Are you confused about what you can and can't eat during pregnancy? So are we! Nutritionist Leanne Cooper helps set us straight.
Eating healthily during pregnancy helps baby's growth, development and well-being. Not only must you eat well, but you need to eat carefully, avoiding unsafe foods, for both you and your baby's well-being. But has your internet surfng left you confused? Even the most well-trained of us can still be mystified about what can be eaten during pregnancy and what can't. Accessing consistent advice or making an informed decision can be confusing. I've gathered some tips that might help to clarify the issue and leave you feeling more confident in those early stages of parental responsibility.
Do I have to give up Camembert cheese?
So what is listeria?
Listeria monocytogenes infection can cause a mild unwellness during pregnancy. However, it can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth or issues with the foetus. High-risk foods include:
Is a coffee or a cuppa safe?
Now, few would tell you that you have to give up your one a day coffee or tea, however, a word of caution is warranted if you are a heavy drinker of caffeinated drinks. Alertness is a good thing at relevant times of the day. However, if you are finding pregnancy or baby is keeping you awake already, you may need to look at either timing or amount of caffeine-containing drinks.
More importantly though, there has been some research suggesting that excessive intake of caffeine increases the risks of miscarriage. Recommendations put a safe level at two cups of coffee and four cups of tea a day. 'Energy' drinks are not recommended during pregnancy as some can have very high levels of caffeine and may contain ingredients not suitable for pregnancy. Don't worry if you have been over-indulging, the evidence is still unclear and of course everyone and every pregnancy is different.
Tips to reduce your caffeine intake and its effect:
What about the odd tipple?
There is now clear evidence that consuming alcohol during pregnancy can affect foetal development, as it's linked to low birthweight, miscarriage and other serious concerns. Most agencies have updated their recommendations to total avoidance of alcohol during pregnancy.
Reducing allergy in the family
In the past, avoiding allergy-causing foods was thought to be a good way to reduce the risk of your child being allergic. While research doesn't support that altering your diet while pregnant will reduce this risk, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence. The important thing to remember is that if anything is removed from the diet you should replace it with a healthy option. Each food group has specific nutrient properties, so it is important to ensure you maintain a balanced diet.
Latest estimates suggest that we are eating around 6g or more of salt a day in Australia and around 9 grams in NZ (3g is about a teaspoon), and that ideally we should get this figure under 4g a day (1600 mg of sodium, salt being a combination of both sodium and chloride). Most of the salt we consume comes from processed foods (around 65-75%). Low-salt foods (foods with up to 120 mg of sodium per 100g of food) are standard recommendations for children and adults. Packaged foods with less than 120mg per 100g are a rarity, so monitoring your intake of both salt and processed foods during pregnancy is likely to be beneficial.
Many natural foods contain simple carbohydrates/sugars and each simple sugar has an important function. For example, fruit sugar (fructose) aids recovery after exercise; breastmilk has a simple sugar called galactose, which with lactose is important for immunity; and blood sugar (glucose) fuels our brain. So to say that all sugars are bad is simply not true. What we do need to take care with is how much simple sugars represent of our daily diet (up to about 10% of calories can come from simple sugars).