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Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy

What Foods To Avoid While Pregnant

You’re pregnant! Let’s talk prenatal nutrition.

As you start to sift through online forums and talk to various different practitioners it is important to know what to apply to you and your little one. Navigating what foods to avoid while pregnant can be tough and nobody likes to be told what they can’t eat without ideas for alternatives. In this blog we will provide ideas to replace some of your favorite foods and beverages that should be avoided during pregnacy! 

What does Teratogenic mean?

Teratogenic means birth defect causing. Some examples of this would be consuming alcohol while pregnant or not getting enough folate. In this blog we will guide you through some of the foods you will want to stray away from foods known to cause adverse or unknown complications during your pregnancy.

What To Drink While Pregnant

Sit back, relax, and enjoy a mocktail! 

Alcohol is considered to be a birth defect causing agent during pregnancy. That is why you see lots of moms avoiding their usual friday night glass of wine while they’re pregnant. But why are they doing this? 

Your little one is receiving all its nutrition from you as their mom. Consuming alcohol during pregnancy, for this reason, can create a slew of problems. According to the CDC those who consume alcohol while pregnant risk miscarriage, stillbirth, abnormal facial features, small head size, poor memory, difficulty in school, shorter than average height and more. So do you have to sit out on the fun festivities? Absolutely not! Here is a list of some great tasty mocktails to still enjoy time out with loved ones or evenings at home with family. 

Enjoy the fine taste of coffee, but try decaf instead

Caffeine’s half-life increases during pregnancy, which is why it is important to limit consumption. It also increases risk of both birth defects and miscarriage in women.  Coffee isn’t the only thing that has caffeine though. Drinks like tea, soda, energy drinks, and even your favorite chocolate bars have caffeine. According to The American Pregnancy Association, women who are pregnant should limit caffeine recommending less than 150mg of caffeine per day. It’s important to note how much caffeine is in certain drinks: 

  • Coffee, average (check the specific blend & café that you purchase from for specific levels):
    • Brewed, 8 oz.  |  95 – 165 mg
    • Brewed, decaf, 8 oz.  |  2 – 5 mg
    • Espresso, 1 oz.  |  47 – 64 mg
    • Latte, 8 oz.  |  63 – 126 mg
    • Dr. Pepper (12 oz) 37 mg
    • 7 Eleven Big Gulp Diet Coke (32 oz) 124 mg
    • 7 Eleven Big Gulp Coca-Cola (32 oz) 92 mg
    • Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Buzz Ice Cream (8 oz) 72 mg
    • Baker’s chocolate (1 oz) 26 mg
    • Green tea (6 oz) 40 mg
    • Black tea (6 oz) 45 mg
    • Excedrin (per capsule) 65mg

Resource: American Pregnancy Association

Teas to Avoid During Pregnancy

When choosing what teas to drink, it is important to understand what types of teas they are and how they are made. There are two types of teas: non-herbal and herbal. Here are the differences between the two: 

Herbal TeaNon-Herbal Tea
Made from roots, berries, flowers, seeds, and leaves of a variety of plants from tea leaves.Black tea, English breakfast tea, Earl Grey, and Orange Pekoe

Here are a list of herbs from the American Pregnancy Association that are either deemed safe or unsafe for consumption during pregnancy: 

  • Red Raspberry Leaf (Likely Safe) – Rich in iron, this herb has helped tone the uterus, increase milk production, decrease nausea, and ease labor pains.  Many pregnancy teas contain red raspberry leaf to help promote uterine health during pregnancy. There is some controversy about whether this should be used throughout pregnancy or just in the second and third trimester, so many health care providers remain cautious and only recommend using it after the first trimester.
  • Peppermint Leaf (Likely Safe) – Helpful in relieving nausea/morning sickness and flatulence.
  • Lemon Balm (Likely Safe) – Has a calming effect and helps relieve irritability, insomnia, and anxiety.
  • Ginger root (Possibly Safe) – Helps relieve nausea and vomiting.
  • Dandelion (Insufficient Reliable Information Available) – Rich in Vitamin A, calcium and iron; dandelion root and leaf can also help relieve mild edema and nourish the liver.
  • Chamomile (German) (Insufficient Reliable Information Available) – High in calcium and magnesium, also helps with sleeplessness and inflammation of joints.
  • Nettles (Stinging Nettles) (Likely Unsafe-see note) – High in vitamins A, C, K, calcium, potassium, and iron. Used in many pregnancy teas because it is a great all-around pregnancy tonic. (*Note on the safety of Nettles: Natural Medicines Database gives Nettles a rating of likely unsafe, even though it is used in countless pregnancy teas and recommended by most midwives and herbalists. This may be in relation to which part of the nettles plant is used, the root or the leaves, and how much is used. According to other sources, the use of nettles is encouraged during pregnancy because of its health benefits.)
  • Rose Hips (Insufficient Reliable Information Available) – Very good source of Vitamin C and helps boost the immune system.
  • Alfalfa (Possibly Unsafe) – Has Vitamin A, D, E and K; particularly good in later pregnancy to boost Vitamin K, which helps prevent postpartum hemorrhage.
  • Yellow Dock (Possibly Unsafe) – Used to help treat anemia in pregnant women due to the high level of iron. Also contains Vitamins A, C, and calcium.
    *(This may also be used as a laxative–talk with your health care provider about the use of yellow dock during pregnancy)

Another tea that is recommended is called Pregnancy tea and it is made by Fairhaven Health this is a tea that is made to relax uterine muscles, strengthen the womb, and prepare the body for childbirth.

Energy drinks contain high amounts of caffeine and vitamins that are meant to prolong your energy throughout the day. But they also have things like sugar, taurine, carnitine, inositol, ginkgo and milk thistle. Many of these ingredients haven’t been studied to be safe for pregnancy. Some energy drinks may also contain ginseng which isn’t recommended to be consumed during pregnancy.

Alternative drinks to replace caffeinated beverages

Opt for less sugar in beverages

Limiting these types of drinks from your diet helps remove empty calorie sources without compromising nutrient consumption. It’s okay in moderation, especially if you are experiencing nausea and it helps! 

Some great alternatives for your sweet tooth: 

Sports drinks and supplements 

There isn’t enough research on some of the supplements on the shelf to determine their safety for pregnancy. Prior to taking any sport supplement consult during your pregnancy consult with your doctor (pre-workouts and BCAAs). 

Foods to Avoid While Pregnant Swaps

Watch out for unpasteurized foods

Unpasteurized products like deli meats, raw fish, queso fresco, brie, unpasteurized milk, raw egg yolks (even over easy egg yolks), juice, raw unfiltered honey (botulism spores), should be avoided. When foods are unpasteurized, it increases the risk of food borne illness. This is due to the bacteria that is found in water and soils that can affect vegetables that come from the soil as well as the animals. Listeria can contaminate ready to eat meat products like deli meat and hotdogs because contamination may occur during packaging or after cooking. Infection rates of listeria are rare (~1,600 cases per year), but despite this fact pregnant women are more at risk than non pregnant women for infection. 

Here are ways to combat this: 

  • Heat up your lunch meat! There are great recipes that contain lunch meats that are equally, if not more, delicious than your normal cold cut sandwich. 
  • Find pasteurized honey, here are a few trusted brands (here’s a hint, avoid labels that say “raw” or “unfiltered”).
  • Cook your eggs all the way through
    • Check out this deviled egg recipe 
      • This gem of a recipe contain choline amongst other great nutrients which is also important for pregnancy (to find out why read the prenatal vitamin blog here)
  • When ordering at a sushi restaurant choose cooked options like shrimp tempura, or a crab roll. 

Consider swapping the tuna for some salmon

High mercury content is something to look out for when choosing what seafoods to eat during pregnancy. High mercury content in your foods can be harmful to the brain development of the baby. An easy way to think of it, is to avoid big fish that eat smaller fish like tuna, swordfish, marlin, orange roughy, shark, tilefish and king mackerel. If you are wondering what fish are most high in mercury content look at  the FDA website, and consult your doctor or RDN fish that is safe to eat during pregnancy. Sadly, sometimes this omega 3 nutrient dense options are foods to avoid while pregnant.

Other things to consider is when eating your fish servings ensure you are eating them cooked and not raw. Additionally, there are a ton of other options to eat during your pregnancy to give you those healthful omega 3 fatty acids without the risk. Foods like salmon, cooked shrimp, cooked scallops, leafy greens, grass fed beef, algae, and walnuts.

Here are some great recipes packed with nutrients and tasty for you and your baby:

  • Honey Mustard Salmon
    • Packed with nutrients, short prep time, and a flavorful dinner or lunch addition to your day. Not only does the salmon provide omega 3 fatty acids, but the asparagus is a great source of folate (learn more about folate and pregnancy click here). 
  • Shrimp Veggie Foil Packet
    • This dish is prepped and ready to serve in 25 minutes, and that’s not even the best part. It has the healthful omega 3 fatty acids providing DHA and EPA along with Vitamins K, C, and folate.

Seafood Watch is a great resource to find more information on specific information and updates on different types of seafood

Stay encouraged, try some new things

I know that it’s hard to swap out some of your most favorite foods and beverages for the duration of your pregnancy. With that said, be encouraged! This is a great time to try some new things and still partake in the activities you enjoy. I hope this blog helps you expand your horizons on great food options to help you thrive during your pregnancy. It’s not “what foods to avoid while pregnant” but “what are things I can try”!



American Pregnancy Association


Co Author: Katie Kluth B.S. Exercise Science, CPT, Current Dietetics Student and Fitness Enthusiast, @thelittlemuscle, Kilowatt Wellness LLC on Facebook 

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