What’s Safe During Pregnancy: A Guide to Food and Drink

By Kerry Weiss
Reviewed by Alyssa Quimby, M.D.
November 22, 2023

For the text version of this pregnancy food safety infographic, read on.

What’s Safe to Eat During Pregnancy (and What’s Not)

It’s important to be careful about what you eat and drink when you’re pregnant.

A healthy, well-balanced diet helps nourish you and your growing baby.

Your diet during pregnancy should focus on nutritious foods, including:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Healthy fats
  • Dairy
  • Low-fat protein
  • Whole grain and other complex carbs

FACT: Pregnant people need to consume 340-450 extra calories each day to promote the baby’s development.

Doctors also recommend taking a prenatal vitamin to ensure you and your developing baby are getting enough:

  • Folic acid: Folic acid during pregnancy may help prevent brain and spine defects.
  • Calcium: Consuming calcium during pregnancy is vital because it helps build your baby's bones and teeth.
  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D is good for the skin and eyes.
  • DHA or omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy are essential for your baby’s brain and eye development.
  • Iron: Consuming iron during pregnancy helps you make the extra blood you and your baby need.
  • Vitamin C: Getting enough vitamin C during pregnancy helps create strong bones, muscles, and the immune system.
  • Iodine: Iodine during pregnancy is important for building the baby’s brain, spinal cord, and nerves.
  • B vitamins: B vitamins during pregnancy give you energy to grow the baby and build the placenta.

Drinks lots of water throughout the day. About 8-12 cups is recommended.

Food Safety During Pregnancy

Pay attention to what you’re eating and how to prepare it. Food safety can help you avoid food-borne illness and other dangers that can pose risks to your baby.

Certain types of food poisoning like listeriosis and infections like toxoplasmosis can increase the risk of miscarriage, preterm labor, stillbirth, and problems with development.

FACT: You’re 10 times more likely to get listeriosis while pregnant.

Safe Prep and Cooking Tips

Wash all fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating.

Wash your hands and food-prep surfaces often.

Cook all foods to a safe internal temperature. Use a meat thermometer to make sure your food is cooked to at least:

  • 145 degrees F for cuts of beef, pork, veal, lamb, and fish.
  • 160 degrees F for eggs and ground meat.
  • 165 degrees F for whole or ground chicken, turkey, and duck.

Store raw meat and poultry separately from ready-to-eat foods.

Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours of being cooked.

Drinks and Foods to Avoid While Pregnant

Raw and Undercooked Foods

  • Fish and shellfish: Give up ceviche, raw oysters, sushi, sashimi, and smoked salmon.
  • Meat: Avoid beef carpaccio, rare or tartare streak, and certain types of pate.
  • Raw sprouts: Alfalfa sprouts, mung beans, radishes, and others can contain harmful bacteria like E. coli and salmonella.
  • Eggs: Make sure the yolks are cooked to firm, and don’t eat raw cake batter or cookie dough. Remember that raw eggs can be in some homemade salad dressings and hollandaise sauce too.

Unpasteurized or “Raw” Products

  • Soft cheese such as brie, feta, queso blanco, and queso fresco
  • Raw or unpasteurized milk
  • Unpasteurized juice

Often, these products are imported or sold at farmer’s markets or juice bars.

Check the label. If it’s marked as “pasteurized”, it’s okay to eat—even soft cheese.

Some Deli Foods

  • Cold deli meat and hot dogs: These processed meats should be heated until they’re streaming, at 165 degrees F.
  • Pre-made salads: Chicken, egg, pasta, and other salads typically found at delis can carry listeria.

Other Foods and Beverages to Avoid

  • High-mercury seafood: Fish and shellfish that are high in mercury can negatively affect your developing baby's nervous system.
  • Alcohol: This includes beer, wine, liquor, and cocktails. No amount of alcohol has been proven safe during pregnancy. It can cause growth problems and birth defects.

Avoid marijuana, tobacco, illegal drugs, and any medication your doctor hasn’t prescribed to you, too. Talk to your doctor if you’re having trouble avoiding alcohol or other substances.

What to Know About Fish and Shellfish During Pregnancy

Seafood is an excellent source of protein. Many varieties also contain omega-3s which help baby’s brain and eye development.

Don’t eat high-mercury seafood while pregnant. Avoid the following:

  • Bigeye tuna
  • King mackerel
  • Marlin
  • Orange roughy
  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • Tilefish

You should eat low-mercury seafood while pregnant. Reap the health benefits of fish by eating 2-3 servings of low-mercury seafood each week during pregnancy. That includes:

  • Anchovies
  • Catfish
  • Cod
  • Herring
  • Light canned tuna
  • Pacific oysters
  • Pollock
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Shad
  • Shrimp
  • Tilapia
  • Trout

Limit Caffeine During Pregnancy

While you don’t have to cut out caffeine completely during pregnancy, it’s important to limit your intake to less than 200 mg per day.

The amount of caffeine can vary a lot in different products, so check first. Here are some estimates:

  • An 8-ounce cup of coffee has 95-200 mg of caffeine.
  • An 8-ounce cup of tea has 14-60 mg of caffeine.
  • A 12-ounce can of cola had 35-45 mg of caffeine.

Food Cravings While Pregnant

Cravings are common during pregnancy. Over 90% of pregnant people find they crave specific foods.

Never eat anything you know is unsafe or that isn’t food.

Craving something unhealthy, like ice cream, fast food, or pizza? It’s generally okay to indulge in a craving from time to time, but be careful.

Research suggests that overindulging in unhealthy foods could negatively impact your health and the baby’s

If You Accidentally Eat Something Unsafe…

Don’t panic. If it’s a one-time thing, chances are that you and your baby are fine.

Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about anything you’ve eaten .

If You Feel Sick After Eating…

See a doctor if you experience signs of food poisoning or infection.

These can include fever, headache, chills, and confusion. You may also experience muscle aches, abdominal cramping, upset stomach, diarrhea, foul-smelling vaginal discharge, and swollen glands.

Diagnosis and treatment may help protect you and your baby.