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Eating, drinking and healthy weight gain during pregnancy

There are a few important things to be aware of regarding what you can and can't eat when you are pregnant.

Keep your diet healthy and balanced

Eating a healthy balanced diet is important for you and your baby. Make sure you eat a variety of foods including:

  • plenty of fruit and vegetables – aim for at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables each day
  • some bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods – choose wholegrain varieties if you can
  • some milk and dairy foods
  • some meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein – try to eat at least two portions of fish a week, including a portion of oily fish
  • just a small amount of foods and drinks that are high in fat or sugar.

Foods to avoid

In pregnancy your immunity is lower so you and your unborn baby are more susceptible than usual to the kinds of food-borne illnesses that affect everyone. Bacteria such as listeria, salmonella and campylobacter, and pathogens such as toxoplasma, can cause food-borne illness. When you're pregnant, this can cause infection in you and your baby, and miscarriage and stillbirth in extreme cases.

Foods to avoid during pregnancy include:
  • Chilled ready-to-eat foods, such as those bought from a supermarket deli or restaurant buffet, unless they are heated until piping hot.
  • Prepared ready-to-eat foods such as store-bought sandwiches where you can’t be certain of product age, storage conditions, or the preparer’s food handling practices.
  • Soft and semi-soft pasteurised cheese e.g. brie,camembert, feta, blue, mozzarella, ricotta.
  • Raw milk (unpasteurised), raw milk cheeses and raw milk yoghurts.
  • Cold cooked or smoked chicken.
  • Processed meats such as ham, pâté, salami or luncheon.
  • Prepared salads including rice or pasta salad, coleslaw, roasted vegetable and green salads. Raw or smoked seafood including sushi, smoked salmon, marinated mussels, or oysters.
  • Raw eggs e.g. in smoothies, mayonnaise or desserts like mousse.
  • Soft serve ice cream.
  • Cream or custard especially in pre-made cakes or pastries (unless newly opened or home-made and fresh).
  • Hummus and other dips containing tahini (which has been linked to both salmonella and listeria infection).
  • Any food prepared and stored in the fridge for more than 12 hours. 

Diabetes in pregnancy

Diabetes in pregnancy or gestational diabetes is when a pregnant woman has high levels of glucose in her blood. High blood glucose is caused because the mother cannot produce enough insulin (a pregnant woman's insulin needs are two to three times that of someone who is not pregnant). Unlike Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes is only temporary and usually disappears after pregnancy. However, a woman who has had gestational diabetes has an increased risk (50-60%) of developing Type 2 diabetes in the future, therefore they should be tested for diabetes each year.

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