You Can’t Eat That When You’re Pregnant!
For many of us mums-to-be, an increased appetite is one of the best perks of pregnancy! But before letting your inner Singaporean foodie rejoice, ensure the optimal health of both baby and you by avoiding the following.
Raw/Undercooked/Processed Meat, Fish & Eggs
Pregnancy puts you at a higher risk of food-borne illnesses because of changes in your metabolism. Raw and undercooked foods may contain bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella. If infected, expectant mothers may experience debilitating food poisoning, which in turn affects their baby’s health.
For this reason, many doctors advise avoiding sashimi or rare steaks even if you crave them! Be mindful of raw eggs in sauces and salad dressings too. Ensure food is cooked thoroughly and eaten hot, especially processed meat such as deli meat.
Fish with High Mercury Levels
Abstain from deep-sea fish such as shark, swordfish, etc. They can contain high levels of mercury which is toxic to your baby’s developing nervous system. Instead, stick to low-level mercury fish which contain omega-3 fatty acids crucial for baby’s brain development.
Unpasteurised Cheese, Milk & Juice
Unpasteurised foods, such as soft cheeses like brie, are at risk of being contaminated with bacteria such as Listeria. Listeria can cause food poisoning or even lead to miscarriage or stillbirth. Unfortunately, it is thus best to avoid fresh fruit juice from your favourite hawker juice stall; try juicing store-bought fruits at home instead and buy only pasteurised milk from grocery stores.
Herbal Supplements and Teas
Contrary to many Asian traditions, herbal supplements are often discouraged by doctors during pregnancy. While small amounts of supplements like chicken essence are considered fine, there is a lack of studies on their effects on the developing baby. It is therefore very important to consult your doctor before starting on any.
Similarly, do the same before drinking any herbal teas, even those sold specifically for pregnant women. Be mindful of potentially unsafe herbs and caffeine levels in these teas.
Unwashed Vegetables/Fruits & Raw Sprouts
Vegetables and fruits are vital during pregnancy, but do wash all of them thoroughly before eating or cooking them! They may be contaminated with bacteria such as Listeria or Toxoplasma from the soil, so practice ordering fresh salad dishes from hygienic sources only. Raw sprouts such as taugeh may also contain high levels of germs, so do cook them thoroughly.
High alcohol amounts cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in infants, with devastating life-long effects. As there is yet to be an experts’ consensus on a safe amount of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, it is advised to stay away from alcohol completely.
When in Doubt
If you’re unsure about safe consumption, it is best to err on the side of caution and avoid that food or drink. After all, in just 9 months you’ll freely get to eat all these foods once again!
Most importantly, even with these restrictions, do try to eat a balanced diet with five servings of fruits and veggies daily. Now is also not the time to diet, so get your adequate fill of protein, calcium, water and a prenatal vitamin each day. Your body and baby will thank you for the right nutrition!