I have heard about:

  • Fish because of the Mercury
  • Diet soda because of the artificial sweeteners
  • Deli meat because of bacteria

Are any of these myths? Are there any other well known foods to avoid?

asked 08 Oct '09, 00:35

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Michael O'Hearn
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edited 15 Oct '09, 15:17

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All of the foods mentioned here are commonly cited as foods to avoid. (Most of the suggestions on this page contain citations and links so follow them for more info on why each is discouraged.)

In my personal experience, for any given food listed here, I have run into individuals who cover the whole spectrum of acceptance ranging from "no, it's really fine" to "avoid like the plague." (with the exception of smoking and alcohol which seem to be pretty universally viewed as being bad for pregnant people in this day and age.)

I have mixed feelings on the risk of deli meats. While it's common to hear it discouraged (search google for: deli meat pregnancy and most of what comes up on the 1st page will advise against it), the math doesn't make sense to me. The risk of deli meat is from listeria contamination. The CDC says, "an estimated 2,500 persons become seriously ill with listeriosis each year" and "About one-third of listeriosis cases happen during pregnancy." The U.S. Census Bureau estimates there are about 6.4 million pregnancies per year. 2500 / 3 / 6.4m * 100 = 0.013% of pregnant women that will get "seriously ill" from listeriosis per year. 1.3 in 10,000 is about 2x better than the current national homicide rate. (I.e.: nationally speaking, you're twice as likely to be a victim of homicide as you are to get seriously ill with listeriosis.)

Disclaimer: I'm no doctor so this is NOT medical advice, but the math just doesn't add up for me.


answered 15 Oct '09, 22:07

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edited 16 Oct '09, 00:47

Hello Dinah, and welcome to moms4mom! If you have a moment, please read about our "Back It Up" Principle: http://moms4mom.com/back-it-up As you say, everyone has opinions, but we are only interested in opinions backed up with references. Would you be able to edit this answer and offer some references? Thanks! :-)

(15 Oct '09, 22:39) Scott ♦♦

Thanks for the welcome. That's a good principle but I'm not sure what there is to back up here. I think the smoking/alcohol part is fairly well accepted. Regarding the variety of responses, that has simply been my experience (and what I imagine has contributed to your "Back It Up" principle). I'll edit my answer to reflect that part a bit better. If you still feel this is too opinionated, please comment again with specifics and I'll be glad to oblige. This seems like a great site and I certainly don't want to do it any injustice.

(16 Oct '09, 00:09) Dinah

Thank you for adding the references. That is just the type of answer Scott and I are trying to encourage.

(16 Oct '09, 00:57) Tammy ♦♦

+1: Thanks Dinah!

(16 Oct '09, 02:36) Scott ♦♦

The Mayo Clinic suggests avoiding flaxseed while pregnant. Another study found that premature births increased when women consumed flaxseed oil.

(Granted this probably isn't considered a "well known" food but so many foods are enriched these days with various substances that it might be worth knowing.)


answered 08 Oct '09, 14:35

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Kiesa ♦
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People keep mentioning deli meat. Deli meat isn't a problem. UNCOOKED deli meat is a problem. For the duration of the pregnancy, treat it like any other meat and cook it and voila! Italian subs are back on the menu!

"Cook hot dogs and warm processed deli meats, such as bologna, until they're steaming hot — or avoid them completely. They can be sources of a rare but potentially serious food-borne illness known as listeriosis."

"Deli Meat: Deli meats have been known to be contaminated with listeria, which can cause miscarriage. Listeria has the ability to cross the placenta and may infect the baby leading to infection or blood poisoning, which may be life-threatening. If you are pregnant and you are considering eating deli meats, make certain that you reheat the meat until it is steaming."


answered 16 Oct '09, 19:40

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edited 19 Oct '09, 03:27

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Tammy ♦♦

Good point, thanks Jolene.

(16 Oct '09, 21:37) Tammy ♦♦

Here's a really good link that talks about foods to avoid while pregnant:


In regards to fish they say this:

Fish that contain high levels of mercury should be avoided. Mercury consumed during pregnancy has been linked to developmental delays and brain damage. A sample of these types of fish include: shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish. Canned, chunk light tuna generally has a lower amount of mercury than other tuna, but still should only be eaten in moderation. Certain types of fish used in sushi should also be avoided due to high levels of mercury. Please see Mercury in Fish for specific types of fish and further information on how to calculate mercury levels.

So... in short... the right kinds of fish can be beneficial/nutritional... you just have to be careful what type(s) of fish and how much you eat.


answered 11 Oct '09, 06:05

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A similar question has been asked before. You should be able to find your answers here.



answered 08 Oct '09, 00:48

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Tammy ♦♦
accept rate: 18%

I have heard all of those from my doctor so they are not myth. Also should not eat sushi because of the raw fish, Chocolate cause of the caffeine ( which is always hard to stop eating) And then of Course there are the foods that make the pregnant woman have Gas you do not have to avoid but it will help with comfort level.


answered 08 Oct '09, 03:27

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accept rate: 10%


Sushi is technically the rice, which can have a variety of items on or in it, fish being only some of the possible toppings/fillings. Sashimi is the raw fish. It's probably good advice for pregnant women and babies to avoid sashimi, but not "because of the raw fish" per se, but rather than the uncooked fish may harbor parasites.

(08 Oct '09, 05:04) lgritz

Oops, you can't edit comments, I guess. My earlier comment should have read "... but rather THAT the uncooked..."

(08 Oct '09, 05:05) lgritz

@Igritz: You can't edit comments, but sometimes you can get away with copying them, then deleting the old one and making a new one. That's about the only option.

(08 Oct '09, 10:21) Scott ♦♦

Thank you I did not know that

(08 Oct '09, 21:56) Mary

I was never told to give up chocolate, but with my first pregnancy, I lost my taste for chocolate. Throughout the whole 9 months it just tasted nasty too me, which made Valentine's Day a disappointment since my husband got me chocolates. But as soon as I gave birth, my taste for chocolate came back.

(09 Oct '09, 16:12) mkcoehoorn

I drank coffee through my entire pregnancy and was fine.

(09 Oct '09, 16:58) Michelle
showing 5 of 6 show 1 more comments

I've heard that with fish, it depends on the type. Some fish contain a lot more mercury than others. Unfortunately I can't remember WHICH fish were actually recommended.

There is a really good book out there called "What to eat when you're expecting". Give that book a read. There are also a lot of recipies in there (about 2/3 of it is a cookbook).

Diet soda... my fiancee got into several arguments over this one... I finally went online and did A LOT of research. I did my best to ignore anything that was blatently bias in one direction or another.

My final (personal) conclusion was to STAY AWAY from all diet drinks! That stuff is just plain scary.

One study I read talked about aspartame affecting seratonin levels (I think) in the brain which causes you to be MORE hungry and eat more!

What good is a "diet" soda when it has zero calories but causes you to want to eat more than you normally would?

It actually bothered me enough that I personally stopped drinking it on June 1st of this year. I can honestly say I actually feel BETTER. Just weird little stuff I had before with allergies, feeling tired, eating too much, etc all went away after about 60 days.

Your mileage may vary...


answered 08 Oct '09, 06:28

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accept rate: 25%


If you can find those studies again, please add some links. I'd be interested to see them.

(08 Oct '09, 10:23) Scott ♦♦

Here's one place to start http://www.dorway.com - I'd consider this site a bit boarder line conspiracy theory but they bring up several good questions that caused me to dig deeper.

(11 Oct '09, 05:44) KPW

Another link: http://www.janethull.com/askdrhull/article.php?id=020

(11 Oct '09, 05:48) KPW


(11 Oct '09, 05:51) KPW


(11 Oct '09, 05:52) KPW


(11 Oct '09, 05:55) KPW

Some more info, links, and quotes to independent studies: http://www.holisticmed.com/aspartame/recent.html

(11 Oct '09, 06:01) KPW

Thanks KPWINC those are great.

(11 Oct '09, 14:24) Tammy ♦♦
showing 5 of 8 show 3 more comments

You probably shuoldn't have anything with Aspartame (Nutrasweet) in it weather you are pregnant or not. This is from the British Medical Journal:

...although 100% of industry funded (either whole or in part) studies conclude that aspartame is safe, 92% of independently funded studies have found that aspartame has the potential for adverse effects.

See the whole article here: http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/extract/330/7486/309-a


answered 08 Oct '09, 20:33

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Searle was trying to bring Aspartame to market in the 1970's and experiencing trouble with the FDA over its safety. In part because of this, they brought in a new CEO -- I swear I am not making this up -- Don Rumsfeld. After Reagan was elected, the FDA dropped its objections (as well as follow-up studies). We've been drinking aspartame ever since, and FINALLY scientists are returning to the question of whether it's really safe, and overall it's not looking good.

(08 Oct '09, 23:55) lgritz

@lgritz: while that all sounds tantalizingly conspiratorial, the FDA and National Cancer Institute have so far found aspartame to be safe even to pregnant and nursing women as long as you do not have a rare disorder: PKU (http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/risk/aspartame, http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/artificialsweetner.htm). If you want to be safe or have doubts, by all means avoid it and do continue to keep informed. But 20 and 30 year old politics do not a conspiracy make. If we discounted anything that had weird politics behind it, we couldn't believe in much.

(16 Oct '09, 18:56) Dinah

Other things to avoid during pregnancy are unpasturized dairy products, undercooked shellfish, raw eggs, caffine in the first trimester (some avoid it for the entire pregnancy) and pate


answered 09 Oct '09, 02:47

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edited 16 Oct '09, 04:03

I wonder if it's okay to eat eggs cooked over-easy or over-medium....

(05 May '10, 21:27) Sabrina

My health care provider told me that processed meats (lunch meats, hot dogs, etc.) that have nitrates and/or nitrites in them should be avoided during pregnancy. You can get lunch meat without nitrates/nitrites at health food stores such as Henry's Marketplace and Sprouts.


answered 09 Oct '09, 05:48

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Asked: 08 Oct '09, 00:35

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Last updated: 23 Nov '16, 10:27