Written by Karli Steenkamp
A very exciting time in one’s life is when you receive a positive test result and you have a little baby growing inside you. Everyone wants to give advice and you’ve probably heard before that what you eat is what your baby eats. While trying to maintain a healthy diet when pregnant, one must be aware of certain food groups that can change this wonderful time into a raging nightmare. You have to be more cautious about what you eat and where you eat. Certain foods are best to avoid completely.
Cheese and crackers are a great snack to fill an empty stomach. However, soft cheeses are made of unpasteurised milk, which can contain harmful bacteria like Listeria. Listeria is particularly harmful to pregnant women because of a compromised immune system. This can have major health risks to your baby. Avoid cheeses like Brie, Camembert, feta and blue cheese unless the label states that it is pasteurised.
Fresh isn’t always better. Fresh juice contains harmful bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli. They are not as harmful as Listeria but can still put you and the baby’s health at risk.
Undercooked meat and Deli meats
‘Raw’ and ‘tender’ needs to be removed from your vocabulary when it comes to meat. All meat needs to be cooked thoroughly to avoid the disease Toxoplasma caused by a parasite. Toxoplasma can cause problems with the brain or eyes. Deli meats such as cold cuts and hot dogs need to be avoided. Listeria is a bacterium that can grow inside the fridge. Pâté and meat spreads also need to be avoided.
Unwashed fruits and vegetables
Rinse fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water to get rid of any parasites that can cause Toxoplasma. It is advised to stay away from cantaloupe, raw sprouts and radish as bacteria can get into the seeds before they start growing.
Seafood, fish and sushi
Don’t eat raw seafood. Make sure all fish is cooked before consuming. Avoid fish that are high in mercury like King Mackerel, shark and swordfish. High levels of mercury can be harmful to the development of your baby. Smoked salmon should be avoided because of the way it is prepared. Don’t eat fish from local water as local lakes are usually polluted.
Sushi is made with raw fish and if the preparation area is not cleaned properly, it can grow bacteria.
Unpasteurised milk and eggs
It is very important to make sure that everything is pasteurised. Homemade Caesar dressing or mayonnaise, tiramisu, mousse and meringues need to be made with pasteurised eggs.
Be careful when taking food home. Make sure it does not stay in a hot car. If possible, get it in a fridge within two hours of preparation.
If you love coffee and chocolate, this might be a hard one for you. Evidence has shown that a pregnant woman can consume less than 200 mg of caffeine per day. Remember that tea, sodas and chocolate also contain caffeine. Choose your intake wisely.
No amount of drinking has been found safe during pregnancy. Alcohol can lead to birth defects so it’s best to lay off completely.
Bacteria and parasites can cause health risks to you and your baby. Do your best to not feel overwhelmed by the list of foods you’re not allowed to eat. Ensure that you have a plan on what food to eat. Is it cooked? Is it well-prepared? Is it pasteurised? Plan your diet wisely and in advance. A healthy mind and body leaves a healthy baby.