Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

Do you really need to avoid sushi, coffee, or peanuts when you’re pregnant?

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
5-minute read
Episode #137


How do Pesticides in Foods Affect Unborn Babies?

Pesticides and other industrial chemicals like BPA in foods are also a growing concern—and not just for pregnant women.  We all have traces of these chemicals in our bodies and it’s become clear that they are not biologically inert, as was once thought. Although these chemicals aren’t good for anyone, the greatest potential for harm is in developing fetuses, which are likely to be particularly vulnerable to their effects.

Just recently, in fact, a series of studies found that kids whose mothers had high exposure to pesticides during their pregnancies scored lower on IQ tests.  Pregnant moms might want to work even a little harder than the rest of us to reduce their exposure to these chemicals.  Buying organic produce—especially for those fruits and vegetables that have high pesticide residues—can go a long way toward reducing your exposure to pesticides. 

See also:  Are Organics Worth the Cost?


3 Tips to Reduce Exposure to BPA

In addition to steering clear of pesticides, here are three steps your can take to reduce your exposure to bis-phenol A, or BPA.

  • Avoid canned foods, especially tomatoes, unless you can find brands that are specifically-labeled BPA-free

  • Use glass or ceramic containers to microwave foods

  • Use a stainless-steel, reusable water bottle instead of bottled water.

Urban legend alert:  You may have heard that you can check whether a can contains BPA with a magnet. A magnet will tell you whether a can is made with steel or aluminum, but both are equally likely to be lined with BPA.

See also: BPA: Should You Be Worried?


Is Any Amount of Caffeine or Alcohol Safe During Pregnancy?

Caffeine and alcohol have both been linked to low birth weight and other developmental problems and here in America, pregnant women are strongly advised to completely avoid both for the duration of their pregnancies. Europeans are a little more relaxed about this. I’m not saying that there bars are full of pregnant women doing body shots, but it’s not unusual to see a pregnant woman in Europe enjoying a small glass of wine or demitasse of espresso.

When pressed, many American obstetricians will admit that a small amount of alcohol or caffeine is unlikely to have detrimental effects on the fetus. The problem is that we don’t have any research that allows us to say what amount is safe.  And, in fact, it would be completely unethical to conduct that experiment.  Again, this is an issue where most people choose to err on the side of caution—at least on this side of the pond.

See also:
Pros and Cons of Caffeine
Is Alcohol Good for You?


Should You Avoid Peanuts During Pregnancy?

And finally, because peanut allergies have become so common, some obstetricians have been instructing their patients not to eat peanuts during pregnancy or while breast-feeding. But more recent studies have found that avoiding peanuts during pregnancy does not reduce peanut allergies in infants.  Check with your obstetrician for more guidance, especially if peanut allergies run in your family. However, the latest research suggests that avoiding peanuts and peanut butter during pregnancy is an unnecessary precaution.

See also: Are Peanuts Good For You?


More Advice on What to Eat, What to Avoid, and What to Stop Worrying About

Thanks to Diane for the great topic suggestion. To show my appreciation, I’m sending her a signed copy of my new book, Nutrition Diva’s Secrets for a Healthy Diet: What to Eat, What to Avoid, and What to Stop Worrying About.   This book is my essential guide to eating well and feeling fabulous and it’s available wherever you buy or download books.

If you have other questions about eating during pregnancy or any other nutrition topic, feel free to post them below or on my Nutrition Diva Facebook page.

Have a great week and remember to eat something good for me!


Health Risks Associated with Pesticides  (University of Minnesota)

BPA: Which Foods Are Safe? (Nutrition Over Easy Blog)


About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.