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What can't I eat when pregnant?

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Worried about your daily coffee or whether you can eat that chunk of stilton when pregnant? Registered dietitian Dr Frankie Phillips has the answers.

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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 cheese 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 newborn babies. That said, if the cheese is cooked thoroughly, it should be safe to eat.

These are the dairy foods you can enjoy, plus those you should avoid:

Safe to eat

  • Pasteurised soft cheeses, including feta, mozzarella and cottage cheese
  • Pasteurised and UHT milk and products
  • Unpasteurised hard cheese, including stilton

Best to avoid

  • Mould-ripened soft cheese, including blue-veined varieties such as brie, camembert and chèvre, as well as gorgonzola, Danish blue and roquefort
  • Unpasteurised soft cheese
  • Unpasteurised milk, including goat and sheep’s milk

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

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

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

Is there any limit on the amount of fish I can eat during pregnancy?

Fish is highly nutritious and a useful source of key nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acid, iodine and selenium. White fish can be eaten freely, but during your pregnancy it’s best to limit oily fish (such as sardines, mackerel and salmon) to no more than twice per week. There’s no need to avoid smoked salmon in the UK, as it’s safe to eat during pregnancy.

Tuna is no longer considered an oily fish, but it should be limited to two fresh steaks or four cans per week because it may contain mercury.

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

Safe to eat

  • Smoked salmon in the UK (and if it's frozen first)
  • Sushi, if made with cooked fish or cooked shellfish or pre-frozen raw wild fish, or if it is vegetarian
  • Shellfish, if they have been thoroughly cooked through

Best to avoid

  • Raw fish and shellfish
  • Oysters
  • Shark
  • Marlin
  • Swordfish
  • Tuna (no more than two steaks or four cans per week)

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 on 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
  • All types of pâté

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 below.


This article was last reviewed on 8 February 2022 by Kerry Torrens.

Kerry Torrens BSc. (Hons) PgCert MBANT is a Registered Nutritionist with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.

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All health content on bbcgoodfood.com 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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