If you're pregnant, it is important to stay educated on the changes your body is going through and what you need to do to accommodate it. This includes knowing what habits and foods to avoid in order to best sustain your growing fetus. And not everything you might be used to eating will still be safe for you. If you're worried about whether or not your favorite foods might harm your future child, look no further than this list of foods to turn away if you're expecting:

High-Mercury Fish

grilled swordfish steak on white plate with fries

Eating seafood while pregnant is a great way to provide plenty of protein, zinc, iron and omega-3 fatty acids for your baby -- the Food and Drug Administration even recommends that pregnant mothers eat two or three servings of fish per week. Fish that pregnant women can eat worry-free include:

  • Salmon
  • Anchovies
  • Herring
  • Trout
  • Tilapia
  • Cod
  • Catfish
  • Sardines
  • Atlantic and Pacific mackerel
  • Shrimp

However, you need to be cautious because while most fish and shellfish are nutritious for your baby, fish that contain high levels of mercury should be avoided. High-mercury fish usually doesn't pose any health risks for adults, but if pregnant women eat it the baby's brain and nervous system can be damaged. Fish with high mercury levels that should never be eaten by pregnant women include:

  • Tuna
  • Shark
  • King mackerel
  • Tilefish
  • Swordfish
  • Orange roughy
  • Marlin

Since only a small portion of fish is bad for your baby, always double check before digging into your surf 'n' turf.

Undercooked, Raw And Deli Meat

cuts of processed deli meat and hot dogs on cutting board
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It likely comes as no surprise that raw or undercooked meat products can be hazardous for everyone, but especially pregnant women. Raw or undercooked meat can contain harmful bacteria and lead to foodborne illnesses such as toxoplasmosis and salmonella. These illnesses can be harmful to everyone, but to pregnant women they can be particularly devastating and cause birth defects including hearing loss, blindness or intellectual disabilities in the baby.

Pregnant women should also be wary of deli meat, including hot dogs, which can contain listeria and increase the risk of a miscarriage. If you are pregnant and eat deli meat, heat the meat until it is steaming.

Caffeine and Alcohol

overhead shot of two women drinking coffee
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Every day, millions of people around the world look to coffee, soda and tea to give them a caffeinated boost and alcoholic drinks including wine and beer to enliven their evenings. As common as these drinks are for most adults, this routine is not recommended for soon-to-be mothers, because it can disrupt the development of their fetuses.

With risks including stillbirth, miscarriage and fetal alcohol syndrome, alcohol is substantially more dangerous for expecting mothers to consume. However, excessive caffeine can also stunt fetal development and result in low birth weight, putting children at higher risk for developing certain ailments in adulthood. As a result, doctors recommend that expecting mothers consume no alcohol whatsoever and no more than 200 mg of caffeine per day.

Raw Eggs

egg yolk in white dish with cracked egg shells and whole egg next to it

When a soon-to-be mother ingests raw eggs, symptoms of Salmonella,which include fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps, typically only manifest in her body. However, in some rare cases, these disruptions can provoke uterus cramping, which increases the risk of miscarriage or stillbirth. For this reason, it is best that pregnant women avoid products containing raw, unpasteurized eggs.

Unwashed Produce

produce on wooden surface
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Even if you aren't pregnant, it is never wise to eat unwashed produce. But remembering to rinse off fresh fruits and vegetables becomes doubly important for pregnant women because the surface of unwashed produce can harbor parasites that pregnant women and their unborn babies could be especially susceptible to catching, including toxoplasma.

Unpasteurized Milk And Cheese

assorted cheeses on wooden surface
margouillat photo/Shutterstock

Pregnant women have a higher risk of developing listeria from soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk. However, you don't need to steer clear of all milk and cheese -- just be hypervigilant about choosing pasteurized options, which tend to be more common anyway.

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