It’s one of life’s cruelest ironies that when your appetite is at its most rampant, you can’t indulge in all your favorite things. But avoiding certain foods during pregnancy will protect you and your baby from unnecessary risk of food poisoning. Plus, it’s not all bad news – there are still plenty of delicious foods you can eat that are great for you and your baby. Here’s how to survive the next nine months with your taste buds intact…
As long as you wash them thoroughly, fruit and vegetables are fine to eat during pregnancy. In fact they’re positively encouraged! Both fruit and vegetables contain important vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber, so aim to eat around five portions a day.
For example blueberries and blackberries are a good source of fiber and vitamin C, whilst Brussel sprouts contain folate. Leafy green vegetables in particular, such as broccoli, cabbage, kale and spinach, are a good source of folate.
Unpasteurized, moldy, or soft rind cheeses should all be avoided as these can contain harmful listeria. You can still enjoy hard cheeses, however, which are a great source of protein, calcium, fat-soluble vitamin A, and vitamin B2. Though Parmesan is made with unpasteurized milk, it has a very low risk of contamination, so there’s no need to forego it on your Bolognese. Cream cheese and cottage cheese are also fine (as long as well refrigerated) and make a great mid-afternoon snack spread on an oatcake.
Meat is fine to eat as long as it has been thoroughly cooked and is piping hot in the middle. Lean meat and poultry are great sources of protein, while beef - especially rump and fillet - is a source of iron so there’s even more reason to enjoy it during pregnancy. There are exceptions, however. Steak tartare, carpaccio, ground pork, and “bloody” steaks are all out due to risk of contamination. Liver is also a no no, as it contains high levels of vitamin A, which can be harmful to your baby. Pâté is OK, but only if it has been heat-treated (UHT) and doesn’t contain liver.
Eggs provide a number of important nutrients including protein, vitamins B2, B12 and D, as well as the minerals selenium and iodine. They also contain omega-3 fats, so you definitely shouldn’t avoid them altogether. The main thing is to steer clear of raw or runny eggs, which can be a source of salmonella when not cooked properly. This includes mousse, homemade ice-cream, freshly made custard, tiramisu, zabaione, and crème brulée. Shop-bought mayonnaise is OK, as long as it has been pasteurized, so check the label. Hard-boiled eggs are fine (the perfect mid-morning snack), as are quiches and Spanish omelets, as long as they’re thoroughly cooked.
Two portions of oily fish per week like mackerel, salmon and sardines are a great source of protein, as well as omega-3 fatty acids. Shark, swordfish and marlin should all be avoided during pregnancy.
Raw fish and seafood puts you at high risk of food poisoning, so oysters and sushi should be avoided altogether.
It’s best to avoid alcohol completely during pregnancy as it enters the body of the baby directly through the placenta and directly harms the cell and brain development. You can still enjoy a ‘mocktail’ though: Elderflower cordial and sparkling mineral water makes a good alternative to a spritzer, while soda and lime is a refreshing mix on evenings out.
High levels of caffeine have been associated with low-birth-weight babies and even miscarriage. It’s best to limit yourself to max 200mg caffeine a day. That’s about two mugs of instant coffee or tea, or one large mug of fresh coffee. Cola also contains caffeine, so watch your intake.