WHAT SHOULD I EAT?

Your Pregnancy - - Q&A Month -

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.

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