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Foods to Limit or Avoid When You're Pregnant


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Some foods - including raw fish and unpasteurized milk - can be harmful to pregnant women and should be avoided. Other foods and additives should be limited in keeping with these guidelines:


Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, chocolate, cola beverages and other soft drinks. Caffeine is also in some prescription and non-prescription medications.

Limit your intake to about 300 mg a day, keeping in mind that:

  • One cup of regular coffee has about 150 milligrams of caffeine.
  • One cup of tea has 50 milligrams.
  • One 355 millilitre can of cola has 40 milligrams.

You can cut down on caffeine by replacing caffeinated drinks with water, milk or 100% fruit juice. You can also make only one cup at a time. For a non-caffeinated energy boost, try physical activity.

Herbal Teas

Like herbal supplements, some herbal teas may be harmful during pregnancy. Avoid teas that don't have an ingredient list. The following types of tea are generally safe: ginger, bitter orange/orange peel, echinacea, peppermint, rose hip and rosemary. Limit herbal teas to three cups per day. For more information call Dietitian Services at HealthLink BC at 8-1-1.

Alternative Sweeteners

Sugar substitutes are safe in moderation during pregnancy. But don't eat large amounts. Otherwise, artificially-sweetened foods could replace the healthy foods your body needs right now. 

Fish and Mercury

Choose fish low in mercury, such as salmon, rainbow trout, Atlantic mackerel, sole or Dover sole. Limit Bigeye (Ahi) tuna, shark, marlin or swordfish to no more than two servings (150 grams) per month.

Some foods may contain bacteria harmful to you and your baby. To reduce your risk of diseases like listeriosis, fully cook or avoid the following foods:

  • Raw or undercooked meat, poultry, fish or seafood (make sure the internal temperature of foods reaches 74°C) 
  • Hot dogs straight from the package (check internal temperature reaches 74°C with a meat thermometer)
  • Deli meats like ham, turkey, roast beef slices and cured meats such as prosciutto and salami
  • Raw or soft cooked eggs (with runny whites/yolk) or products containing raw or under cooked eggs (E.g., tiramisu, eggnog)
  • All soft and semi-soft cheese (e.g.,Brie, Camembert and blue-veined cheese, feta, mould-ripened cheese such as Gorgonzola even if they are pasteurized
  • Refrigerated pâtés and meat spreads
  • Raw sprouts like alfalfa and mung bean
  • Unpasteurized juice or cider

Resources and Links
Choose Fish Low in Mercury 
Food Safety During Pregnancy

Last Updated: August 14, 2013