There is a lot of misinformation out there about what you can and can’t eat during pregnancy. As soon as you see that beautiful positive sign appear on your pregnancy test, a hoard of friends, relatives, strangers and healthcare professionals will storm through your front door and confiscate all of your favourite foods. Your fridge will be bare and pitiful by the time they’re finished with you, and you’ll be left craving a list of the delicious prohibited foods.
Many people are confused as to what foods they can and can’t eat during pregnancy. You may find that have cut foods from your diet unnecessarily because of misinformation. Though there are some foods that should be avoided during pregnancy, the list is not nearly as exhaustive as many people think.
The Truth About Listeria
Listeria is a bacteria that can contaminate food. Eating contaminated food can lead to an infection known as listeriosis. In most people, listeriosis is a mild illness that lasts three days and does not require treatment. Symptoms include fever, vomiting and diarrhoea. In rare cases, the infection can spread leading to complications such as meningitis.
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, and pregnancy and birth complications. It is estimated that around one in five cases of listeriosis during pregnancy result in the death of the baby. It is important to bear in mind, however, that listeriosis is as incredibly rare infection.
Dr Andrew Orr from Shen Therapies in Brisbane is highly qualified to provide advice on pregnancy dietary matters. He is a leading integrative medicine specialist who has a Masters in Reproductive Medicine as well as Women’s Health. He also holds a Bachelor of Health Science, is a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine, a fully qualified chef and dietician, and much more! He says: “We only see about five cases per million people in Australia. Basically, there is about 0.3-0.4% chance of getting it, yet we make such a big deal about it. This is not to discount it, however.
But if a health issue such as Listeria poisoning is so rare, why do we make such a fuss about it and not warn women of other potentially worse factors that cause more cases per year, and can be potentially fatal too. For example, gestational diabetes, which affects over 15,000 pregnant women each year, with an annual increase of around 5%. Pregnant women can eat sugary foods, highly processed foods and grains, all of which are believed to be a major cause of diabetes, and yet nobody says a thing. Mention the word brie, however, and everyone chimes in with disgust!”
What Can You Eat During Pregnancy?
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 to it during pregnancy. Temperatures between 5 and 60 degrees are ideal for bacteria, so it’s important that your food is always stored at below 5 degrees, and cooked at a heat over 60 degrees.
Dr Orr has identified the following foods that many pregnant women avoid, which are actually safe to consume during pregnancy:
- Cryovacced deli meats – as long as they are in date and cryovacced (wrapped in airtight packaging) they should be free from bacteria
- Seafood that is fresh and cooked
- Pasteurised cheese. Soft cheese is ok as long as it has been cooked
- Pasteurised or UHT milk
- Soft serve ice-cream is safe if hygienically stored. For example, McDonald’s stores have a strict hygiene policy where the machines are washed and cleaned every day. Dr Orr recommends avoiding ice-cream trucks because they aren’t regularly inspected for food standards. However it’s important to be mindful of sugar consumption and not go overboard!
- Nuts – not only are these safe, there is evidence to suggest that avoiding nuts during pregnancy may actually cause nut allergies
- Cooked eggs
- Cooked chicken is safe, but it must be properly cooked all the way through to avoid the risk of salmonella
- Cooked meats
- Tea and coffee is fine, but make sure you limit yourself to just two cups a day
You should try to to eat a healthy, balanced diet during pregnancy. It’s important that both you and your baby receive enough essential nutrients for healthy development. Pregnancy is worrying enough, without obsessing over the foods you eat.
Dr Orr’s Top Eight Tips For Eating Well During Pregnancy
Dr Orr advises pregnant women on how to eat well during pregnancy. Here are some tips to ensure you are eating a healthy, balanced diet:
1. Take a top quality, practitioner strength prenatal vitamin daily (Dr. Orr has his own formula, however if you need to access one elsewhere, skip the supermarkets and go straight to a naturopath or other health practitioner for the best formulas).
2. Drink eight glasses of water every day
3. Include two handful of mixed nuts in your daily diet, or two tablespoons of healthy oils such as olive, coconut or flax seed oil.
4. Limit your grains to a maximum of just one portion a day.
5. Eat two pieces of fruit, and three servings of vegetables or salads each day. Include foods rich in minerals in your daily diet. Minerals such as potassium, magnesium and calcium are found in a wide range of foods including baked potatoes, baked sweet potatoes and green leafy vegetables.
6. Make sure protein is included in every meal and snack you eat throughout the day.
7. Exercise for at least 30 minutes, three times a week. Yoga, swimming and walking are great beginner exercises to try during pregnancy.
8. Avoid all diet drinks and artificial sweeteners.