Clean, cook and chill to stay well
When you’re pregnant there are things that might stress you out, but you and your baby getting sick from preparing, cooking or eating food shouldn’t be one. Being aware of the risks and knowing how to avoid them is the best thing you can do for your developing baby’s health.
In extreme cases, foodborne illness can make baby unwell, cause premature or even stillborn births. So it’s worth knowing which foods to avoid and how to prepare food safely at home. Following basic food safety guidelines when handling food helps prevent pathogens (bugs) getting into your food.
Immunity levels are lower than usual when pregnant, so be careful. Every year, around 200,000 New Zealander’s get food poisoning, with around half of these occurring in homes. However, it’s easy to keep you and your baby safe by following the 3Cs - clean, cook, chill. Just like parenting (except for the chill part!).
Wash hands, chopping boards, utensils and surfaces before and after preparing food (especially after handling raw meat or unwashed veges).
Cook meat and poultry thoroughly, until juices run clear.
Cover, separate cooked and raw meat, and chill in the fridge. Put raw meat at the bottom so raw juices don’t drip on other food. Ideally your fridge temperature should be between 2°C and 4°C. Don’t leave food out for more than two hours. If in doubt – chuck it out.
As well as taking care with how you prepare food at home, you also need to be careful about what you eat. Most foods sold in New Zealand are safe. But some, such as soft cheeses, raw (unpasteurised) cheese, raw drinking milk, raw seafood and processed cold meats, have a higher risk of causing illness and should be avoided while you're pregnant.
If you’re getting takeaways or eating out, make sure the food is well cooked, steaming hot and freshly prepared (it’s also not a bad idea to let the wait staff know you’re pregnant, to make sure they take extra care).
While out and about, it’s also best to avoid ordering anything with raw eggs in it such as mayonnaise, hollandaise sauce and Caesar dressing. And, to top it all off, there’s a no-go list of foods which are best avoided while out. This includes, pre-made salad, sushi and pre-made sandwiches. You’ll also have to give the cold shoulder to cold meats, pâté or cold, smoked fish. While you might have a hankering to try and clock the dessert bar at your local buffet, you should also avoid eating food from buffets, smorgasbords, or self-serve salad bars, as the risks are harder to manage in these situations.
It seems a bit unfair that these foods are often the things we crave the most while pregnant. But keeping in mind the bigger picture of a “healthy mum, healthy baby” is the best incentive there is! It’s not all bad as chocolate and potato chips are totally fine, and once baby is born you can eat all the soft cheese and sushi you like—even having it delivered bedside as you recover from delivery as some mums do.
For more information and a comprehensive list of foods that are best to avoid (as well as hints and tips about safely satisfying those cravings) check out: www.foodsafety.govt.nz/ccc