About the Author

Kat Keough is a leading fertility and prenatal nutritionist, she has been interviewed by publications such as Australians Women’s Health.

About the Author

Kat Keough is a leading fertility and prenatal nutritionist, she has been interviewed by publications such as Australians Women’s Health. She has a true passion about helping people optimise their fertility, prepare for pregnancy and conceive a healthy baby. She provides tailored online fertility diet courses as well as one on one counselling.

All The Foods You Should Avoid

Australian Women’s Health – A Definitive List of All The Foods You Should Avoid During Pregnancy, According to a fertility and prenatal nutritionist.


Original Article by Nikolina Ilic



A Definitive List of All The Foods You Should Avoid During Pregnancy According to a fertility and prenatal nutritionist. – by Nikolina Ilic

We’re all told to avoid certain foods when we’re pregnant, but sometimes it can be confusing to understand why – and whether the same rules apply to women in Australia, compared to the rest of the world. Sure, we’ve heard the term listeria, and understand that it’s a bacteria we need to be really cautious of, but how does it affect your growing bub?

“Listeria is a type of bacteria occasionally found in some foods which can cause a rare but dangerous infection called listeriosis. It’s especially serious for pregnant women because if transmitted to your unborn baby, it can lead to extremely serious complications including miscarriage, premature labour or stillbirth,” says Kat Keough, fertility and prenatal nutritionist behind prenatal supplement company Ovitae

“When you’re pregnant, hormonal changes in your body, such as increased production of progesterone, lower your immune system which can make it harder to fight off illness and infections. Listeria can take advantage of this and cause the invasive listeriosis infection, with about one in six listeriosis cases (17%) in Australia occurring in pregnant women. In fact, pregnant women are up to 13 times more likely to get listeriosis from a contaminated food than an average’ healthy adult.”

To get the low-down, we asked Kat a few more questions.

Does the fact that we live in Australia have any impact on this?

“Even with these ‘higher risk’ foods mentioned earlier, the bacteria may only be present 1 – 2% of the time, and usually at very low levels that are unlikely to infect anybody. As a result, the number of listeriosis cases in Australia is quite low. This may be due to the messages targeting pregnant women to avoid these higher risk foods, as well as the food industry’s strict efforts to minimise contamination.”

Are there any foods we think we should avoid but are ok?

“Common allergens (i.e., peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, cow’s milk, soy, fish, shellfish, wheat) – avoiding these throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding can have a significant impact on the likelihood of an infant developing food allergies. Current research suggests that by including allergens frequently throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding, this helps to strengthen the baby’s immune tolerance.”

The Food to avoid

1. Raw fish

Fish is one of the most important foods to eat during pregnancy as it contains loads of brain-building omega 3 fatty acids, as well as being a great source of iodine. However, when you’re pregnant, it’s important to avoid raw fish and seafood, as well as cooked ready-to-eat seafood, as these carry a higher risk of listeria contamination

2. Fish high in mercury

Mercury can build up to high levels in the bloodstream causing problems for your baby’s nervous system. Limit your intake of flake, swordfish, marlin, orange roughy, barramundi, catfish and southern bluefin tuna. Instead, go for fish with low mercury levels, like salmon, sardines, cod or tinned tuna. Other types of fresh seafood such as shellfish and crustaceans contain lower levels of mercury and don’t pose a risk.

3. Undercooked meat and poultry

All meat and poultry be cooked thoroughly at high temperatures, until there’s no trace of pink flesh or blood. Hot takeaway chicken is safe if it’s been freshly cooked and still hot. Use leftovers within 24 hours and make sure to reheat them thoroughly.

4. Processed meat

Processed meats, as well as cold cured meats like ham, salami and luncheon, should be avoided, not only because they’re high in saturated fat and salt, they also carry a risk for listeria.

5. Soft cheese

Soft cheeses (like brie, camembert and gorgonzola) are made with mould and have a high risk of listeria contamination. Opt for hard cheeses like cheddar and parmesan instead.

6. Liver

Limit liver to very small amounts (no more than 50g a week) as it contains high levels of Vitamin A, which may be harmful to your baby’s development. Remember, this also includes paté.

7. Supplements containing Vitamin A

Make sure you’re taking a multivitamin that’s specialised for pregnancy. While small amounts of Vitamin A are important for your baby’s development, too much can lead to liver damage and has even been shown to cause congenital birth defects.

8. Pre-packaged salads

Pre-packed salads, vegetables and fruit have a higher risk of listeria contamination. Instead, buy whole fruit and vegetables, then cut them up yourself as needed. Avoid buffets and salad bars where the salads have been sitting for a while, giving listeria time to grow.

9. Store bought sushi

As with pre-packaged salads, store-bought sushi has a higher risk of listeria contamination. If you have a craving, try making your own from home.

10. Rockmelon

Rockmelon has a high risk of listeria contamination. It’s best to avoid this during pregnancy.

11. Bean sprouts

Like rockmelon, bean sprouts also have a high risk of listeria contamination. It’s best to avoid these altogether during pregnancy.

12. Unpasteurised milk

Unpasteurised milk, and products made from them (like goat’s cheese) should be avoided during pregnancy. You should also give a hard pass on soft-serve ice cream as listeria likes to breed in the cracks of the machine. Opt for pasteurised and ultra-heat treated (UHT) milks.

13. Raw or partially cooked eggs

Eggs should be thoroughly cooked, until the whites are solid and the yolk thickens. Throw out any eggs you see with a crack in the shell, as salmonella can get into the egg through these cracks. It’s also really important to avoid any foods that contain raw egg, like mayonnaise.

14. Too much caffeine

Unfortunately, too much caffeine can increase the risk of miscarriage and low birth weight. Limit your intake to no more than 200mg per day during pregnancy. This equates to around 1 or 2 shots of espresso, 2 to 3 cups of instant and 3 to 5 cups of tea (depending on strength). Another option is to consider decaffeinated varieties. They’ve gotten so good now they taste just like the real thing! (Note: decaf does still contain some caffeine, but in tiny amounts!). Some energy drinks (like Red Bull and V) contain caffeine or guarana (a source of caffeine) and should also be avoided during pregnancy.

15. Fermented foods

It’s a good idea to avoid fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha during pregnancy. While these foods are fermented to encourage the growth of good bacteria, they may also contain bad bacteria as well.

16. Alcohol

This one’s a no-brainer. Alcohol can cause serious damage to your developing bub, particularly during the early stages of pregnancy. Avoiding all alcohol is the safest option.

17. High sugar treats

Limit your intake of high sugar treat foods (like soft drinks and lollies) during pregnancy to reduce your risk of developing chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

18. Soft-serve ice cream

Another common carrier of listeria due to its high moisture content, and the possibility of an unclean machine housing it.

19. Herbal teas

Consuming too much herbal tea during pregnancy may have adverse impacts on the baby’s growth and development. Herbal teas such as peppermint and ginger are fine as long as you’re not consuming more than 3 cups per day; any more than this and you may increase your risk of preterm delivery and low-birth weight babies. Liquorice, evening primrose oil tea, rooibos and fennel tea should be avoided completely due to adverse risks.

What Foods are good to eat?

“When it comes to pregnancy (and fertility), I recommend a Mediterranean-style diet. Long considered one of the world’s healthiest ways of eating, the Mediterranean diet is linked to a multitude of positive health benefits. There’s been an incredible amount of research, over long periods of time, that suggest the Mediterranean Diet is one of, if not ‘the’ best’ diet for increasing overall health and longevity of life, and it’s no different when it comes to pregnancy. 

“There are slight variations on the diet, but the guidelines remain pretty consistent. The predominately focuses on high intakes of vegetables, fruits, fish, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and extra virgin olive oil.” 

Research shows:

  • May reduce the risk of negative pregnancy outcomes, such as:
    • gestational diabetes
    • prematurity
    • excessive gestational weight gain
    • emergency c-sections
    • perineal trauma
    • small / or large for gestational age newborns
  • Improves baby’s health:
    • Reduced occurrence of low-birth weight
    • Small for gestational age
    • Prematurity
    • Pre-term birth
    • Reduces risk of obesity in children
    • Improved blood pressure levels

What other nutrition tips do you have for pregnant women?

  • #1 – Take a prenatal supplement
  • Fruit: 2 – 3 serves per day
  • Whole grains: 4 – 8 serves per day – think low-GI carbohydrates, not ‘no’ carbohydrates
  • Vegetables: 5 serves per day
  • Dairy: 2 ½ serves per day
  • Meat / alternatives: 3 ½ serves per day
  • Fish / seafood: 2 – 3 serves per week (especially oily fish like salmon, sardines, tuna etc.)
  • Include more plant protein in your diet – think whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and beans
  • Enjoy healthy fats – think extra virgin olive oil, fatty fish (like salmon), avocado, nuts
  • Fluid: at least 2L per day
  • Energy requirements 2nd / 3rd trimester: additional 600kJ per day
  • Reduce consumption of excess salt, sugar and saturated fats

Why do you need a supplement?

“We know what happens during pregnancy programs the developing baby and has a huge influence on their physical growth, brain development and health later in life. Whether you are already pregnant, or planning a pregnancy, there are certain nutrients that are crucial for successful conception and a healthy pregnancy. Nutrient deficiencies during this time can result in serious complications for both mother and baby.

“My number one tip for those who are pregnant, or trying to conceive, is to take a quality prenatal vitamin. This is the most important investment you can make for your future baby.

“There are many ways a quality prenatal supplement can positively impact your baby’s future health and development. By ensuring you’re getting all the crucial nutrients you and baby need (through a quality prenatal supplement and healthy diet) you can help to:

  • Optimise their genetic programming
  • Ensure healthy embryo development
  • Reduce risk of neural tube defects (and other birth defects)
  • Reduce risk of preterm birth
  • Reduce risk of low birth weight
  • Reduce risk of allergies
  • Reduce risk of eczema
  • Improve brain development and cognitive abilities
  • Improve their lifelong mental, emotional and physical health
  • Reduce risk of chronic disease (e.g., diabetes, heart disease, obesity)
  • Boost baby’s immunity
  • Affect taste preferences
  • Influence their future weight
  • Extend your baby’s lifespan

Note – A prenatal supplement is especially important for women on a vegetarian / vegan diet. These diets make it difficult to meet requirements for many essential nutrients, as such, they may leave women at risk of nutritional deficiencies.

Ovitae is proud to be Australian Made and offically endorsed by the Australian College of Midwives.

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