly made up of fruit, vegetables, protein, pulses, wholegrain cereals and healthy dairy products. However, when you are pregnant, there are certain foods that you may have problems with, so we want to start by talking about what not to eat during pregnancy. Not only because of the baby’s potential tolerance level, but also the mother’s, as there are foods such as certain fruits that increase nausea or stomach acidity, so it may be better not to eat them.

Foods high in fat

Eating fats is not forbidden in pregnancy, but these fats should be good fats, not saturated and trans fats, which are present in lard and butter, margarine, cream cheeses, palm and coconut oil and in many unhealthy desserts and dairy products. Therefore, it is advisable to make your diet as healthy as possible by avoiding fried foods, processed foods and junk food (such as hot dogs, hamburgers, and so on).


It is true that, in a balanced diet, seafood and fish feature prominently because of their high content in omega-3, iron and zinc, as well as protein. But some are also high in mercury, which is harmless if you are not pregnant but dangerous for the baby’s developing nervous system.

It is therefore recommended not to eat fish with a high mercury content (found in shark, swordfish, bluefin tuna or mackerel, for example) and not to eat raw fish or shellfish.

Raw or under-processed meat

Our immune system protects us against infection, but in pregnancy it is more susceptible to infection due to a number of mechanisms (e.g. increased production of progesterone in pregnancy). Pregnant women are up to thirteen times more likely to get listeria from contaminated food than non-pregnant women, so it is advisable to avoid foods that can spread infection.

Toxoplasmosis, for example, is spread by a parasite – toxoplasma – that can be found in raw or under-processed meats. This includes a lot of cold meats. So, to be on the safe side, freeze and/or cook meat and cold meats thoroughly during pregnancy.

Cheese or unpasteurised dairy products

Listeria, which we mentioned earlier, is a bacterium that can be present in unpasteurised dairy products, but also in seafood, undercooked meat products and poorly washed fruit and vegetables, so it is essential to be meticulous about hand hygiene and wash everything we eat thoroughly.

Alcohol and coffee

Alcohol should be completely avoided during pregnancy, because it can visibly affect the baby’s development as it reaches the baby through the umbilical cord and also through breast milk when breastfeeding.

Coffee is best limited to one cup a day or avoided altogether, because caffeine is also passed on to the baby and an increase in caffeine in the blood can cause miscarriage and low birth weight. Note: tea and some carbonated drinks are high in caffeine.

Raw eggs

Eggs may contain salmonella, so they should not be consumed during pregnancy. Home-made mayonnaise, lightly cooked potato omelettes, raw biscuit dough… these are delicacies that will have to wait until your pregnancy is over.

Liver and pâté

Liver and pâté contain high amounts of vitamin A that can be detrimental to a baby’s development, so it is recommended to take it in very small amounts or omit it from the diet altogether. There are other ways to supplement the required iron.

What food can a pregnant woman eat?

The above list may seem daunting, but there are plenty of things that pregnant women can eat without problems.

Fish you can eat

In fact, the list of fish you can eat is much longer than the list of fish you cannot eat. Cooked white fish is usually safe, as are cod, sardines and anchovies, salmon, John Dory, squid and cooked shellfish. Even canned tuna is much safer than bluefin tuna and has a lower mercury content. It is recommended to eat 2-3 servings of fish per week.

Fruit and vegetables

Well washed, fruit and vegetables are a must for pregnant women. Two to three pieces of fruit a day (preferably not processed into juice in order to take full advantage of the fibre) and two portions of vegetables a day.

Vegetable proteins

In addition to those present in meat, fish and eggs, during pregnancy it is also good to consume vegetable proteins found in nuts and pulses.


Low-fat meats such as beef, turkey or chicken are particularly beneficial during pregnancy because of their high levels of vitamin B, protein and minerals. However, it is not advisable to overindulge in red meat; once or twice a week is enough. Three to four servings of meat per week should combine poultry and beef.

Healthy carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are necessary because they provide energy for the mother and also for the developing baby, but they must be healthy, slowly absorbed carbohydrates that keep blood sugar levels at a constant level, such as those present in wholegrain cereals, potatoes or fruit. Rapidly absorbed carbohydrates in pastries, sweets, and so on, should be avoided.


In addition, it is advisable for pregnant women to take a vitamin supplement to prevent any deficiencies in certain nutrients from causing problems for the baby. This is particularly important for women on a restrictive diet.

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