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Foods to eat when pregnant

Foods that are safe to eat during pregnancy Love your mussels

Summary

During pregnancy it’s important to pay special attention to your diet and avoid anything that may carry the risk of food poisoning. But how can you find out what’s safe to eat when pregnant and what’s not? We’ve listed some of the most popular foods mums-to-be enquire about to help you work out what you can eat during pregnancy.

Foods you can and can’t eat in pregnancy

It’s normal to experience changes in your eating habits during pregnancy. You may suddenly go off a favourite food or have the urge for something out of the ordinary.

There are certain foods you should avoid while pregnant due to the risk of food poisoning. Likewise, there are plenty of foods that you might think are harmful for your developing baby, that aren’t.

Knowing which foods are safe means you can satisfy your changing tastes while minimising any risks.

Often there is confusion about whether it’s safe to eat soft, mould-ripened cheese when pregnant. The answer is yes, providing it has been thoroughly cooked first.

I'm pregnant. Can I eat…?

The following lists show some of the most common foods that mums-to-be are concerned about. Once you know what’s safe and what’s not, it should be easier to maintain variety in your pregnancy diet, whether you’re cooking at home or eating out.

Playing it safe with sushi

The raw or lightly cooked wild fish used in sushi should be fine to eat during pregnancy, providing it has been frozen first. Freezing or cooking the fish kills any small parasitic worms that could make you unwell1.

Any sushi made on restaurant or shop premises must be frozen first, so check with staff before you order. Ready-made sushi from a supermarket or sandwich shop is usually made with fish that has been frozen, so should be fine. If you’re unsure, it’s best to avoid varieties that contain raw fish, and choose sushi made with cooked fish instead1.

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Still unsure? Opt for:

  • Cooked seafood – unagi (eel) or ebi (shrimp)
  • Vegetable – kappa (cucumber)
  • California roll (avocado)
  • Fully cooked egg

Yes please to cheese

There's often confusion about whether it’s safe to eat soft, mould-ripened cheese when pregnant. The answer is yes, providing it has been thoroughly cooked first. This means you can happily tuck into:

  • Camembert
  • Brie
  • Chèvre

as well as cooked, blue cheeses like:

  • Roquefort
  • Gorgonzola

or dishes containing them.

Hard cheeses such as Cheddar, Parmesan and Stilton are safe to eat in pregnancy, even if they're made with unpasteurised milk. This is because they contain less water than soft varieties, making them less likely to carry listeria2.

Enjoy a safe meat feast

Pre-packed, cooked meat like ham or corned beef is considered safe to eat in pregnancy. However, many others, including those listed above, are just cured and fermented. This means they could contain toxoplasmosis-causing parasites. Freezing them for four days before eating, or cooking them thoroughly will kill most parasites, making the meat safer to eat2.

Which of these foods are safe to eat during pregnancy?

raw oysters
mussels

Next Steps

Safe food tips to remember:

  • Raw, wild fish must be frozen before it’s eaten
  • Farmed fish like salmon doesn’t need to be frozen first
  • Shellfish must be cooked before eating
  • Cheeses made from pasteurised milk are safe to eat
  • Soft, mould-ripened cheeses must be thoroughly cooked first
  • Cured meats must be cooked or frozen unless they are ready-to-eat varieties

View references

Hide references

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1. NHS UK. Foods to avoid in pregnancy [Online]. Available at: www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/foods-to-avoid-pregnant.aspx [Accessed June 2014]

2. British Nutrition Foundation. Expectant mothers search for food safety advice [Online]. 2011. Available at: www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritioninthenews/pressreleases/expectant-mothers-search-for-food-safety-advice [Accessed July 2014]

3. NHS UK. Is it safe to eat goats' cheese during pregnancy? [Online]. Available at: www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/foods-to-avoid-pregnant.aspx [Accessed July 2014]

Last reviewed: 29th July 2014
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