Understanding What is Safe to Eat During Pregnancy

During pregnancy it’s important to pay special attention to your diet and avoid anything that may carry a risk to you and your baby. 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. But there are certain foods you should avoid while pregnant due to risks such as food poisoning. Likewise, there are plenty of foods that you might think are harmful for your developing baby, that aren’t.


Food Poisoning in Pregnancy

Food poising can be very dangerous when you are pregnant. Here are some tips of how to avoid food poisoning:

  • Wash your hands before, during and after food preparation
  • Use different knives, chopping boards and utensils for raw and cooked food
  • Put food in the fridge as quickly as possible
  • Keep raw and cooked meats separate
  • Wash all fruits, vegetables, and pre-packed salads before eating
  • Eat leftovers within 2 – 3 days
  • Do not eat foods past their use by date
  • Make sure all meat, poultry, seafood and eggs are cooked thoroughly

Most foods and drinks are safe to have during pregnancy, but in line with the HSE and NHS guidelines there are some things that you should be careful with or avoid. The guidelines differ slightly from country to country, we have highlighted the differences, be sure to follow the guidelines for your region and any advice from your doctor, midwife or healthcare professional.

Cheese, Milk and Other Dairy

What you can eat during pregnancy;

  • Pasteurised hard cheese, such as cheddar, gruyere or parmesan.
  • Pasteurised semi-hard cheese, such as Edam or Stilton
  • Pasteurised soft cheeses, such as cottage cheese, mozzarella, feta, cream cheese, paneer, ricotta, halloumi, goats cheese without a white coating on the outside (rind) and
  • Processed cheese spreads such as Philadelphia
  • Pasteurised milk, yogurt, cream and ice cream

What to avoid during pregnancy;

  • Any other foods made form unpasteurised milk, such as soft ripened goats’ cheese
  • Pasteurised or unpasteurised mould ripened soft chesses with a white coating on the outside such as Brie, Camembert and chevre
  • Pasteurised or unpasteurised soft blue cheeses, such as Danish blue, Gorgonzola, and Roquefort
  • Unpasteurised cows’ milk, goats’ milk, sheep’s milk, or cream
  • Additional information: In the UK, the NHS state that pasteurised soft or blue cheese that has been cooked until streaming hot is safe to eat in pregnancy

There is a small chance that unpasteurised or soft ripened dairy products may contain a dangerous bacteria called listeria. This can cause an infection called listeriosis.
Soft cheeses with a white coating on the outside have more moisture, this can make it easier for bacteria to grow.
Listeriosis can lead to miscarriage or still birth or make your newborn baby very unwell.
The NHS advises that cooking cheese until it’s steaming hot kills bacteria, reducing the risk of listeriosis. Whereas the HSE recommends not to eat any food products that are not pasteurised, or are mould-ripened, as they may contain listeria.

Meat and Poultry

What you can eat during pregnancy;

  • Meats such as chicken, pork and beef, as long as they have been well cooked with no trace of pink or blood; be especially careful with poultry, pork, sausages and burgers
  • Cold, pre-packed meats such as ham and corned beef

What to be careful with;

  • Cold cured meats, such as salami, pepperoni, chorizo and prosciutto (unless cooked through thoroughly)

What to avoid;

  • Raw or undercooked meat
  • Liver and liver products
  • All types of pate, including vegetarian pate
  • Game meats such as goose, partridge pheasant

There is a small rick of getting toxoplasmosis if you eat raw and undercooked meat, which can lead to miscarriage. Cured meats are not cooked, so they may have parasites in them that cause toxoplasmosis, Liver and liver products have lots of vitamin A in them. This can be harmful to an unborn baby. Game meats may contain lead shot.


What you can eat during pregnancy;

  • Well cooked hen, duck, goose or quail eggs (white and yolk)
  • Additional information: In the UK, the NHS notes that it is safe to eat raw or partially cooked British Lion hen eggs as well as foods made with raw hen egg, such as mousse and mayonnaise, as long as they are made with British Lion eggs or hen eggs produced under the Laid in Britain scheme
What to avoid during pregnancy;
  • Raw or partially cooked hen eggs (that are not British Lion or produced under the Laid in Britain scheme in the UK)
  • Raw or partially cooked duck, goose or quail eggs
  • Foods made with raw hen egg, such as mousse, ice cream or mayonnaise (unless made with British Lion or produced under the Laid in Britain scheme in the UK)

Raw or undercooked eggs may contain salmonella. Salmonella is unlikely to harm your unborn baby, but you could get food poisoning. In the UK, British Lion hen eggs and hen eggs produced under the Laid in Britain scheme are less likely to have salmonella in them.


What you can eat during pregnancy;

  • Cooked fish and seafood
  • Sushi; as long as the fish has been cooked thoroughly
  • Cooked shellfish, such as mussels, lobster, crab prawns, scallops and clams
  • Cold pre-cooked prawns

What to be careful with;

  • Smoked fish, such as smoked salmon and trout

Due to a listeria outbreak linked to smoked fish in the UK, people at higher risk of serious infection, including people who are pregnant, should only eat smoked fish products that have been thoroughly cooked. When cooking smoked fish products at home, make sure they are steaming hot all the way through.

What to limit;

  • You should eat no more that 2 portions of oily fish a week, such as salmon, trout, mackerel or herring
  • You should eat no more than 2 tuna steaks (about 140g cooked or 170g raw) or 4 medium size cans of tuna, about 140g when drained, per week

What to avoid;

  • Swordfish
  • Marlin
  • Shark
  • Raw shellfish

You should limit tuna because it has more mercury in it than other fish. If you eat too much mercury it can be harmful to your unborn baby. You should limit oily fish because they can have pollutants such as dioxins and polychlorinated biphenylsl in them. If you eat too much of these, they can be harmful to your unborn baby.
You should avoid raw shellfish because they can have harmful bacteria viruses or toxins in them. These can make you unwell and give you food poisoning.


You can enjoy caffeine, but limit it to no more than 200mg per day.
There is:

  • 100mg in a mug of instant coffee
  • 140mg in a mug of filter coffee
  • 75mg in a mug of tea
  • 40mg in a can of cola
  • 80mg in a 250ml can of energy drink
  • Less than 25mg in a 50g bar of plain dark chocolate
  • Less than 10mg in a 50g bar of plain milk chocolate

Too much caffeine can increase your risk of miscarriage. It can also increase your baby’s risk of being small or growing slowly.


Drinking alcohol in pregnancy can lead to long-term harm to your baby. If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, the safest approach is to not drink alcohol at all. This keeps risks to your baby to a minimum.


You do not need to avoid eating peanuts when you are pregnant. Only avoid eating peanuts if you are advised to by a healthcare professional or if you have a nut allergy.

Vitamins & Supplements

Do not take any vitamins or supplements that do not state they are safe for use in pregnancy. Avoid any supplements with vitamin A in them.
Supplements designed specifically for pregnancy are safe to take, such as Proceive, which has been developed to meet the nutritional needs of mother and baby specifically for each trimester.

It is important to eat a healthy, balanced diet when you are pregnant. Once you know what’s safe to eat, it should be easier to maintain variety in your pregnancy diet, whether you’re cooking at home of eating out. Healthy eating during pregnancy will give your body the nutrients it needs. It will also help your baby to develop and grow. If you have any queries around foods that are safe in pregnancy please visit the HSE website or NHS website or speak with your doctor or midwife for advice.

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