What Not to Eat During Pregnancy in Nigeria: A Mom-to-Mom Guide

What Not to Eat During Pregnancy in Nigeria: A Mom-to-Mom Guide

What Not to Eat During Pregnancy in Nigeria: A Mom-to-Mom Guide

Congratulations! You’re pregnant, embarking on a beautiful journey to bring new life into the world. This exciting time comes with a whirlwind of information, and one of the most crucial aspects is your diet.

After all, you’re not just eating for one anymore! But with all the advice floating around, it can be confusing to navigate what foods are safe and what to avoid.

Fear not, mama! We’ve compiled a comprehensive guide specifically tailored for Nigerian moms-to-be, outlining the foods to steer clear of during pregnancy to ensure a healthy and happy journey for both you and your little one.

Why Certain Foods are Off-Limits During Pregnancy

Pregnancy weakens your immune system, making you more susceptible to foodborne illnesses. Certain foods harbor bacteria, parasites, or toxins that can harm your developing baby.

By understanding these risks, you can make informed choices to create a safe and nourishing pregnancy diet.

The Nigerian Twist: Cultural Considerations

Nigerian cuisine is a vibrant tapestry of flavors and textures. However, some traditional dishes might not be pregnancy-friendly.

We’ll address these concerns throughout the guide, offering safe alternatives that stay true to your cultural cravings.

Now, let’s dive into the specifics!

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Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy in Nigeria

1. Undercooked or Raw Animal Products

  • Meat: Resist the urge for that tempting suya (skewered, spiced meat). Undercooked meat can harbor harmful bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella, leading to food poisoning that can be severe during pregnancy. Stick to thoroughly cooked meat (until there’s no pink left) or opt for well-done fish stews.
  • Eggs: Sunny side up? Not this time, mama! Uncooked eggs can carry salmonella, so have your eggs scrambled or boiled until the yolk is solid.
  • Fish: While fish is a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, be cautious of specific types. We’ll delve into that in the next section.

2. High-Mercury Fish

  • Shark, king mackerel, swordfish: These fish contain high levels of mercury, which can damage your baby’s developing nervous system. Opt for safer options like tilapia, catfish, or salmon (in moderation).

3. Unpasteurized Dairy Products

  • Milk, cheese, yogurt: Unpasteurized dairy products can harbor bacteria like Listeria, which can cause serious illness in pregnant women and even lead to miscarriage. Look for the pasteurization label on all dairy products you consume.

4. Certain Traditional Dishes

  • Unwashed vegetables: Nigerian cuisine features a wealth of fresh produce. However, it’s crucial to thoroughly wash all vegetables and fruits before consumption to remove dirt and parasites.
  • Undercooked Ofada rice: This delicious staple is often served slightly undercooked. To be on the safe side, cook Ofada rice until it’s fluffy and no longer translucent.
  • Spicy dishes (with caution): While the fiery flavors of Nigerian cuisine are tempting, excessive spice consumption during pregnancy can lead to heartburn and indigestion. Enjoy your favorites in moderation!

5. Other Potential Risks

  • Caffeine: Limit your caffeine intake to 200mg per day. Avoid strong coffee and opt for decaf or herbal teas.
  • Alcohol: There is no safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy. Alcohol consumption can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome, causing physical and mental birth defects.
  • Processed meats: Limit processed meats like sausages and hotdogs. They’re often high in sodium, preservatives, and unhealthy fats.

Remember, this list is not exhaustive. Always consult your doctor or a registered dietitian for personalized advice.

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Making Safe Swaps: Nigerian Pregnancy-Friendly Alternatives

Curb your cravings for these off-limits foods with these delicious and safe Nigerian alternatives:

Protein Powerhouses:

  • Suya: Instead of undercooked suya, try well-done grilled chicken or kebabs marinated in a flavorful spice blend.
  • Pounded Yam and Egusi Soup: Egusi soup, traditionally made with meat or fish, can be adapted for pregnancy. Use vegetable stock and add protein-rich ingredients like chopped spinach, mushrooms, or tofu.

Seafood Delights:

  • Spicy Jollof Rice with Fish: Craving jollof rice? Opt for low-mercury fish options like tilapia or shrimp, ensuring they’re cooked thoroughly.

Dairy Alternatives:

  • Kunnu (Nigerian yogurt drink): This probiotic-rich beverage is a fantastic alternative to unpasteurized yogurt. Look for commercially prepared pasteurized Kunnu or make your own using pasteurized milk.

Veggie Twists on Traditional Dishes:

  • Vegetable pepper soup: A classic Nigerian comfort food, vegetable pepper soup is a great way to get your daily dose of veggies. Add protein-rich lentils or chickpeas for an extra boost.
  • Moi Moi (Steamed Bean Pudding): Made with black-eyed peas, Moi Moi is a naturally protein-rich and pregnancy-safe dish.

Sweet Treats with a Twist:

  • Chin Chin (fried dough balls): These deep-fried treats are delicious but can be heavy. Opt for baked Chin Chin instead, using healthier alternatives like whole wheat flour and reduced sugar.

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Planning a Balanced Pregnancy Diet in Nigeria

Focus on these essential food groups for a healthy pregnancy:

  • Fruits and Vegetables: A rainbow of fruits and vegetables provides essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber for you and your baby.
  • Whole Grains: Opt for brown rice, millet, or whole-wheat alternatives for sustained energy and healthy digestion.
  • Lean Protein Sources: Include protein-rich options like well-cooked chicken, fish, beans, lentils, and tofu in your diet.
  • Healthy Fats: Avocados, nuts, and seeds provide essential fatty acids for your baby’s development.

Here are some additional tips for a balanced pregnancy diet in Nigeria:

  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated and support healthy digestion.
  • Portion Control: Don’t fall into the trap of “eating for two.” Focus on balanced, nutrient-rich meals and avoid overeating.
  • Listen to Your Body: Cravings are common during pregnancy. However, if you’re craving something off-limits, try to find a healthy alternative.
  • Plan Your Meals: Planning your meals and snacks in advance can help you make healthy choices and avoid unhealthy temptations.

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Supplements During Pregnancy

Prenatal vitamins are crucial during pregnancy to ensure you and your baby get the essential nutrients you need. Consult your doctor to determine the right prenatal vitamin for you.

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Food Safety Tips for Pregnant Women in Nigeria

  • Wash your hands frequently: This is especially important before handling food, after using the bathroom, and after being in public places.
  • Keep your kitchen clean: Regularly disinfect your kitchen surfaces and utensils to prevent the spread of bacteria.
  • Store food properly: Store leftovers in airtight containers and refrigerate them promptly.
  • Be cautious with street food: While Nigerian street food is a cultural experience, it’s best to avoid it during pregnancy due to hygiene concerns.


Navigating a healthy pregnancy diet in Nigeria requires knowledge and awareness. By understanding the foods to avoid and making safe swaps, you can create a nourishing meal plan that caters to your cultural preferences and keeps you and your baby healthy.

Remember, consult your doctor or a registered dietitian for personalized guidance throughout your pregnancy journey.


 Can I still drink palm wine during pregnancy?

No, it’s best to avoid palm wine during pregnancy. While traditionally consumed for medicinal purposes, it can be unhygienically prepared and potentially harbor bacteria harmful to your baby.

Is eating bitter leaf safe during pregnancy?

Bitter leaf is a common ingredient in Nigerian cuisine. While generally safe in moderation, excessive consumption can lead to uterine contractions. Consult your doctor.

What are some good sources of calcium during pregnancy in Nigeria?

  • Blended Okra Soup: Okra is a rich source of calcium and fiber. Blend okra soup with spinach or other leafy greens for an added calcium boost.
  • Fortified Milk: Look for commercially pasteurized and fortified milk to increase your calcium intake.
  • Small Fish with Bones: Small fish like sardines or crayfish, consumed whole (bones and all), are excellent sources of calcium.

I’m struggling with morning sickness. What can I eat?

Morning sickness is a common pregnancy woe. Here are some tips:

  • Eat small, frequent meals: Opt for smaller portions throughout the day instead of three large meals. This can help settle your stomach.
  • Start your day with bland carbohydrates: Crackers, dry toast, or plain yogurt can be easier to tolerate on an empty stomach.
  • Stay hydrated: Ginger tea or bland herbal teas can help soothe nausea and keep you hydrated.

What if I have a sweet tooth during pregnancy?

It’s okay to indulge your sweet tooth occasionally! Here are some healthy options:

  • Fruits: Nature’s candy! Fruits like mangoes, oranges, and grapefruits satisfy your sweet cravings while providing essential vitamins.
  • Dates: Dates are a naturally sweet and nutritious snack rich in fiber and essential minerals.
  • Homemade desserts: Bake your own desserts using healthier ingredients like whole-wheat flour, reduced sugar, and fresh fruits.

Remember, a healthy pregnancy diet is an investment in your well-being and your baby’s future. By making informed choices and incorporating these tips, you can embark on a joyful and nourishing pregnancy journey.

Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only and should not be substituted for professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a registered dietitian for personalized guidance throughout your pregnancy.