Safe foods for pregnancy

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By following a well-balanced diet during pregnancy, you can help your bub's good health begin long before your due date. We look at which foods to eat and which to avoid during pregnancy.

Healthy eating during pregnancy is essential for the well-being of you and your babyi. Research has found that what a woman eats while pregnant can affect not only the development of the baby in the womb but also the baby's health later in lifeii. However, 'eating for two' isn't as simple as eating more; it's about making sure that you're getting the right mix of vital nutrients for both you and your babyii. Following a nutritious diet and using caution around certain foods will help give your baby a great start to life.

What a woman eats when pregnant can affect the development of the baby in the womb.

Healthy mum, healthy baby

The best and simplest way to make sure that you and your baby are getting all the required vitamins and nutrients is to follow a healthy and well-balanced dietiii. The Australian Government Department of Health and Ageingiii recommends that while pregnant, women should try to consume daily:

Additional vitamin supplements may also be advised by your doctori.

Especially important for foetal development in early pregnancy is the B-group vitamin folateiv. Folate is essential for the development of the neural tube, which later forms the baby's brain, skull, spinal cord and spineiv. Foods such as asparagus, spinach, broccoli, lentils and bran flakes are excellent sources of folate and should be included in your everyday dietiv. If possible, additional folate supplements should be taken a month before conception and for three months afteri to decrease the risk of neural tube defects, such as spina-bifidaiv.

Eating safely while pregnant

Fish and seafood contain Omega-3 fatty acids, which can aid the healthy development of your baby's central nervous systemiii. However, because certain seafood varieties may contain unsafe levels of mercury, moderating their consumption is recommended. A high level of mercury can have a negative effect on the baby's development if it accumulates in the mother's bloodi.

To lessen your risk of unsafe mercury levels, eating no more than one serve of catfish or Orange Roughy per week is advised. If you enjoy eating flake, swordfish, broadbill or marlin, refrain from eating more than one serve per fortnight, and no other fish in that periodiii. All other types of fish, including salmon or tuna, are safe to eat regularlyi.

It's also important to pay attention to food hygiene. Food poisoning is a serious illness that presents a greater danger to pregnant women; in rare cases it causes miscarriageiii. Exercising proper food hygiene by washing your hands thoroughly and keeping kitchen surfaces and implements clean will reduce the chance of foodborne illnessesi. Cooking food thoroughly, avoiding food items past their use-by date, and storing and reheating food safely are all important steps to take while pregnant to prevent the risk of food poisoningii.

What to avoid

Even when food hygiene guidelines are followed, some foods have a greater risk of containing bacteria like listeria or salmonellaiii. The threat of salmonella poisoning is present in undercooked meat, poultry, and also raw egg, often found in chocolate mousse, tiramisu or homemade mayonnaisei. The NSW Food Authority also advises expectant mothers to avoid raw or undercooked sprouts, such as alfalfa sprouts and mung beansiii.

Listeriosis is a rare but serious illness, which can cause miscarriage, premature labour or stillbirth if transmitted to an unborn childiii. There is a greater risk of listeria bacteria in pâté, raw and smoked seafood, cold processed meats such as salami, and pre-prepared foods such as quiche and ready-to-eat saladsi,iii. Other foods prone to listeria infection that should also be excluded from a pregnant woman's diet include unpasteurised milk products, soft serve ice-cream and any soft or mouldy cheeses such as ricotta, brie and camemberti.

The best way to make sure that you and your baby are getting all the required nutrients is to follow a healthy and well-balanced diet.

Expecting mothers should also give up alcohol, cigarettes and high levels of caffeine during pregnancyiii. The consumption of alcohol and tobacco products when pregnant can lead to an increased risk of miscarriage, premature labour or stillbirthiii. It is safest to abstain completely while pregnant and breast-feedingiii. Making your home a smoke-free zone is also the best optionv since any inhaled tobacco smoke can affect your baby's health before and after birthiii.

Small quantities of caffeine are safe during pregnancy. However, the NSW Health recommends that pregnant women consume no more than 200mg of caffeine dailyiii, which equates to approximately one to two cups of espresso-style coffeeiii. Women who usually drink additional caffeinated drinks, including energy drinks, should consider drinking decaffeinated coffee, herbal teas and plenty of water while pregnant.

Eating safely during pregnancy is good for your child's health and well-being. Taking out life insurance is a way to protect your children's financial future. Insurance options include Life cover, Critical Illness cover and Permanently Unable to Work cover. Get a quote online with Allianz today.

iBetter Health Channel 2013, Pregnancy and diet, viewed 9 September 2013,

iiNutrition Australia 2013, Healthy Eating During Pregnancy, viewed 9 September2013,

iiiNSW Food Authority, Food safety during pregnancy, viewed 10 September 2013,

ivBetter Health Channel 2013, Folate for women, viewed 9 September 2013,

vAustralian Government 2013, Pregnancy and quitting, viewed 10 September 2013,