Surprising Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy


Most moms know to limit caffeine and skip sushi, alcohol, and fish that contain high levels of mercury while pregnant. There are other foods to avoid during pregnancy: cold cuts, unpasteurized cheese and milk, and some shellfish are also commonly known no-nos. But there are still more foods to avoid during pregnancy, or at least eat in moderation. These might surprise you.

Licorice

A new study suggests consuming large amounts of licorice while pregnant might be linked to memory issues and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. The culprit could be glycyrrhizin, the active ingredient in the licorice root plant. Other research names heavy licorice consumption as a potential culprit in preterm birth.

Close-up view of five pieces of licorice on white background
Consuming large amounts of licorice while pregnant might be linked to memory issues and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The research is not conclusive, of course. But as a precaution, pregnant and nursing moms should avoid foods, candies, teas, and supplements containing licorice. And make sure you check with your doctor about its inclusion in any medications you take.

Herbal teas

Bad news if you switched from coffee to tea when you got a positive on the pregnancy test. The Mayo Clinic recommends cutting herbal teas out of your diet if you’re pregnant. They point out that little data is available regarding herbs’ effects on developing babies. That includes herbal teas marketed specifically toward pregnant women. Best to skip it, they advise.

Packaged salad greens

Pregnant women should definitely approach packaged salad greens (and all unwashed or carelessly cleaned raw veggies) with caution. They pose a small but serious risk of listeria, a food-borne infection. Although not particularly serious for healthy adults, listeria may cause a life-threatening infection in a newborn or even stillbirth. Thoroughly wash all produce, including “triple washed” salad greens, which have been linked to recent listeria outbreaks.

Ready To Eat Healthy Salads for sale
Pregnant women should definitely approach packaged salad greens with caution.

Other foods that can be a listeria risk include cold cuts, unpasteurized milk and cheese, smoked (uncooked) meats including jerky, under-cooked hot dogs, and deli salads. In other words, be careful eating anything from the produce, meat, dairy, and deli sections of your store!

What off-limits food surprised you most? Anything you’ve been craving that is not allowed during pregnancy?

This article is not medical advice and is not intended to substitute for professional medical care. Please speak to your practitioner if you have any questions or concerns about what is safe to eat during pregnancy.

About Katie Quirk Dunyon

I'm a married mom of two living in Seattle, WA. I have a seven-year-old little boy, a first grader! He's a fairly reserved kid and all about Legos and building sets. I also have a little girl who turned three at the end of February. She's a tiny thing but a big ham; we call her our clown. They're a lot of work but also a ton of fun. I love to eat, cook, and run (in that order). But at the end of the day, give me a spot on the couch and a little bit of TV or a good book, I'm done!
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