The dos and don'ts of diet during pregnancy

What are the dos and don'ts of diet during pregnancy? We take a closer look...

This month on TalkMum is pregnancy month, and we're looking at the ins and outs of pregnancy, and the things that no-one ever tells you about expecting a baby.

One of the big issues is pregnancy is diet and what you can and can't eat. Of course, you might not be able to eat much for a while (the dreaded morning sickness) and you might find yourself craving food you've never liked or finding your favourites making you ever-so-slightly green around the gils.

It's important to know what it's advised that you do and don't eat though, so here we take a closer look at your diet during pregnancy (in brackets are the reasons why they are important - check below for the meaning).

The DOs of diet during pregnancy

Wash fruit, vegetables and salads thoroughly - even pre-packaged types that are washed and ready to eat. (T)

Drink only pasteurised or UHT milk. If only raw or green-top milk is available, boil it first. Don't drink un-pasteurised goat's or sheep's milk or eat their milk products. (L)

Make sure you cook all meat and poultry thoroughly so that there is no trace of pink or blood, and wash all surfaces and utensils after preparing raw meat. Use a separate chopping board for raw meats. (T, S)

Reheat ready-to-eat poultry and cooked chilled meals thoroughly and ensure that these are piping hot before they are eaten. (S)

Make sure that raw foods are stored separately from ready-to-eat foods to reduce the risk of food poisoning. (S)

Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling any food, after going to the toilet and before eating. (S)

Wear gloves when gardening or changing the cats litter tray. (T)

Limit caffeine to no more than 300mg/day as this can increase the risk of low birth weight and miscarriage. This means no more than 3 cups of coffee or 6 cups of tea combined in any one day, and don't forget that cola, hot chocolate, chocolate bars and energy drinks all contain caffeine too.


And the DONT's of diet during pregnancy

Some foods pose a particular risk during pregnancy, either because of the way they are produced, or high levels of certain nutrients or substances they contain. The foods below are best avoided throughout pregnancy:

Don't eat any type of pate, including vegetable pate and mould-ripened soft cheeses, such as Brie, Camembert, and blue varieties, like Stilton or Danish blue. (L)

Don't eat liver or liver products such as liver pate or liver sausage, as they may contain large amounts vitamin A, which could harm the baby. Avoid supplements containing vitamin A - check the label. (Vitamin A toxicity)

Don't eat peanuts and foods containing peanut products (e.g. peanut butter, peanut oil, some snacks, etc.) if mum, dad or any previous children have a history of hayfever, asthma, eczema or other allergies. (Peanut allergy)

Don't eat shark, marlin and swordfish and limit tuna intake (no more than 2 servings fresh or 4 small cans) because the mercury levels in these fish is high and can damage the baby's developing nervous system. This also applies before conception and during breast feeding. (High levels of mercury)

Don't have more than two portions of oily fish a week. Oily fish includes salmon, mackerel, sardines and trout. But include one portion each week for important omega-3's. (High levels of contaminants)

Don't eat raw shellfish. This is because raw shellfish might contain harmful bacteria and viruses that cause food poisoning. However, shellfish that is part of a hot meal and has been thoroughly cooked is fine. (Food poisoning)

Don't smoke. If you smoke it's important to give up as soon as possible as this can be very harmful to your baby. This includes partners too, as passive smoking can be just as dangerous to the unborn baby. Speak to your GP or midwife for help and support in smoking cessation for both parents. (Poor growth & low birth weight)

S = Salmonella: a common cause of food poisoning which can cause severe symptoms during pregnancy and can lead to miscarriage and stillbirth.
L = Listeria: a bacteria which causes mild tummy upsets or flu like symptoms. Can also lead to miscarriage and stillbirth
T = Toxoplasmosis: an infection caused by a tiny parasite that is found in soil and cat faeces. This can cause brain damage, blindness, epilepsy, miscarriage and still birth.

Remember to always ask your midwife or doctor for medical advice - any health tips or advice provided on this site are not intended as, and should not be regarded as a substitute for medical advice from them.

If you liked our post on your diet during pregnancy, make sure you read our posts on pregnancy food myths around 'eating for two' and our early signs of pregnancy

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