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Eating for two

eating for two

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You’re eating for two now, so what’s off the menu for your unborn child?

Your baby eats whatever you do, so it makes sense to ensure that your diet suits you both.  Aside from the obvious culprits of alcohol and tobacco, there are a few other foods and drinks that carry particular risks for your baby.  New ideas on risky products emerge all the time, so check out our current list of things that it’s best to go cold-turkey on whilst you are eating for two.

Cheese and Dairy Products

A great source of calcium, cheese is an important part of your pregnancy diet, but certain types of cheese, particularly the soft, mouldy varieties carry a higher risk of containing the listeria bacteria, a nasty little bug you’d definitely want to avoid.  As a general rule most hard cheeses are safe, but it’s best to avoid the following ones:

  • Blue cheeses – like Stilton and Roquefort
  • White rind soft cheeses – such as Brie and Camembert, Feta and Gorgonzola
  • Mexican cheeses – like queso blanco and queso fresco

Beware also of any unpasteurised dairy products such as some milks and yoghurts, and cheeses made from sheep and goat’s milk, as these can contain harmful bacteria which may lead to food poisoning

eating for two

Meat – Fresh and Processed

Fresh meat is a good source of iron, but it should always be well-cooked whilst you are pregnant, to avoid the very real risk of contracting serious illnesses like salmonella, trichinella, toxoplasmosis, or e-coli.  So save that succulent raw steak until after the baby is born, and never be afraid to send food back in a restaurant if it isn’t well-cooked.

You need to be cautious around processed meats too, including hot dogs, pâté and ham – they carry a small risk of listeria, and the nitrates used in the preservation process aren’t so good for your growing baby.

Alcohol and Caffeine

Ok, so we know alcohol is a no-no, but because of the damage even a small amount can cause it’s worth flagging it again for you here.  It’s best to get on the wagon with your baby, and stay there for the journey!

Caffeine as an issue is perhaps more of a surprise – an energy boost should be a good thing, right?  Wrong.  Studies have proven that drinking more than one cup of regular coffee a day can significantly increase the risk of miscarriage, and in extreme cases has been linked to premature birth and lower birth rates.  Caffeine also acts as a diuretic (making you pee more often), which can make you a little dehydrated and lower calcium levels in your body – neither of which are good for your baby!  Avoid coffee if you can, and don’t forget that a strong cup of tea can contain just as much caffeine as a regular coffee!

Fish and Seafood

Whilst fish is generally considered to be good for you, there are many potential risks you need to consider:
Swordfish, mackerel, shark, marlin and tilefish – these are all known to contain high levels of mercury, which can cause developmental issues and possibly brain damage in your baby if consumed in large quantities – best to avoid altogether!

  • Tuna – can also contain mercury in lower levels, and current advice is to limit your intake to no more than 4 medium sized tins per week, or two average-sized tuna steaks.
  • Oily fish like salmon, herring, trout and sardines – these are all good for you, but can contain pollutants from their natural environment, so it’s best to keep to only two portions per week.
  • Raw Shellfish and Sushi – are best avoided completely, as they carry a high risk of food poisoning.


Undercooked or raw eggs can carry the salmonella bacteria.  When you cook at home make sure both the yolk and white are firm before you eat.  Eggs are used in a surprising number of other food products too – fresh mayonnaise, hollandaise sauce, ice cream, mousses, and salad dressings can all contain raw egg, so be extra vigilant if you are buying these foods, or a dish that may contain them,  from a restaurant or delicatessen.  Pre-packed versions, such as a jar of mayonnaise from the supermarket, are normally safe as they are made with pasteurised egg to help preserve the shelf-life.

Raw Sprouts

Amazingly, the super-healthy option of sprinkling raw bean sprouts or alfalfa on your salad can also be fraught with danger when pregnant.  Although not a major culprit, these innocent looking veggies have been linked to salmonella and e-coli outbreaks, so it may be best to stick to simple salad leaves that have more substance so you can wash them thoroughly.



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