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So You're Pregnant, What's Off the Menu?

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What's science and what's utter nonsense.

During your pregnancy, you’ll Google a food followed by “when pregnant” innumerable times. Even when your confident your lunch order is totally safe, someone in your party will make a comment, you’ll second guess yourself, and you’ll go back to Google. For some reason it seems that being pregnant gives everyone in your life the green card to start commenting, advising and querying what you eat. WTF?! Badly reported science and old wives’ tales are responsible for a lot of the confusion, and the rest can be blamed on the hard and fast (and slightly frightening) list of “DO NOT EAT” foods issued by branches of the government. As with most things pregnancy-related, your doctor is the best person to take advice from, and common sense is your best guide. The rules of staying healthy don’t alter that much just because you’re pregnant. More leafy greens, good fats, protein and less sugar, soft drinks and double-fried chips, work as well when you're pregnant as when you’re not, but there are some exceptions, like rockmelon. Here’s what you need to know about the foods you’ll Google the most.

What to eat when pregnant?

  • Thoroughly washed fruit and vegetables
  • Wholegrain breads and cereals
  • Dark green leafy veggies
  • Low fat dairy
  • Lean meat, chicken and fish
  • Dried beans, lentils and legumes
  • Nuts and seeds

What not to eat when pregnant?

  • Raw eggs
  • Soft white cheeses
  • Oysters
  • Pre-packaged salads
  • Soft-serve ice-cream
  • Alcohol

Drinking when pregnant

Not drinking alcohol during your pregnancy is the safest option. This is to protect against developmental damage (including miscarriage and stillbirth) and fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), an incurable condition where alcohol exposure in the womb causes mental and/or physical damage to the fetus. While there are women who drink during pregnancy and have perfectly healthy children, there is no safe amount or safe time to drink while pregnant. How much you drink is directly related to potential damage, so the more you drink, the higher the risk. Sadly, facts are facts. With coffee, it’s a different story. High levels of caffeine can be dangerous to your baby, but your doctor will be happy for you to keep it under 300mg a day. Translation, a small flat white (145mg) in the morning and a black tea (10-50mg) and a KitKat (20mg) in the afternoon is A-OK.

The raw stuff

Foods on the banned list are usually there because they could contain harmful bacteria like listeria or salmonella, which can give you food poisoning. Aside from this being extremely unpleasant while pregnant, food poisoning can cause miscarraige or trigger early labour. The first category to be ruled out for this reason? Raw meats, seafood, poultry and eggs. This means no sashimi platters for a while and all your meat should be well cooked. Even your salmon. Raw eggs, in aioli, mayonnaise or desserts like mousse are also out. Unpasteurized (raw) dairy products like milk, cheese or yoghurt should also be avoided, but it’s illegal to sell unpasteurized milk in Australia, so you’re not likely to come across it. Certainly not at Woolies anyway.

The French and Italian stuff

While French women don’t give up brie and Italian women certainly don’t give up prosciutto during pregnancy, in Australia, it is advised to cut out all mould-ripened cheeses (brie, camembert, blue and the like) and all deli meats (ham, pepperoni, chorizo etc.) because they could contain listeria or a nasty parasite called toxoplasma. If they’re cooked, deli meats get a cautious tick, and so does feta, ricotta, cheddar and halloumi. Therefore, you can still have your favourite pizza. Your doc would just prefer if it’s ordered from a place that has a five-star Food Hygiene rating and you dine-in rather than after it’s rolled around on the back of the Deliveroo guy’s scooter. Makes sense.

The generally dodgy

Pregnancy is a time when you should exercise the highest level of food hygiene, know what you’re eating, wash your hands a lot and avoid the dodgy stuff. This includes, but is not limited to: prepackaged salads (including fruit salad), service station sandwiches, chilled pre-peeled cooked prawns, anything from a salad bar or buffet, takeaway sushi, leftover leftovers and anything in your fridge past it’s used-by date. Basically, eat smart, eat fresh and when you eat out, go to the good places.

The rest

No pâté, no liver, no rockmelon, no raw bean sprouts of any kind and no soft serve ice cream (even if it’s deep-fried). The reason? Listeria.

The lies

There is no need to avoid peanuts when you’re pregnant unless you, yourself, are allergic to peanuts, in which case, why would you eat them?! Fish contains essential omega-3 fatty acids and is encouraged for pregnant women, just minimise your intake of fish with high levels of mercury. If you really fancy a piece of swordfish, do it, just know you’ve filled your fish quota for a fortnight. Raw fruit and vegetables are more than fine, all milk is fine, as is the odd chocolate croissant. Amen.

Get a head start on planning what your bub will eat from with our collection of adorable baby eating utensils here.

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