Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is essential during your pregnancy. While your little one can benefit from all the healthy nutrients you’re feasting on, they can also be affected by unsafe foods, like undercooked meat or raw seafood. When establishing your pregnancy diet, be sure to steer clear of the following foods – no matter how tempting!

Unpasteurised dairy

Soft and semi-soft cheeses like Brie, Camembert, feta and other blue-veined or mould-ripened types are unsafe during pregnancy. Since these are usually made with mould and unpasteurised milk, they can contain listeria, a type of bacteria that may harm your little one. Unless they are cooked thoroughly (atop that delicious cheesy pizza) and eaten soon afterwards, steer clear. The good news is that hard cheeses are still okay, so stick to your parmesans and cheddars to be safe!

Raw or partially cooked eggs

Raw eggs can be contaminated with salmonella. So, if you’re heading to brunch, skip the lightly poached and go for the hard-boiled, ensuring they are cooked thoroughly. While avoiding raw eggs is mostly common knowledge, it’s equally essential to steer clear of foods that may contain raw or unpasteurised eggs, such as homemade mayonnaise, hollandaise, some salad dressings, raw batter and cookie dough. To be safe, check the label, ask before ordering and always opt for pasteurised, well-refrigerated eggs. 

Raw or underdone meat

So long to those juicy, tender cuts of meat – for now! During your pregnancy, you’ll need to avoid raw, rare or any pink or reddish traces in your meat and go for the medium-well to well-done plate instead. Undercooked meat (and poultry) can harbour harmful bacteria, such as E. coli, salmonella and trichinella, or the Toxoplasma parasite that causes toxoplasmosis. To avoid the spread of harmful bugs, be sure to wash your hands as well as all surfaces and utensils thoroughly after preparing raw meat.

Raw, seared or uncooked seafood

Before you visit your local sushi joint, keep in mind that uncooked seafood is off-limits during your pregnancy. Since there is a higher risk of ingesting harmful bacteria or parasites, you’ll have to resist from ordering raw oysters, clams, sashimi, smoked or ready-to-eat prawns, carpaccios and so on. There’s no need to boycott your favourite Japanese restaurant, though; just opt for cooked seafood or vegetables instead, ensuring that seafood is thoroughly cooked through. Fish should flake and shellfish should be firm.

High-mercury fish

Fish is loaded with mood-boosting and brain-boosting properties, like protein and omega-3 fatty acids, so it’s easy to get confused about which types are unsafe. In short, avoid (or limit your intake of) fish that are high in mercury, including shark, swordfish, orange roughy, broadbill, catfish and marlin. In most cases, these types of fish should only be consumed once a fortnight, but it’s best to check this with your doctor first.

Other foods to avoid:

· Pâté, including vegetable pâtés, as they can contain listeria.
· Pre-packaged salads, as they pose a higher risk of listeria contamination.
· Sprouted seeds such as bean sprouts or snow pea sprouts (unless thoroughly cooked).
· Packaged ready-to-eat meats or cold deli meats.

If you have any doubts, questions or concerns regarding your health or diet during pregnancy, consult your doctor. Beyond telling you what to avoid, they can also help you establish healthy eating habits that will best serve you and your baby. In the meantime, be sure to ask before you order and check the label twice so that you’re well-aware of the ingredients you’re consuming.

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