Working out what you can and can’t eat while pregnant can be stressful at the best of times, and add the festive season on top and it can make food choices during pregnancy really hard to navigate!
So, we’ve put together this quick guide on things to look out for regarding food safety and common traps to avoid this holiday season!
Why do I need to be concerned about food safety in pregnancy?
During pregnancy hormonal changes lower the immune system and make it harder to fight off illnesses and infections. Remaining vigilant about food-based illnesses, such as Salmonella and Listeria, is important for you and your little one during the holiday season.
Although you may have to put the wine down and avoid a few festive favourites, the holiday season can still be celebrated in a pregnancy-safe way!
Here are 11 festive foods you will need to modify in pregnancy
1. Soft and Semi-soft Cheeses
Although the cheese board can look super tempting, you’ll need to avoid soft and semi-soft cheeses like brie, camembert, ricotta, feta and blue cheese. Look for some hard cheese like cheddar, and make sure it hasn’t been out of the fridge for too long.
Pasteurised feta cheese and ricotta that has been thoroughly heated in a meal, such as a lasagne or pasta dish, is considered safe to eat during pregnancy too!
2. Chocolate Mousse
Traditionally, chocolate mousse is made with uncooked eggs (specifically egg whites beaten into a meringue), so this one you will need to give a miss. Whilst uncommon, eggs may be contaminated with Salmonella, and when cooking eggs above a certain temperature (about 74oC) Salmonella dies.
Try some freshly cut fruit (wash the outside first) with ice cream instead for a holiday dessert.
3. Potato Salad
A BBQ favourite! Switch out the mayonnaise for a Greek yoghurt & Dijon Mustard combination or some sour cream (pasteurised). This is to avoid uncooked and unpasteurised eggs typically used to make mayo.
When the stuffing is cooked within the meat, it is not considered hot enough to kill the potential bacteria. If you’re having a hot meal, you will need to cook the stuffing separately and eat it while it’s hot to be pregnancy safe.
5. Christmas Ham
Is it the festive season without a Christmas ham? Whilst cold deli meats like ham, salami, prosciutto and other luncheon meats are advised against during pregnancy.
It can be considered okay if cooked to at least 75oC and eaten soon afterwards, so you can enjoy it on the day but this one might be best to skip the leftovers on!
6. Pre-cooked Seafood
Pre-cooked seafood such as prawns are an Aussie summer and festive favourite! Despite being a super nutritious source of zinc, iodine and protein which are all excellent for you and your baby. Sadly, these are off the menu during pregnancy. Instead, buy some green or raw prawns, cook them yourself and eat whilst hot. This is safe (and delicious) for pregnancy!
7. Christmas Pudding
Most Christmas puddings contain alcohol, unfortunately, they use rum, brandy and other liqueurs to soak the dried fruit in! And sadly, there’s no safe amount of alcohol that is allowed in pregnancy – sorry!
It will be best to opt for another pudding like a sticky date pudding or a chocolate ripple cake instead, so you don’t feel left out of Christmas dessert.
You’ll need to be careful with custard as it often contains eggs, but that doesn’t mean you need to miss out.
Store-bought custard can be eaten cold if freshly opened or if you prefer it hot, store it in the fridge and then heat it to at least 60°C. Remember that the danger zone for bacteria to replicate is between 5oC to 60oC, so keeping cold foods cold (below 5oC) and hot foods hot (above 60oC) is a great rule of thumb to keep foods safe for you and your baby during pregnancy!
Home-made custard must be cooked thoroughly to at least 71°C and eaten while hot within a day of making.
Most pavlovas are gooey in the middle, which means uncooked egg whites – a no-go when pregnant due to the Salmonella risk! Plus, if your family or friends used pre-chopped fruit bought from the supermarket that’s a double whammy! Sadly, sometimes the outside of fruits gets contaminated with bacteria when the supermarket chops it as they’re slicing through the skin and contaminating the cross-section of the fruit, meaning more surface area for those little bugs to replicate.
Opt for some freshly cut fruit (wash the outside before slicing) with ice cream and even a cooked-through meringue (make sure the centre is crunchy!).
10. Egg Nog
Most store-bought non-alcoholic egg nogs are safe in pregnancy – just check if it is using a powdered egg (safe) or raw egg (not safe) and certainly give the alcoholic egg nogs a miss!
Don’t let food sit out at room temperature or in the sun or the middle of the table at room temperature for hours on end. Pack away your leftovers at the time of serving, cover and refrigerate and don’t forget to eat within 24 hours, if you want to reheat ensure you do so to a temperature above 60oC – nice and hot!
We hope you have a wonderful and safe holiday period and still enjoy some of your festive favourites with a twist!
For a full list of foods to avoid during pregnancy, see the NSW Food Authority.
If you want more information on Food Safety for Pregnancy, join our 60-minute Food Safety in Pregnancy masterclass. In this easy-to-understand video masterclass training, resident certified pregnancy dietitian & nutritionist, Kaylee Slater APD, will provide you with all the latest information PLUS a downloadable eGuide answering all your questions.
You have one year access, so you can review it again and again whenever you need to, and save yourself the 2 am Google spiral about what you ate that day!
Click here to sign up for the masterclass (we are donating $10 AUD from every ticket to PANDA – Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia, an amazing organisation that provides supportive services to help mothers-to-be with their mental health).