You probably know that the old saying ‘you’re eating for two’ during pregnancy is not true in relation to energy and staying healthy. In fact, on average you only need an extra 200 calories each day in the final three months. But the calories you do intake need to make up a balanced, healthy and nutritious diet.
Food from different groups all work together to create a healthy baby, this includes: Fruit and vegetables, carbohydrates, protein and milk and other dairy products. If you eat a variety of different food from these groups every day you are more likely to get the balance of nutrients that you and your baby need.
But eating during pregnancy isn’t always that easy, as there are foods from these groups that you are not recommended to have:
Food and Drink to Avoid in Pregnancy
Soft cheeses with white rinds, such as brie, camembert and soft goats’ cheese, should be avoided along with blue veined cheeses such as Danish blue, Gorgonzola, Stilton and Roquefort. This is because the manufacturing process of these types of cheeses encourages moulds to grow and provide an ideal environment for harmful bacteria.
There is some recent evidence that eggs with runny yolks are safe to eat if produced to British Lion Quality Standards but the NHS Choices still says they should be thoroughly cooked until the whites and yolks are solid to prevent the small risk of salmonella food poisoning.
Raw or Undercooked Meat
This is not recommended during pregnancy because of the potential risk of toxoplasmosis. Meat should be cooked all the way through until there are no traces of blood or pink. Cured cold meats, such as Parma ham, chorizo, salami and pepperoni which have not been cooked, could also contain toxoplasmosis-causing parasites so are best to be avoided. Liver and foods containing liver, like paté or haggis, are also not recommended as they contain a lot of vitamin A, which has been associated with birth defects (very rarely). The same applies to supplements or fish oils containing high levels of vitamin A.
Shark, swordfish or marlin contain high levels of mercury which could affect a baby’s nervous system. Tuna can also contain mercury so the recommendation is to limit the amount you eat to two steaks a week or four medium sized cans. You should also avoid having more than two portions of oily fish a week, such as salmon, trout or mackerel, because they can contain pollutants such as dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls.
Sushi is fine when you’re pregnant, as long as any raw wild fish used to make it had been frozen first. This is because, occasionally, wild fish contain parasitic worms that can make you ill, but freezing and cooking the fish makes it safe to eat. If in doubt, avoid eating the kinds that contain raw fish, such as tuna.
Caffeine is naturally found in lots of foods, such as coffee, tea (including green tea) and chocolate, and is added to some soft drinks. Some cold and flu remedies also contain caffeine. Too much caffeine can increase the chance of miscarriage slightly, with research suggesting that when trying for a baby, both men and women should limit their caffeine intake.
Experts are still unsure exactly how much, if any, alcohol is safe for you to have while you’re pregnant. The overall recommendation therefore is that the safest approach is to not drink at all while you’re expecting. Alcohol can reach the bloodstream of an unborn baby and affect growth and development at all stages.
It is important to remember that these recommendations and guidelines often change depending on the latest research. Make sure that any information you read is up to date and from a reliable source. For more information on foods to avoid when pregnancy visit the NHS’ website for their recommendations. If you’re ever unsure about anything, talk to your midwife who will give you in depth advice and recommendations on eating and drinking when pregnant.