Podcast Episode #219

Foods to Avoid When Pregnant

In this episode today, Lana answers some common questions that arise during pregnancy, including:

  • Foods to avoid when pregnant
  • What not to eat when pregnant
  • Can you eat feta when pregnant?
  • What foods are important to eat during pregnancy
  • Key nutrients for pregnant mums
  • Nutritional supplements for pregnancy

Lana Hirth is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist and founder of Hello Nutrition.  Lana helps women enhance their nutrition with the power of good food to live life to the full.

foods to avoid when pregnant

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In this article you'll find tips to:

  • Identify and avoid foods that pose risks during pregnancy, such as those prone to listeria contamination and high-mercury fish.
  • Understand which nutrients are essential for a healthy pregnancy and how to incorporate them into your diet.
  • Make informed decisions about consuming certain types of cheese, such as feta, during pregnancy.
  • Choose safe and nutritious foods that support both maternal and foetal health.
  • Supplement your diet with key vitamins and minerals to meet the increased nutritional demands of pregnancy.
  • Balance dietary restrictions with a variety of healthy food choices to ensure a well-rounded and enjoyable eating experience
  • Recognise the importance of timing and frequency of meals to maintain energy levels and support the baby’s growth.
  • Address common concerns about dietary supplements and determine which ones might be necessary based on individual health needs.

Navigating the world of pregnancy nutrition can be daunting, especially with so many differing thoughts on what to eat and what to avoid. Understanding the importance of diet during pregnancy and knowing which foods to steer clear of can be beneficial to both the mother’s and the baby’s health. In this podcast episode, I chat with dietitian Lana Hirth who discusses the key foods to avoid when pregnant, and provides insights into maintaining a healthy and balanced diet during this special period.

What Not to Eat When Pregnant

During pregnancy, certain foods pose risks due to potential contaminants, bacteria, or harmful substances. Here are the primary categories of foods to avoid:


There is no safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. It is best to avoid it entirely to prevent any risk to the baby’s development.

High-Mercury Fish

Fish like swordfish and king mackerel contain high levels of mercury, which can affect the baby’s nervous system. Opt for low-mercury options like salmon, sardines, and trout instead.

Listeria-Prone Foods

Avoid raw seafood, unpasteurised dairy products, and certain deli meats. Listeria, a harmful bacteria, can thrive in these foods and pose serious health risks during pregnancy.

Pre-packaged Salads and Soft Serve Ice Creams

These can be breeding grounds for bacteria if not stored properly. It’s safer to avoid them unless you’re confident in their freshness and handling.

Can You Eat Feta When Pregnant?

Feta cheese often raises questions during pregnancy due to its soft texture. Generally, feta cheese found in Australia is pasteurised, which reduces the risk of listeria. However, it is essential to check the label to ensure it is pasteurised. Even pasteurised soft cheeses can be risky if they have been improperly stored. To safely enjoy feta, consider eating it piping hot, such as baked in a dish.

What Foods Can You Eat During Pregnancy?

While it’s helpful to know what to avoid, it’s equally important to focus on what you can and should eat during pregnancy. A balanced diet rich in nutrients supports both the mother and the baby’s health:

Oily Fish

Low-mercury fish like salmon and sardines are excellent sources of Omega 3, essential for the baby’s brain development.

Fruits and Vegetables

A colourful variety of fruits and veggies ensures a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals. Aim for at least five servings per day.

Whole Grains

Foods like brown rice, oats, and whole wheat bread provide necessary fibre and nutrients.

Dairy or Fortified Alternatives

These are important for calcium intake, which supports bone health for both mother and baby.

Key Nutrients for Pregnant Mums

Certain nutrients are particularly important during pregnancy:

Omega 3

Crucial for brain development and reducing the risk of preterm birth. Found in oily fish or as a supplement.


Supports increased blood volume and prevents anaemia. Found in red meat, beans, and fortified cereals.


Essential for brain development and cognitive function. Found in seafood, dairy, and iodised salt.


Vital for preventing neural tube defects. Found in leafy greens, legumes, and fortified foods.

Nutritional Supplements for Pregnancy

While a balanced diet is important, nutritional supplements for pregnancy can help to fill any gaps.

Prenatal Vitamins

Often contain folate, iron, and iodine in amounts tailored for pregnancy needs.

Omega 3 Supplements

Especially useful if dietary intake of oily fish is insufficient.

Iron Supplements

May be necessary if iron levels are low, as prescribed by a healthcare provider.

Calcium and Vitamin D

Important for bone health, especially if dietary intake is inadequate.

Always consult with a healthcare provider or dietitian to tailor supplement use to individual needs and ensure safe, effective nutrition throughout pregnancy. For a blog post with further information, click here: Nutritional Supplements for Pregnancy.

By focusing on a well-rounded diet and being mindful of foods to avoid, pregnant women can support their health and their baby’s development effectively. Remember, it’s about making informed choices and finding a balance that works for you.

** The information provided in this blog is gathered with the assistance of transcription services. While every effort is made to ensure accuracy, please verify all information with a healthcare professional. This content is for general education purposes only and does not substitute for medical assessment or advice. Always consult a healthcare professional for medical concerns.


Today’s Sponsor:

Enter code FITNEST20 for 20% off Solidea’s maternity range.  www.solidea.com.au

Frequently asked Questions (FAQs)

What foods should I avoid during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, it's important to avoid certain foods that pose risks. These include alcohol, as there is no safe level of consumption. High-mercury fish, such as swordfish and king mackerel, should be avoided, and instead, low-mercury options like salmon and sardines are recommended. Foods prone to listeria, such as raw seafood, unpasteurised dairy products, and certain deli meats, should be avoided. Additionally, be cautious with pre-packaged salads and soft serve ice creams due to potential bacterial contamination.

Can I eat feta cheese when pregnant?

Feta cheese can be safe if it is pasteurised. In Australia, most feta cheese is pasteurised, but it’s important to check the label. Even pasteurised soft cheeses can pose a risk if not stored properly, so consider eating it hot, such as baked in a dish, to reduce any risk.

What are the key nutrients I need during pregnancy?

Key nutrients during pregnancy include Omega 3, which is essential for brain development and reducing the risk of preterm birth. Iron is important for increasing blood volume and preventing anaemia. Iodine is vital for brain development and cognitive function, while folate is crucial for preventing neural tube defects.

Should I avoid sweeteners?

It is recommended to avoid artificial sweeteners during pregnancy as some studies have linked them to higher rates of preterm birth.

When should I see a dietitian during pregnancy?

Consider seeing a dietitian if you have risk factors such as insulin resistance, a history of eating disorders, or if you simply want to ensure a healthy pregnancy. A dietitian can help you create a tailored nutritional plan to support your pregnancy and postpartum health.