A healthy diet is especially important if you’re pregnant – this means choosing the right food and drinks, avoiding or limiting others and knowing how to prepare and store them safely.
Foods to Avoid:
While it’s important to store and prepare all your food carefully, some types of food have a higher risk for food poisoning than others and should be avoided when you’re pregnant.
Foods to avoid during pregnancy include:
- Processed or ready-to-eat cold meats (e.g. pre-sliced deli ham, salami or chicken) – these types of foods may contain food poisoning bacteria which can be spread by the slicing, dicing and shredding processes
- Soft cheeses (e.g. brie, camembert, feta and ricotta)
- Refrigerated pâté and meat spreads
- Pre-cut fruit, pre-packaged salads and unpasteurised juices – additional handling, processing and storage can lead to contamination. It’s best to wash and prepare fresh fruit and vegetables yourself, or use canned or frozen varieties and pasteurised juices
- Cold smoked seafood, pre-cooked prawns and raw seafood (including oysters and sushi)
- Seed sprouts such as alfalfa
- Soft serve ice cream which is usually kept refrigerated rather than frozen allowing any harmful bacteria to grow – try hard frozen ice cream or gelato instead
- Foods containing raw or runny eggs
- Undercooked meat and poultry.
Foods to limit
Some fish may contain mercury which can harm your baby’s developing nervous system – but this only becomes a problem if you eat certain types of fish too often.
Eating 2-3 serves of fish and seafood a week is an important part of a healthy diet when you are pregnant – but the fish should be low in mercury. If you don’t know the type of fish you are buying or eating check with the retailer or restaurant first.
The following advice can help you safely include fish in your diet:
|Type of fish||Serves* / frequency|
|Any fish/seafood not listed below||· 2-3 serves per week|
Orange roughy (deep sea perch) or catfish
· No more than 1 serve per week
· No other fish that week
|Shark (flake), marlin or broadbill (swordfish)||
· No more than 1 serve per fortnight
· No other fish that fortnight
*1 serve equals 150 g for adults and is equivalent to approximately two frozen crumbed fish portions
Source: Food Standards Australia New Zealand
Drinks to avoid or limit
It’s best to limit your daily caffeine intake to about 200 mg – that’s equivalent to about 1-2 cups of expresso style coffee, 4 cups of tea or 4 cups of hot chocolate each day.
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can affect your baby’s development and increases the risk of miscarriage. There is no safe alcohol level – so not drinking while pregnant is recommended.
For further information see Smoking and Drinking.
Don’t forget good food hygiene
Remember when you are cooking or handling food, good food hygiene is the best way to prevent food poisoning and other foodborne infections – so always:
- Wash your hands before and after preparing food
- Keep food preparation surface areas clean
- Clean fruit and vegetables before eating
- Thoroughly cook food
- Avoid cooked food becoming contaminated by raw food
- Store food at the correct temperature
- Keep pets off kitchen benches.
For a healthy diet it’s important to choose from a wide range of foods to meet all your nutritional needs. Try to avoid and limit risky foods, as discussed above, and ensure all foods are prepared, cooked and stored correctly. If you are concerned about what to eat or how to handle any type of food talk to your doctor or midwife.
For information on what to eat during pregnancy, see Pregnancy Nutrition – What to Eat.