Eating a balanced and nutritious diet will not only put a pep in your step during pregnancy, but it will also help with the development and health of your unborn baby. By eating from the five food groups and including some extra special elements in your diet, you’re giving your bub-to-be the best possible start to life.
Here are some food choices (and avoidances) that will make you feel good during pregnancy, and will nurture your unborn baby in utero and beyond.
Fruit and vegetables: Dig in!
It’s important to eat a wide variety of fruit and veg, in all different colours and varieties. Your developing baby and pregnant body need all the nutrients that come with varied types of fresh food.
Leafy greens: Pick of the bunch
Broccoli, spinach and salad greens (plus chick peas, nuts, orange juice and dried beans) are especially great for pregnant women. This is because they contain folate – a B vitamin that helps prevent neural tube defects, like spina bifida, in your baby.
It’s important to consume folate for two months before getting pregnant and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Red meat: Iron woman food
Your body needs extra iron when pregnant and eating lean beef or lamb is a fab way to increase your intake. Other sources of iron are poultry, fish, some cereals, eggs, cooked legumes, dried fruit and green vegies (is there anything greens can’t do?)
Orange juice: A winning combination
As well as containing folate, orange juice is a great source of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps you absorb iron, so drink a glass of OJ while eating your steak or greens. And try to limit your caffeine consumption because tea, coffee and cola can reduce the body’s absorption of iron.
Milk and cheese: Calcium enriched
In the third trimester, it’s important for your unborn child to get plenty of calcium, because this is when their bones are strengthening. Pregnant women should have two serves of dairy food per day, such as milk, hard cheese, yoghurt and calcium enriched soy milk.
Bread: Wholegrain hero
It’s important to eat plenty of grain foods, especially wholegrain and high fibre types, to keep you healthy (and regular) while pregnant.
Most Australian bread also includes iodine, which is a good thing, because an iodine deficiency in pregnancy can affect learning, motor skills and hearing development in your bub. Discuss your iodine needs with your doctor.
Fish: A great catch
Fish contains protein, minerals, vitamin B12 and iodine, so it’s a fab food for pregnancy (and breastfeeding). It’s also packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which help develop bub’s central nervous system. Mackerel, Atlantic salmon and canned tuna in oil are high in omega-3 and low in mercury.
However, some fish come with an unwanted extra – mercury. If you like shark (flake), broadbill, marlin and swordfish, only eat them once per fortnight and only eat orange roughy (sea perch) and catfish, once per week.
A pregnant pause
On the flip side, there are foods that you should take off the menu until after bub is born, to avoid harmful bacteria, like listeria or salmonella. Don’t worry, though, your old friend, triple cream brie will be there for you after your pregnancy is over!
Processed meat: Best served hot
If you’re craving processed meat, like salami or ham, then make sure it’s been cooked well (heated to 75 degrees Celsius) and that you eat it straight away. It’s best to avoid cold poultry meat too, like chicken and turkey slices.
Raw meat: Skip the carpaccio
Uncooked meat probably isn’t a popular food choice, but if you’re pregnant, definitely avoid eating raw chicken, beef, pork or any uncooked meat.
Paté: Take a pass
It’s best to avoid refrigerated paté and meat spreads during pregnancy.
Seafood: Say “no” to sashimi
You should avoid raw seafood and ready-to-eat prawns (chilled and peeled). Store-bought sushi is also a no-no, but if you’re craving sushi, there is the option of making your own, without raw fish, and eating it straight away. Cucumber nori rolls all round!
Cheese: Harden up
Soft and semi-soft cheeses (like brie, camembert, ricotta and feta) should only be eaten if they’ve been cooked to 75 degrees Celsius and are snacked on soon after. The good news is that hard cheese, kept in the fridge, is ok to eat and a great source of calcium.
Ice-cream: Play it cool
Normal frozen ice-cream is fine (yay!), but give soft serve and deep-fried ice-cream a miss while pregnant.
Dairy and eggs: Remove if raw
If you normally drink unpasteurised milk, then give this a wide berth. Raw dairy products are not recommended during pregnancy and neither are raw eggs. This means runny poached eggs, aioli, chocolate mousse, cake batter and homemade mayonnaise are best skipped while pregnant.
Fruit and veg: Sidestep the salad bar
Make sure you wash all fruit and vegetables before eating, and avoid ordering pre-prepared salads and fruit salads while pregnant. Take a break from raw or lightly cooked sprouts too.
Stuffing: The inside info
Stuffing is delicious with a roast, however, it’s best to avoid stuffing from chicken, turkey and other poultry unless it’s been cooked separately and is eaten hot.
There are several foods that pregnant women can eat with caution (hello leftovers!). Read more at The NSW Food Authority.