WHAT SHOULD I EAT?
Q: I’m nearly three months pregnant and I want my baby to be super healthy. I’ve heard of foods that are dangerous to eat, and I’m so scared I ate something harmful before I even found out I was pregnant, like sushi. What should I avoid?
A: Sarah answers: A balanced diet is important for pregnant moms and the development of healthy babies. When you are pregnant, you are at greater risk for food-borne illnesses and the effects are unfortunately more serious. Luckily, there are many ways you can keep yourself and your new baby safe and healthy by choosing lower-risk foods and ensuring hygienic preparation of foods. Here’s what you need to know:
Listeriosis Listeriosis is a serious but treatable bacterial disease caused by eating infected foods. Pregnant women are at higher risk of infection. Food can be contaminated during processing, transport and storage where food hygiene is poor. Do:
✔ Use dairy products made with pasteurised milk.
✔ Refrigerate fresh and processed fish and meat.
✔ Reheat meals until steamy hot. Avoid:
✔ Unpasteurised dairy and soft cheeses e.g. Camembert and blue-veined cheeses
✔ Pre-packaged raw sprouts
✔ Deli meats
✔ Raw poultry, meat, seafood and eggs (Always cook yolks completely)
Vitamin A Vitamin A is important for the healthy development of baby’s eyes, immune system and skin. Prenatal supplements should contain 10 000IU of vitamin A in the beta-carotene form. Vitamin A in too high amounts can be harmful to your developing baby and can cause birth defects in the first trimester. Do eat lots of dark green leafy greens and orange coloured vegetables and fruit to get in enough vitamin A. Don’t overdo Vitamin A though. Avoid individual vitamin A or fish liver oil supplements and supplements containing vitamin A in the retinol form. Liver is a great food but is high in vitamin A, therefore don’t eat more than 75g per week.
Something fishy Fatty fish provide Omega 3 fatty acids, important for baby’s brain development, so plan to include two servings per week. Choose from mackerel, herring, pilchard, sardine, trout and salmon (these are low-mercury fish). Some fish have high levels of mercury which can harm your baby’s developing nervous system. Avoid swordfish, king mackerel, marlin and shark. Limit tinned tuna to 140g/ week. Ask about mercury levels when buying fish, especially imports.
Great sushi debate Uncooked fish is more likely to contain parasites and bacteria, including listeriosis. Pregnant women are more susceptible to these infections due to their weakened immune system. Some fish used in sushi may also have high mercury levels. The bottom line is that you are always taking a risk when eating sushi while you are pregnant because you will never know 100 percent that the sushi is free from bacteria or parasites.
To drink? Excessive caffeine isn’t good for you or your unborn baby. Keep your caffeine intake under 300mg a day. Limit caffeine to two cups of coffee or six cups of black tea. You could opt for rooibos or ginger teas, or make water your drink of choice. Alcohol should always be avoided during pregnancy as it can harm your growing baby.
Practise good hygiene Wash your hands with hot soapy water before and after working with food; rinse fruit and vegetables thoroughly with clean water before eating and keep kitchen surfaces, cooking utensils and appliances clean. Check sell-by and expiry dates and when you eat out, pick well-known restaurants with clean kitchens and stick to low-risk foods. In your own kitchen, keep uncooked food separate from prepared food. Uncooked food such as raw meat, fish and chicken shouldn’t come into contact with ready-to-eat food. Use different coloured chopping boards for preparation of food types: red for meat, blue for fish, green for veg. After handling raw food, make sure work surfaces are cleaned well. Don’t keep leftovers for more than four days, and refrigerate leftovers within two hours.