What's on the pregnancy menu?
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
Knowing which foods are safe means you can satisfy your changing tastes while minimising any risks.
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.
|Fish||Safe or not?|
|Tuna||✔ Limit your intake to 2 fresh steaks or 4 medium cans a week as it contains mercury
|Scampi||✔ Must be cooked through and piping hot
|Oysters||✔ If thoroughly cooked or part of a cooked meal
|Prawns||✔ If thoroughly cooked or part of a cooked meal
|Smoked salmon or trout||✔
|Mussels||✔ If thoroughly cooked or part of a cooked meal
|Crab||✔ If thoroughly cooked or part of a cooked meal
|Sushi||✘ Unless you are sure the raw fish has been frozen before serving. Or choose varieties made with cooked fish
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
|Cheese - made with pasteurised milk||Safe or not?|
|Goat's cheese (chèvre)||✘ Unless thoroughly cooked and piping hot
|Processed cheese (cheese spreads)||✔
|Soft, mould-ripened cheese (e.g. brie, camembert||✘ Unless thoroughly cooked and piping hot
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:
as well as cooked, blue cheeses like:
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.
|Dairy and dairy desserts||Safe or not?|
|Mayonnaise||✔ If shop-bought. If homemade, check it doesn't contain raw eggs which can cause salmonella
|Live or bio yogurt||✔
|Soft ice cream||✔
|Homemade ice cream||✘ Unless
|Baked cheesecake||✔ Providing it's cooked and doesn't contain raw eggs
|Cured meat||Safe or not?|
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?
Mussels are safe as long as they’re cooked through and piping hot.
Raw oysters aren’t safe because they may carry listeria, which can cause food poisoning. The good news is cooked oysters are safe to eat.
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
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
Questions about feeding and nutrition?
Our midwives, nutritionists and feeding advisors are always on hand to talk about feeding your baby. So if you have a question, just get in touch.