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Mums-to-be are bombarded with information, and food is one area where confusion abounds. Read on for the lowdown on what you can safely enjoy, and why some foods are off the menu for at least a few months.

Read more about eating during pregnancy, including how to have a healthy diet in pregnancy, how to have a healthy vegetarian diet in pregnancy and what your food cravings really mean.


Can I eat dairy foods when I am pregnant?

If there's one food group that causes confusion, it’s dairy – especially cheese. Some mould-ripened, soft cheeses are at risk of containing a bacteria called listeria, which may cause listeriosis, a condition that has the potential to cause miscarriage, stillbirth and illness in new born babies. That said, if the cheese is cooked thoroughly – heated so it is steaming hot - it should be safe to eat.

These are the dairy foods you can enjoy as well as those you should steer clear of:

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Safe to eat

  • Pasteurised soft cheeses, including feta, mozzarella, soft cheese (sometimes called cream cheese), paneer, ricotta, halloumi and cottage cheese
  • Pasteurised semi-hard cheese like edam and stilton
  • Pasteurised and unpasteurised hard cheese like cheddar, parmesan and gruyère
  • Pasteurised and UHT milk and milk products

Best to avoid

  • Mould-ripened soft cheese with a white rind or coating, whether pasteurised or unpasteurised, such as brie, camembert and chèvre
  • Soft blue cheese, whether pasteurised or non-pasteurised such as gorgonzola, Danish blue and roquefort
  • Unpasteurised soft cheese, including soft ripened goat’s cheese
  • Unpasteurised milk or cream, including cow’s, goat's and sheep’s milk or cream

Can I enjoy my morning cuppa during pregnancy?

Too much caffeine during pregnancy may increase the risk of miscarriage and put your baby at risk of a low birth weight. This is because caffeine passes through the placenta and into the baby’s body. Don’t forget that cola also contains caffeine, at about 40mg per can.

There’s little information about whether herbal teas are completely safe, so limit your intake to no more than four cups per day. If you have concerns, ask your GP or midwife for further guidance.

Safe to drink

  • Decaffeinated tea or coffee
  • Cordials, juice and water

Best to avoid

  • Energy drinks
  • More than two mugs of coffee or three cups of caffeinated tea (it is suggested that caffeine consumption be limited to no more than 200mg/day)

Can I enjoy an alcoholic drink while pregnant?

Like caffeine, alcohol passes through the placenta, so no amount of alcohol is considered safe while your baby’s liver is developing. In extreme cases, drinking alcohol during pregnancy may lead to miscarriage, premature birth and low birth weight, and can also lead to learning and behavioural problems.

Safe to drink

  • Alcohol-free beverages
  • Mocktails
  • Sparkling water

Best to avoid

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • ‘Alcohol-free’ versions of wine, beer etc. may, despite their name, still contain small amounts of alcohol.

Can I eat eggs while pregnant?

Hen eggs carrying the Red Lion logo are produced according to a food safety standard called the British Lion Code of Practice, and are considered to be at very low risk for salmonella. These eggs are safe for pregnant women to eat raw or partially cooked (with a runny yolk). Any recipe made with these eggs, including mousses, soufflés and fresh mayonnaise, are also safe. Eggs that are not stamped with the Red Lion logo need to be cooked thoroughly until both the white and yolk are solid.

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

Safe to eat

  • Hen eggs produced under the British Lion Code of Practice
  • Other eggs, including non-hen eggs, as long as they are well-cooked

Best to avoid

  • Raw or partially cooked non-hen eggs
  • Raw or partially cooked hen eggs of unknown origin
Sushi selection

Can I freely eat fish during pregnancy?

Fish is highly nutritious and a useful source of key nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acid, iodine and selenium. During your pregnancy it is best to limit some varieties of fish including the fatty ones, such as sardines, mackerel and salmon. Advice regarding smoked fish has changed in recent years, pregnant women are advised to cook all smoked fish products, until they are steaming hot all the way through.

Shellfish is safe to eat as long as it has been thoroughly cooked, so you can enjoy that king prawn curry, but give oysters a miss for now.

Safe to eat

  • Cooked fish and seafood
  • Sushi, if made with cooked fish or cooked shellfish, or if it is vegetarian
  • Shellfish including mussels, crab, prawns and scallops, if they have been thoroughly cooked
  • Cold pre-cooked prawns
  • Smoked fish and their products as long as they are cooked until steaming hot

Best to limit

  • Enjoy no more than two portions of oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and trout per week
  • And no more than two tuna steaks or four cans per week

Best to avoid

  • Raw fish and shellfish
  • Oysters
  • Shark
  • Marlin
  • Swordfish

What about raw or uncooked meat during pregnancy?

All meat and poultry, including steaks, roast meat, sausages and burgers, should be cooked until there is no trace of pink or any blood.

Cured or fermented meats, like parma ham and salami, are uncooked and may contain parasites that may cause toxoplasmosis, leading to miscarriage, stillbirth or birth defects. If you want to eat these foods, check the label to see if they need to be cooked, as this lowers the risk. Freezing these meats at home for four days before eating may also lower the risk of contamination

All types of pâté need to be avoided during pregnancy. This is because liver pâtés and other liver products provide too much vitamin A, which can harm your baby’s development. Furthermore, fish and vegetable pâtés may contain listeria.

Safe to eat

  • Cold cooked meats, such as roast ham
  • Well-cooked meat and poultry

Best to avoid

  • Cured/fermented meats, such as parma ham and salami, unless they are cooked or have been frozen
  • Raw or undercooked meat
  • Liver and liver products
  • Game meats such as goose, partridge and pheasant that may contain lead shot
  • All types of pâté, including vegetarian versions

Find out more about what food is safe to eat during pregnancy at NHS online.

Do you have any tips or advice for eating during pregnancy? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

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All health content on is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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