Everyone knows that pregnancy does some odd things to your body – and if you are (UN) lucky enough to get them, weird food cravings are usually top of the list.
However, there are certain foods that you should try to steer clear of while you are carrying baby – and some of them might surprise you…
1. Herbal Tea
Yep, this one shocked me too. I would have thought that a nice cup of chamomile tea is just what the doctor ordered when you’re feeling the strain of lumping a growing human being round with you everywhere! Apparently, not so.
The NHS recommends limiting herbal tea products during pregnancy due to a ‘lack of research’ into their effects, and because many of them contain caffeine (this is particularly true of green tea).
2. Soft Cheese
(but the only mold ripened or the type with white rind!)
I wanted to include this one because a lot of people think that you have to avoid all soft cheese during pregnancy, but happily, that isn’t the case!
While you should steer clear of anything with blue veins (Stilton, Danish Blue, etc.), and anything that has a white ‘rind’ (sadly, that means that Camembert and Brie are both off the cheese board), all other soft cheeses are perfectly safe.
This means that goat’s cheese, ricotta, halloumi, and paneer are all An OK for consumption during pregnancy. Result!
Yep, pate is definitely off the menu while you are storing your little one. Believe it or not, this also includes vegetarian and vegan pates – this is because it’s not the content of the pate that’s the problem, but the fact that due to the moisture content, bacteria breed quickly in it.
It’s another food product that is the perfect breeding ground for listeria, which is obviously bad news for baby.
Although the chances of contracting listeria from pate are statistically low, it’s still better to avoid it, just to be on the safe side.
4. Raw or Undercooked Meat
Some of you might be looking at this and thinking “Well, I’d never eat raw meat in the first place!”. However, you’d be surprised how many people do enjoy things like steak tartare and bleu steak – both of which are very risky for pregnant ladies.
This time, the risk is not from listeria but actually from Toxoplasmosis – you may have heard of this before, as it’s a parasite usually associated with cats. Whatever the source, it’s something that is better avoided during pregnancy and at all other times.
You can help to avoid toxoplasmosis and a host of other illnesses during your pregnancy by ensuring that all surfaces and utensils are thoroughly cleaned between food preps and that your kitchen hygiene is up to scratch.
5. Cold Meats
You don’t have to avoid all cold meats during pregnancy, but it will help if you can identify which are ‘cold cured.’ Cold cured meat is not cooked – it’s just fermented and cured. This obviously presents the same issue as we discussed in No. 4.
One good way to keep you and baby safe, if you’re unsure whether a cold meat has been cooked or not, is to freeze it before eating it. If you pop it into the freezer for four days, by the time you come to eat it, you can almost be completely assured that any harmful bacteria are long gone.
Of course, if its meat that you’ve cooked yourself then allowed cooling, you have nothing to worry about. The key here is to make sure that at some point your food is either cooked right through, or completely frozen – either method will ensure that any worrying bacteria are killed stone dead.
If you’re anything like me, nobody will need to tell you to avoid liver. However, the liver can sneak into other products such as pate (I know, we’ve already discussed that one!), pies and a few other food stuff.
Surprisingly, this has nothing to do with bacterial infection and instead is down to the fact that liver is high in Vitamin A (Retinol) – which is apparently very bad for baby in high quantities.
One study has apparently shown that 1.7% of women who consumed high quantities of Retinol during pregnancy gave birth to babies with defects – now, that’s a very low number so if you have recently eaten something containing liver, I doubt that you need to lose too much sleep over it. Other than because, you know, you ate liver. Yuck.
This is the one that most people will find hard to stomach – yes, although caffeine doesn’t have to be eliminated completely during pregnancy, it does need to be seriously limited. In fact, it’s recommended that you don’t have more than 200mg a day, which is the equivalent of 2 cups of coffee.
I’m sorry ladies, but before you get ahead of yourself, that doesn’t mean two Starbucks Trent as (which, incidentally, are larger than the human stomach before we even talk about caffeine content). Joking apart, we are talking about two small CUPS of coffee here.
Where it starts to mount up, though, is through foods containing ‘stealth caffeine’ – believe it or not, a small bar of chocolate contains 50mg alone. That means that one coffee, one can of coke and one chocolate bar puts you at the limit of your caffeine intake and just one more coffee will mean you’ve exceeded it by 50%!
An excess of caffeine is linked to low birth weight (which can cause health problems throughout life), and in serious cases, it can lead to miscarriage.
So there you have it. Some of those foods may seem unlikely or surprising (I don’t know anyone who wasn’t shocked that herbal teas should be avoided), while others probably make more sense (I’m sure most people would naturally have avoided raw meat).
If you have eaten anything on this list, you shouldn’t worry too much unless you’re experiencing symptoms (in which case, get yourself to a doctor!). The chances of developing any of these illnesses are incredibly low. If in doubt, talk to your midwife – she’s there to help with your concerns.