Healthy Mama: What foods should I avoid eating while I’m pregnant?

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By Dr. Matthew Steed, Mercy family practice doctor and obstetrician (and father of two)

Most women seem to have a change in appetite immediately after finding out they’re pregnant.

Your appetite may go into overdrive or disappear altogether. Along with the change in appetite you may notice strange cravings. Everyone has an opinion about what certain cravings mean as well as what you should and shouldn’t eat while pregnant.

So from a medical standpoint, what should a woman that is pregnant avoid eating?


Uncooked shellfish, including oysters, clams, mussels and scallops should be avoided. Cooked shellfish should be cooked until the shell opens.This ensures that bacteria and parasites have been killed.  If the shell doesn’t open on cooked shellfish then discard, because more than likely the shellfish was dead before cooking and may have been sick.


It’s ok to indulge in leftover Valentine’s chocolate, but avoid chocolates filled with liqueurs like Grand Marnier, Amaretto or Kuluha.  All alcohol should be avoided during pregnancy.

Meat, Fish and Dogs

Make sure that all meats are well cooked and not pink in any area. Undercooked meats can have E. coli, salmonella and toxoplasma. Sushi should be avoided but California rolls made with avocado and cooked crab is a great alternative.

It’s ok to enjoy a hot dog now and then, but they are high in nitrates, fat and sodium, so don’t eat them a lot even if you’re craving them.Make sure they are cooked until steaming. Handle the juice from hot dogs and other meat packaging carefully and don’t let the juice come in contact with other food.

Due to the risk of mercury the FDA recommends limiting fish to 12 ounces (about two servings) a week and avoiding some kinds of fish altogether. Click here for more info.

Canned items like smoked fish, such as salmon or trout are okay as long as they are not from the refrigerator section.Those that are refrigerated can contain listeria and are only safe if they are heated until steaming or they are part of a dish that has been cooked.  Avoid carving stations and refrigerator-ready-to-eat foods. Make sure meat is well cooked and still steaming hot when it is served.

Ice Cream

Avoid homemade ice cream that is made with raw eggs.  Raw eggs can contain salmonella (cooking kills salmonella, but freezing does not).

Holiday Foods

Turkey should be cooked until it reaches 180 degrees.Dressing or stuffing should be cooked outside of the turkey and in a separate baking dish.

Ensure ciders and soft cheeses are pasteurized. Unpasteurized items can contain listeria. Homemade eggnog should be avoided since it is generally made with raw, unpasteurized eggs and alcohol. Check the label for store bought or opt for the “soy nog” which does not contain eggs or dairy products.

During the time that my wife was pregnant for each of our children she had cravings for sugar. She has told me that she would go through the cabinets at the house looking for something sweet. There was a box of cake mix that she said she wanted to eat, but would have second thoughts about consuming a whole cake on her own. She even considered just eating some of the cake mix raw. You should never eat cookie dough or cake mix raw. As long as the cake is cooked, then a piece or two should be okay for a woman during an uncomplicated pregnancy.

Don’t be surprised if you are eating things you never would before. Enjoy your pregnancy along with all the fun and odd foods you may be craving.

Quick Facts:

1.  Always wash your hands before and after handling food.

2.  Ensure food is thoroughly cooked.

3.  Avoid unrefrigerated items or items that have been sitting out for 2 hours or more.

4.  Avoid ALL alcohol.

5.  Consult your physician with any questions about foods to avoid.

What did you crave when you were pregnant?

Dr. Steed’s number one passion is to care for the pregnancy and birthing needs of women. You may call him at the Mercy clinic at 479-338-5555 to begin your prenatal care and let him help you enjoy your pregnancy journey. His office is located in the Mercy Physician’s Plaza just off Interstate 540 in Rogers.

MERCY2 does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is for informational purposes only and isn’t a substitute for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor if you have questions about a medical condition. Don’t delay getting professional medical advice because of something you read online. This website doesn’t necessarily recommend or endorse any specific tests, doctors, products, procedures or opinions discussed on the site.