Pregnancy Food: Do you really need to avoid so much?
Announcing your pregnancy normally involves an exciting fanfare… but the excitement can be quickly and inadvertently dampened by well-wishers pulling your favourite food out of your hands with well-meaning concern. As with all health advice for mother and baby during pregnancy, there’s a myriad of information online and in the papers; but the advice does change and there are some common myths perpetuated by the media and word of mouth. How important is to avoid certain foods during pregnancy? We investigate.
Cheese-lovers need not despair for 9 months – there are lots of cheeses that can be safely consumed with no risk to the little one. Mould-ripened soft cheeses should be avoided unless cooked, which includes brie, camembert and other cheese with a white rind. The same goes for blue-veined cheese such as gorgonzola, Danish blue and Roquefort. This is because these soft cheeses are less acidic than hard, and are more likely to breed the bacteria promoting listeria food poisoning. The risk here is low, but having the cheeses cooked removes it entirely. However, you can still enjoy cottage cheese, mozzarella, halloumi, feta and ricotta! These are all made from pasteurised milk rather than mould ripened.
The advice on eggs is conflicting, so it’s up to you to make an informed decision. The NHS still stipulate that partially-cooked or raw eggs should be avoided because of the risk of salmonella; which likely won’t harm your baby but could make you quite ill and have a knock-on effect. However, the new Red Lion accreditation stamp on eggs ensures UK hen farms are entirely salmonella free, and they insist that you can now enjoy a runny yolk just like everyone else with no risk.
Meat need not be completely avoided during pregnancy but it’s best to use some precaution. Be sure to only consume thoroughly cooked meat with no sign of pink or blood to avoid the risk of toxoplasmosis. This infection is dangerous as it often has no symptoms but can cause miscarriage or pregnancy complications. Even if you’re just handling raw meat, ensure you wash your hands before and after.
Cold cured meats like salami, chorizo, pepperoni and parma ham can still be eaten – just freeze it or cook it first to kill any trace of the toxoplasmosis parasite microorganisms.
Liver is best avoided completely, as it contains so much Vitamin A that it can overwhelm the baby.
Another food for which the advice has changed! Providing you’re not allergic to peanuts (duh!), the NHS now suggests they’re risk-free to eat during pregnancy and may even help your child build a tolerance to them.
- high-dose multivitamin supplements
- fish liver oil supplements
- any supplements containing vitamin A
You can eat most types of fish when you're pregnant or breastfeeding. Eating fish is good for you and your baby, because it is a good source of vitamins and minerals, as well as essential omega 3 fatty acids. However, you should avoid eating certain types of fish and limit others.
Do not eat:
These all contain extremely high levels of mercury which are not considered safe to eat during pregnancy
- Raw Shellfish - You can eat Shellfish if it has been thoroughly cooked
Fish to cut down on
Tuna contains high levels of mercury so limit your intake to:
- two tuna steaks a week (each weighing about 140g when cooked or 170g when raw)
- four medium-sized cans of tuna a week (about 140g a can when drained)
Pregnant women should limit how much oily fish they eat, because it contains pollutants such as dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The NHS recommend not eating more than two portions of oily fish a week.
- fresh tuna (canned tuna doesn’t count as oily fish)
Fish you CAN EAT and do not need to limit during Pregnancy:
The main thing to consider here is how you feel about eating. It’s perfectly natural to find new tastes and new hates food-wise during pregnancy, but do your research, keep to a balanced diet and you should find you and baby are happy and healthy!