We don’t want to overwhelm you with endless lists of what you should or shouldn’t be doing or eating, but at the same time there are definitely a few things you need to know about when it comes to your diet in pregnancy. A lot of the recommendations you’ll find online are outdated and restrictive.
One of the most important things to be aware of is not so much what you eat, but how you eat it.
Food hygiene is always important, but you should pay particular attention during pregnancy. Temperatures between 5 and 60 degrees Celsius are ideal for bacteria, so it’s important that your food is always stored at below 5 degrees Celsius, and cooked at a heat over 60 degrees Celsius.
Below are 4 foods you need to know about so that you can make wise food choices during pregnancy and plan your diet accordingly.
You may have heard that you should avoid raw or undercooked eggs because of the risk of salmonella, but that doesn’t mean you should eliminate eggs from your diet completely.
When it comes to eggs, quality counts. Eggs from chickens raised on pasture (meaning outdoors, in grass, pecking at insects and enjoying the sunlight) are not only less likely to harbor Salmonella, they’re also more nutrient-dense than conventionally-produced eggs.
Eggs are an incredible superfood. Not only are they a convenient source of protein, but they are an excellent source of choline, DHA, B vitamins and Vitamin A,D, E and K. Eggs are a complete protein, providing all essential amino acids in a highly bioavailable form. Eggs are rich in two antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, which are crucial to eye and vision development plus iodine and selenium, two trace minerals that are found in significant quantities in eggs.
The benefits of eating eggs during pregnancy:
- Lower your risk of preeclampsia
- Help reduce cravings and excessive weight gain
- Prevent neural tube defects (it’s not just folate)
- Improve long-term memory function of your child
Food safety concerns over eggs have been overstated again and again, especially to pregnant women. According to a 2012 analysis from the Centers for Disease Control, food poisoning due to eggs accounts for only 2% of all reports nationwide. (CDC, 2012)
In fact, you’re 8x more likely to get food poisoning from fresh produce than from eggs. (Emerging Infectious Diseases, 2013)
Yet, you never hear health officials warning pregnant moms to avoid fresh fruits and vegetables.
Sourcing your eggs from pasture-raised chickens is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of food poisoning, since organic farms have a seven-fold lower rate of Salmonella infection compared to commercial producers. (Foodborne Pathogens and Disease, 2010)
Caffeine consumption in pregnancy is also controversial. Here’s what we know about caffeine in pregnancy. Caffeine crosses the placenta which means that baby’s caffeine levels are similar to yours. We also know that the rate at which your body eliminates caffeine from your body decreases over the course of your pregnancy. Higher levels of caffeine in your bloodstream can potentially limit the transfer of nutrients to your baby.
Like eggs, the safety of caffeine in pregnancy is controversial. Research from 20 – 30 years ago showed that high intake of caffeine was associated with increased risk of miscarriage and restricted fetal growth. This resulted in the current recommendation to keep caffeine intake to 200mg per day.
While we tend to think coffee, other sources of caffeine include tea and chocolate. A 250ml cup of coffee contains 100mg of caffeine. 250ml cup of tea contains 30mg and an 30g of chocolate has 20 – 30 mg of caffeine.
You don’t need to completely eliminate caffeine from your diet during pregnancy, but definitely limit your intake and notice how it makes you feel when you have caffeine. The way you respond will be a very good indicator of whether you should cut down or cut it out completely.
3. Processed and Undercooked Meat
During pregnancy, the body’s defences against listeriosis are impaired, meaning you are more at risk of becoming infected if you eat contaminated food.
In fact, your risk of developing this condition is 20 times higher during pregnancy.
It is incredibly rare for the infection to pose a serious threat to your health, though it can cause miscarriage, as well as pregnancy and birth complications.
It’s recommended to avoid processed meat and deli cuts unless they cryovacced (wrapped in airtight packaging).
Unless you are a vegetarian, meat (pork, beef, poultry or game) are an incredible source of protein, minerals, B-vitamins, fat soluble vitamins and other nutrients that are difficult to match in other foods. If you can stand it, liver is sometimes described as nature’s multivitamin and is the only other source of choline (besides eggs). Its the single richest source of iron and you know how important iron is during pregnancy right?
The bones, skin and connective tissue of animals are rich in protein, gelatin, collagen, glycine and minerals. Bones contain more minerals per ounce than any other body tissue. One of the best ways of getting all this nutrient dense goodness is by making massive pots of bone broth and slow cooking meats and stews. Long and slow ensures that there is no undercooked or raw meat and releases gelatin, collagen and an important amino acid called glycine. Go forth and make bone broth.
4. Soft Cheeses And Unpasteurized Milk
A common food safety concern when you are pregnant is contamination by Listeria. The FDA lists certain types of cheese among the foods that are more likely to carry Listeria, yet the recommendations on safe cheese consumption lack scientific justification and are confusing.
Hard cheeses that undergone a long fermentation time, like parmesan, cheddar and gouda have high levels of Vitamin K and are safe to eat in pregnancy.
Soft cheeses made from pasteurized milk like
Boursin, cottage cheese, cheese spread, cream cheese, mascarpone, philadelphia, quark, ricotta are safe to eat.
Yoghurts, fromage frais, soured cream and creme fraiche — any variety, including natural, flavoured and biologically active — are all safe to eat.
Avoid mould-ripened soft cheese, such as brie, camembert and chevre (a type of goat’s cheese) and others with a similar rind. You should also avoid soft blue-veined cheeses such as Danish blue or gorgonzola.
If you’re purchasing cheese from a mainstream supermarket, it will probably be well marked with the contents, including pasteurized vs. unpasteurized milk. If you’re buying from a shop that’s staffed with cheese mongers, simply ask them for guidance.
We know how confusing it can be ensuring that you’re getting a healthy diet and not putting yourself or your baby at risk. You have the power to lower your chances of developing gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, delivering prematurely, becoming anaemic, and gaining too much or too little weight during pregnancy, all by the way you live your life and choose your food. In The Due Date Club we guide you every step of the way to make healthy choices.