Food safety is important for everyone – but it is especially important for you and your unborn child. When you become pregnant, your body naturally undergoes hormonal changes, some of which also change your immune system, increasing the propensity to contracting a food borne illness. The common food – borne illnesses could be attributed to certain disease-causing bacteria, viruses or parasites such as Listeria monocytogenes, Toxoplasma gondii, Brucella species, Salmonella species and Campylobacter jejuni found in unclean, unkempt, overly processed foods.
As a pregnant woman, it is especially important that you—or those preparing your food—are always careful with food handling and preparation. Just take that extra mile to select and prepare fresh food at home to prevent contracting any of the food borne diseases. A million questions could haunt your mind regarding the safety of foods during pregnancy. Some foods are more risky for you than others. The easiest way to do this is to Check Your Steps – Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill. If you suspect that you could have a food borne illness, when in doubt, throw it out or contact your physician or healthcare professional at the earliest.
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These symptoms include:
• Acidity – it could be highly irritating
• Stomach pain or Abdominal pain
Healthy, Safe Foods includes adequate protein, vegetables, fruits, grains and dairy products – meaning food usually cooked at home with simple ingredients.
Your calorie needs will depend on your weight gain goals. Most women need an additional 350 calories a day from the second trimester.
All fresh fruits and dry fruits such as black grapes, banana, ripe mango, dates, cashew nuts, apricot etc., that provide vitamins, minerals, fiber come under category of safe foods based on composition more for the reason that they are fresh and unprocessed! Wash well before use.
Sources can be of vegetarian or non-vegetarian origin – meat, fish (seafood), eggs, pulses & legumes, beans varieties, nuts and seeds, different types of dhal
Green, orange, yellow, red colour vegetables. cabbage, cauliflower & all long green vegetables such as Tondali, Turai, Louki, Parwal, Spinach, and the watery variants such as different Gourds can be used alternately. The more the hues in your plate (am not talking of food colours though!), the better!
Make sure you look at a wide variety while choosing vegetables – a mix of colours from tri colour capsicum to red/white raddish, green/violet cabbage, green/violet eggplant (brinjal) etc. Wash well before use.
All the different forms of milk such as plain milk, curd, buttermilk, cheese, pannier, for those who get Lactose Intolerant in pregnancy –Almond milk, Soya Milk, Soya Pannier (Tofu) can help in filling-in for the Calcium, protein and other nutrients!
All types of grains such as Rice, Wheat, Ragi, other millets, Maize, Broken Wheat, Quinoa fall under the safe food banner.
Fluids: Such as fresh juices, tender coconut water, buttermilk, soups etc, Prenatal Vitamins and or Mineral Supplements as prescribed by your Obstetrician can be considered as safe since they are duly recommended and not over-the-counter prescriptions!
Must read- Is Vegan Diet Safe During Pregnancy?
Cravings for non-food items such as chalk, clay, ice cubes, sand are called pica. These foods are not healthy due to their negligible nutritional value and also their “digestive discomfort” causing attributes! You could read more about Pica in a separate post detailing about it on our blog. The heated debate on safe and unsafe foods in pregnancy is not purely medical because none of the foods discussed below have been researched extensively and proved of their extent of safety upon consumption in pregnancy.
Hence, it is better to resort to a combined decision based on your Obstetrician’s recommendation, your personal level of tolerance of a particular food and your individualized judgment on the food. Nevertheless, you must know about these and so, we have this page of information for you.
From a dietitian’s desk, normal consumption of well ripened papaya in moderate quantities during pregnancy might not pose any significant risk, but unripe or semi-ripe papaya (especially in the first trimester)/pineapple might be unsafe in pregnancy. Go by your Obstetrician’s advice.
Nutrition Health Survey says limit your intake to two cups a day. Excessive caffeine intake during pregnancy especially during the first trimester can lead to miscarriages.
According to Maternal and Child Nutrition heavy and/or frequent drinking cause birth defects, increases the risk of miscarriage, impairs mental, physical development, behavioral disorders and impaired IQ to facial disfigurement in unborn babies. It may also be a contributing factor for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
Intake of dairy products during pregnancy is good. It helps to supplement your calcium requirements. FDA says unpasteurized milk and cheese might contain bacteria (Listeriosis) which can cross the placenta, reach the fetus and increase the chances of miscarriage.
Pregnant women crave for mouth watering, delicious and colorful street foods which can be a potential source of food-borne illness. Street foods can be eaten occasionally when a “crazy craving” peeps in. Adding flavor enhancers such as ajinomoto, MSG are generally regarded as unsafe when indulged regularly, as it destroys brain cells and might prove harmful for the developing fetus brain.
Check Your Steps: Carefully read food labels while in the store to make sure food is not past “Date of Expiry”, “Best If Used By (or Before)”,
• Don’t buy food displayed in unsafe or unclean conditions. Stay “Food Safe” When traveling
• Ensure packed foods do not appear in puffed packages!
• If in doubt, make another selection!
• Cook food safely – wash it well, cut it as required and subject it to right methods of cooking
• Keep food at safe temperature – Cooling leftover food in the fridge rather than the bench.
• Avoid cross contamination – Wash your hands, chopping boards and knives after handling raw foods
• Practice personal hand hygiene
• Avoid excess use of table salt
• Diet Soda / Diet Pepsi
Make safe food choices and safe food handling a priority while pregnant— and make it a lifelong commitment to help protect you and your family from food borne illness.
Must read - Is It Safe To Diet During Pregnancy?