What fresh hell is this? You knew being pregnant would mean changes to your body, morning sickness that would stretch to bedtime, and spending a small fortune on things, you’d never even knew existed before.
What you hadn’t counted on was the barrage of helpful suggestions proffered to you on a near-daily basis by relatives, colleagues, and near strangers. For some reason, people like to point out what you can’t eat or drink anymore, causing you to wonder why do they take such delight in telling you? I mean, mostly they are right. But it might be less annoying if they didn’t assume you to be totally green on this.
Or are you? Did you know that, from now until the birth, Gorgonzola and Roquefort are off the menu, but that Halloumi is perfectly safe to eat when pregnant? Or that you will have to demote your daily tuna sandwich to a twice-weekly one? Or that listeria might be lurking in not just liver, but also vegetable pâté?
No? Well then, you’ve come to the right place.
The three times I went through this, I found that eating out was tricky. You’re never quite sure if some cheeses are pasteurized, and delicatessen places were a nightmare. I found it so frustrating, I researched it thoroughly and compiled a list of safe food and drinks you can consume.
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What to eat and drink when pregnant
It’s important to keep your fluids up when pregnant, so drink around 8 glasses a day. Fluids are important when pregnant; they help prevent common pregnancy problems such as bladder infections, constipation, and hemorrhoids. (Water dilutes urine, which reduces the risk of infection.)
While you might be tempted to hold back on fluids when you suffer from water retention, don’t. Sometimes fluid retention can result from not drinking enough, as your body will hang on to more fluid if it doesn’t get enough hydration. So, if you suffer from swollen feet and ankles (‘Edema’ is excess fluid that collects in your body tissues), you could try increasing your water intake. If the swelling comes on suddenly or is excessive, contact your local health provider immediately, as this can be a sign of preeclampsia.
Healthy & safe drinks when pregnant
Consume lots of water! Plain water is the healthiest drink for you as it doesn’t contain sugar, sweeteners, or any chemicals you find in soft drinks.
If you feel you might not be able to do 8 glasses a day, try adding some lemon slices (make sure you wash the peel thoroughly). Or make yourself a big jug of cucumber and mint water and store it in your fridge; this will encourage you to drink lots.
Make sure you always have a carton of this in your fridge. It contains calcium, riboflavin, manganese, and vitamin c, among other things. It also prevents dehydration and can even lower blood pressure.
If unpasteurized milk is the only milk available, then boil it first to make it safe for you to drink. The same goes for sheep- and goat’s milk.
Buttermilk is safe to drink during pregnancy, providing it is made from pasteurized milk. If you can abide by the taste, then do drink it for its many health benefits. Did you know that this probiotic drink can improve your immune system and reduce the chances of diarrhea? No, me neither. Rich in calcium, it’s suitable for the bone development of your baby, and it reduces the risk of hypertension (in your baby).
Also, there’s nothing like a cold glass of buttermilk when you’re hot and bothered during a summer pregnancy. It may even reduce your blood pressure. While there are plenty of health benefits to drinking buttermilk, keep your intake to two glasses a day maximum, as too much of it can increase the fat content of your body.
Pasteurized vegetable and fruit juice
Most shop-bought fruit and vegetable juices are pasteurized, but when you’re at a farmers’ market, smoothie bar, or a health food store, give unlabelled bottles of the stuff a miss. If you are given one by a well-meaning friend, then put it on a rolling boil for at least one minute before drinking it. (Though you might want to wait until after she has gone home.)
You can juice your own fruit and vegetables, but make sure you wash everything thoroughly, even the skin that you cut off, as bacteria can transfer through the peel. Also, bruised or damaged areas are breeding grounds for bacteria, so cut them away. Washing fruits and vegetables before juicing save you having to boil it.
Coffee and black tea alternative: herbal tea
While pregnant, you must cut down on caffeine. As coffee and black tea contain caffeine, a safe alternative can be herbal tea. Be careful, not all herbal teas are safe. Some contain caffeine, and some contain ingredients that have been linked to miscarriage, see here for more information. Apart from the teas listed, you should be able to drink most fruit and herbal teas. The NHS advises to drink them in moderation (one or two cups should be OK). Vary them and avoid any sleepy tea blends containing valerian.
Alcohol-free drinks for parties
Taken in moderation, fizzy drinks like these are great! When I was pregnant, I discovered these for special occasions. I mean, you can be guaranteed that there will be parties or other events during your nine months (even longer when breastfeeding) bout of abstinence, and to have a more festive alternative to water is well, nice. Feeling like you don’t stick out like a sore thumb when people around you are slowly getting inebriated is nice too.
But, while tasty, they are fizzy and contain sugar, so limit them and don’t make them a daily habit.
Or if a large G&T is your usual tipple, you might want to try this instead with tonic (not too many). This drink is non-alcoholic and is safe to drink for people on the following diets:
– Coeliacs / Gluten-Free
– Lactose Intolerants
Safe foods to eat during pregnancy
Fruits and vegetables are great for keeping up your nutrients and for your baby’s development. Just make sure they are properly washed and have no soil or visible dirt on them. If your budget is can stretch for organic produce, it would be advisable to switch whenever possible. If you are stretched financially, then consider switching to organic for these ‘dirty dozen’ veg and fruit; so-called by the Environmental Working Group who consider them to be the most contaminated by pesticides. Every year they publish the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen. These are on the 2020 list:
The clean fifteen
- sweet corn
- sweet peas (frozen)
- honeydew melon
The dirty dozen
While this list can be somewhat helpful if you’re avoiding pesticides, don’t let it freak you out. It’s important to keep up your intake of (washed) fresh fruit and vegetables to keep you and baby healthy during your pregnancy and to lay the basis for a healthy future for you and your growing family.
Pasteurized dairy products
Yogurt is excellent for calcium intake for healthy bones for you and baby, but make sure you only eat yogurt made with pasteurized milk.
Don’t eat raw eggs while pregnant to avoid the risk of salmonella. When you boil, fry or poach them, make sure the yolks and whites are cooked solid. Make sure to avoid other foods that contain raw eggs, such as mousse or homemade mayonnaise.
While cheese makes a great snack due to its high calcium content, you must avoid all unpasteurized (or raw milk) cheese when pregnant. Soft, mold-ripened, and soft, blue-veined cheeses are made from pasteurized milk, but they still are not safe to eat. These cheeses are moister than other cheeses, creating an environment for listeria bacteria to grow.
Buy cheese whole and intact, instead of at a deli- or cheese counter, to cut out the risk of cross-contamination.
Safe cheeses to eat when pregnant (according to the NHS)
- Cottage cheese
- Cream cheese
- Goats’ cheese
- Processed cheese, such as cheese spreads
While fish certainly contains good nutrients for you and the development of baby, limit your intake of the following types to maximum two portions a week:
- Oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout, herring, pilchards) as they contain pollutant
- Tuna (high levels
Limit: two thoroughly cooked fresh steaks a week or four medium (140 grams when drained) cans weekly
As a rule of thumb, avoid all raw and undercooked meat and poultry. Eating these foods can put you at risk of contracting toxoplasmosis and salmonella. If possible, opt for organic grass-fed meat which is free of antibiotics, lower in fat, and higher in protein than conventional meat. Also, organic poultry is less likely to carry salmonella, because free-range chickens aren’t held in cramped and disease-breeding quarters, unlike their regular cousins. In saying that, not all meats are safe to eat during pregnancy.
Bread and cereals
Safe to eat but do check the sugar content of your daily cereal and replace it with a lower sugar variety if you can.
Pulses (beans, peas and lentils)
These are a great source of protein, especially when you are a vegetarian or vegan.
Rice, pasta and other grains: couscous, quinoa and bulgur
Safe to eat, but switch to wholegrain if possible.
Safe to eat but use them boiled or baked rather than fried.
Pregnant and in a tizzy about what you need to get done before your baby arrives? Fret no more, here are our to-do plans for each trimester: