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What to feed a pregnant womanCreated by Verity in Feeding & Sleeping, Health and Safety
One thing you can be sure of, your pregnant daughter or daughter-in-law will be overloaded with information on how she should look after herself, from doctors, midwives and health visitors. But when she comes to eat at your home, is it safe to offer cheese, eggs, fish?
A balanced diet
According to the Food Standards Agency, it’s important for pregnant women, as for everyone else, to eat a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of variety, including:
- plenty of fruit and vegetables (fresh, frozen, tinned, dried, juice), aiming for at least five portions (each a different variety) every day
- plenty of starchy foods such as bread, pasta, rice and potatoes – choosing wholegrain options where appropriate
- plenty of fibre – this helps prevent constipation and is found in wholegrain bread, pasta and rice, pulses, fruit and vegetables
- some foods rich in protein such as lean meat and chicken, fish, eggs and pulses (such as beans and lentils)
- some dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt, which contain calcium (but see notes below about acceptable types of cheese and pasteurisation).
It’s also a good idea for pregnant women to cut down on foods such as cakes and biscuits, because these are high in fat and sugar. Cutting these out can also help them to avoid putting on too much weight during pregnancy.
Healthy snacks to have instead include:
- malt loaf
- currant buns without icing
- sandwiches or pitta bread filled with reduced fat cottage cheese, chicken or lean ham
- low-fat yoghurts
- vegetable and bean soups
- fruit: fresh, tinned in juice or dried such as raisins or apricots.
What to avoid serving
If you’re cooking a meal and there’s going to be a pregnant woman at the table, here’s a simple list of what you shouldn’t serve. All the pitfalls are easy to steer clear of.
Certain types of fish
Although pregnant women can eat most fish, they should avoid certain types due to mercury contamination (shark, swordfish and marlin) and limit the amount they eat of some others (including tuna, oily fish and crab). The Food Standards Agency website has more information on recommended limits on eating fish during pregnancy. If you’re thinking of serving fish, it’s always worth checking with any pregnant visitors beforehand.
All dairy products containing unpasteurised milk. These include yoghurts, cream and crème fraîche. Hard cheeses such as Cheddar and Parmesan should be fine for pregnant women to eat whether pasteurised or not.
Avoid soft mould-ripened cheeses such as camembert, brie, chèvre (a type of goats’ cheese) and other cheeses with a similar rind. Pregnant women should also avoid soft blue cheese.
Choose instead other soft cheeses (e.g. feta, ricotta) and hard cheeses like Cheddar.
Raw or partially cooked eggs
Avoid food containing raw or partially cooked eggs, such as home-made mayonnaise. Wellcooked eggs (that is, cooked until yolk and white are solid) are fine, and shop-bought mayonnaise is usually made with pasteurised eggs, which are risk-free.
Raw or under-cooked meat
Make sure it’s well cooked until steaming hot all the way through and none of the meat is pink.
Well-cooked shellfish is fine.
Liver and anything made from liver
Liver is rich in vitamin A, which can be harmful to babies and needs to be avoided.
Pâtés of any kind, even vegetable
Pâtés can harbour Listeria bacteria, which are dangerous to babies.
Undercooked ready meals
Follow instructions on the packet and make sure they are steaming hot all the way through when served. If microwaving them, ensure that you stir thoroughly before serving.
Some useful websites