Dietary products

Coffee and tea

Drinking moderate amounts of coffee is considered safe during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Large intake of caffeine during pregnancy has been suspected to cause premature births and low birthweight.

The EU's Scientific Committee on Food (SCF) recommends that daily caffeine intake should not exceed 300mg (equivalent to 3 x 1.5 dl) during pregnancy. However, in light of the latest research results, it is advisable to limit the amount of coffee to two 1.5dl cups a day.

Drinking moderate amounts of tea (including green tea and chamomile tea) is considered safe during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, provided that the tea is from a reliable producer and sold in a grocery store.

Tea contains approximately half the caffeine of coffee.

Drinking herbal teas classified as herbal supplements or health food is not recommended during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Herbal teas may contain harmful substances and there is typically very little reliable research data on their safety.

Fish

Fish is a good source of healthy fatty acids (omega-3, in particular), several vitamins (including vitamin D), minerals and protein.
Food supplements containing fish oil or fish liver oil are not recommended during pregnancy, because their beneficial effects and purity has not been verified.
It is recommended to eat different kinds of fish at least twice a week.
Considering the levels of dioxin, PCBs, mercury and cesium-137 in fish, the National Nutritional Council of Finland recommends the following:

  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women should limit their consumption of Baltic herring and wild-caught salmon due to the high dioxin levels in these fish. It is recommended to limit eating large herrings (over 17cm ungutted) to 1 to 2 times a month, or alternatively to eat salmon caught in the Baltic Sea no more than 1 to 2 times a month.
  • Because of their high levels of mercury, it is not recommended to eat pike at all and to limit the daily consumption of local freshwater fish of prey such as bass, pike-perch and eelpout, to a few times a week during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
  • The size of a portion used in the safety calculations is 100g. If your portions are smaller, you can eat fish more often than recommended by the authorities. Some of the dioxins and PCBs in fish can be removed by skinning the fish before it is cooked.
  • The levels of dioxin and PCBs are much smaller in farm-raised fish, because the quality of feed is closely monitored in Finland.

Liver

During pregnancy, only limited amounts of liver products and liver-based foods are recommended. Avoid having liver as a main course. Liver contains heavy metals and is high in vitamin A in its retinoid form. Eating liver-based foods may result in exceeding the recommended limits of vitamin A intake during pregnancy.
The Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira, the National Institute for Health and Welfare and the National Nutritional Council recommend that:

  • Liver-based foods (beef, pork and poultry liver and liver dishes including ground liver patties and liver steaks, liver stew, liver casserole) should be avoided during pregnancy.
  • The maximum weekly consumption of liver sausage and liver pate should not exceed 200g during pregnancy. The maximum consumption during one meal should not exceed 100g. 
  • If you eat liver sausage or liver pate on a daily basis, the maximum amount per day should not exceed 30g.  This is approximately 2 slices of liver sausage or 2 tablespoonfuls of liver pate.
  • For additional information, see: Vitamin A

Other dietary restrictions
 

Energy drinks

Energy drinks contain high levels of caffeine and other stimulants, and are therefore not recommended during pregnancy.

 

Plant sterols and stanols (products with cholesterol-lowering effects)

Not recommended for use during pregnancy. Cholesterol is important for foetal development, and it is unknown as to whether cholesterol-lowering products also lower foetal cholesterol levels.

 

False morels (Gyromitra esculenta)

Gyromitra esculenta is a mushroom also called 'false morel'. Avoid these mushrooms during pregnancy, because even when parboiled they still contain residual gyromitrin. When the mushrooms are boiled, the gyromitrin vaporises into air. To avoid inhaling gyromitrin, do not prepare Gyromitra esculenta when you are pregnant.


Liquorice and salmiak (salty liquorice)

Use in moderation during pregnancy. Liquorice and salmiak both contain glycyrrhizin, which may cause swelling (oedema) and elevated blood pressure levels. Consumption of large amounts of liquorice or salmiak is linked with an increased risk of premature birth. A daily amount of less than 50g is considered moderate consumption.


Seaweed products

Seaweed products are often high in iodine and are therefore not recommended for use during pregnancy. Excessive intake of iodine has a harmful effect on the functioning and development of the foetal thyroid gland.

 

Frozen vegetables and convenience foods

Listeria can be found in foods which have not been heated. Listeria is killed at hot temperatures (over 70°C), but not by freezing.

  

 

Raw (unpasteurised) milk, cheese made from raw milk, soft cheeses

Not recommended for use during pregnancy because of the risks posed by listeria. Listeria is killed at hot temperatures (over 70°C), but not by freezing. In Finland, the law requires that milk is pasteurised.

 

Linseeds and ground linseed

Not recommended for use during pregnancy. Imported products in particular tend to have high cadmium and hydrocyanic acid levels. Linseeds on bread are not considered harmful.

 

Raw or undercooked meat

Not recommended for use during pregnancy because of the risk of toxoplasmosis.

 

Salt

It is recommended to limit the use of salt during pregnancy. Towards the end of pregnancy, salt intake contributes to swelling, renal burden and elevated blood pressure.

 

Fresh vegetables

Fresh vegetables should be thoroughly washed and preferably peeled. Keep raw and cooked vegetables separate to avoid listeria contamination. Listeria is killed at hot temperatures (over 70°C), but not by freezing.


Vacuum-packed raw-pickled and cold-smoked fish products, fish roe, pate

Not recommended for use during pregnancy because of the risks posed by listeria. Listeria is killed at hot temperatures (over 70°C), but not by freezing.


Imported frozen raspberries

Norovirus risk. Heat before use for 2 minutes at 90°C.


Herbal teas, herbal supplements

Not recommended for use during pregnancy. Products may contain natural toxins. No research data exists to confirm the safety of these products.