Christmas turkey, seafood or ham; however you decide to dine this Christmas, if you’re pregnant there are a few things to keep in the back of your mind. There are a few different kinds of bacteria which can live in the tasty treats you’ll want to avoid over the festive season.
Cheese and fruit platters
For snacks and nibbles that might appear before lunch, the NSW Food Authority advise pregnant women to approach any cheese and fruit platters with caution. Fruit is fine to eat as long as it has been washed thoroughly, but soft cheeses - including brie, camembert, ricotta, fetta and blue cheese - should be avoided, as they can carry listeriosis bacteria.
In healthy adults, an infection with listeria can cause flu-like symptoms, but expecting women can be hit especially hard, as their immune systems are already lowered. It can also be passed on to the baby, which can be very dangerous. Treatment is with antibiotics.
Instead of the usual soft cheeses, try harder options, such as cheddar, halloumi, Jarlsberg, Swiss or tasty.
Cottage and cream cheeses are also fine; so, too, are bocconcini and mozzarella, as long as they were bought pre-packaged and not at a deli counter. For another dairy option, you can also have yoghurt.
For the main event, home cooked meats are deliciously fine to eat – as long as they’re cooked through and eaten while still hot.
If you like to eat the stuffing, be aware that it must be cooked separately from the rest of the poultry, and also eaten hot.
If fish is on the menu, it’s a good idea to find out what type it is, as some kinds contain high levels of mercury that can harm a child’s developing nervous system. Flake (shark) and swordfish should be eaten rarely, but canned fish is okay up to three times a week; visit the Food Standards Australia New Zealand website for fish-eating guidelines for expecting women.
When it comes to home-made salads, play it safe and only eat what you know has been washed properly. And remember that depending on the chef's cooking ability and eagerness to make their own condiments, any homemade mayonnaise or aioli will contain raw eggs, which shouldn’t be consumed.
The NSW Food Authority also says no to pre-prepared or pre-packaged salads - including fruit salads - from salad bars, smorgasboards or delis, as they can harbour nasty bacteria. They also recommend that pregnant women avoid all bean sprouts.
Once the feast is over ensure any leftovers are refrigerated and eaten within a day to avoid any unwanted food poisoning or bacteria.
For dessert, go for pudding - just make sure the ice cream you smother it in is from a tub and not home-made. Custard is also fine as long as the tub has been freshly opened.
For more information about food and pregnancy visit the NSW Food Authority website, which offers a handy table on safer eating in pregnancy. And always remember the golden rules of safety: keep it cold, keep it clean, keep it hot and check the label!
Meet other women who are expecting, including women who are due around the same time as you, in the Essential Baby forum.