The ingredients safe to add to the Christmas lunch shopping list
Christmas is all about eating, but for those who are expecting, it’s important they stick to a doctor’s advice of what to eat and what to avoid.
These food guidelines exist because when you’re pregnant, the changes in hormones can have an impact on your immune system, for example, pregnant women are far more at risk of suffering food poisoning from bacteria in food such as Listeria and Salmonella. That’s why doctors advise pregnant women to watch what they eat to protect both themselves and their unborn baby.
While Listeria is rare, a report from the New South Wales Government Food Authority found “pregnant women are up to 13 times more likely to get listeriosis from contaminated food than an ‘average’ healthy adult with no underlying illness”. An alarming one in five cases tragically result in miscarriage or infant death.
Here is a breakdown of the advice doctors give on what pregnant can eat and what they should avoid. Remember, hand and kitchen hygiene also play an integral part in food safety.
- Sliced deli meats ONLY if they are cooked/re-heated until they are steaming hot to kill off any Listeria bacteria.
- Cooked whole roast meats that are sliced by mums-to-be is also safe, ensuring leftovers are eaten within a few days.
What to avoid: Processed (sliced, diced and shredded) ready-to-eat deli meats and cold, cooked chicken, because they risk containing Listeria.
- Only eat eggs that are fully cooked, such as scrambled eggs.
- Dishes are cooked with the ingredient of pasteurised eggs.
What to avoid: Raw or undercooked eggs which are runny because they can contain Salmonella bacteria.
- Hard cheeses like Cheddar and Parmesan are safe to eat. They are acidic, which can kill off Listeria bacteria during its shelf life.
- Soft cheeses are out unless they are an ingredient in cooked, hot meals.
What to avoid: Soft and semi-soft cheese on its own, such as Brie, Camembert, Feta and Ricotta.
Pates and Meat Pastes
- Canned and pouches of pate, meat or fish pastes are safe because they do no require refrigeration. They would have been cooked at a higher temperature to ensure they are ‘sterile’ of any bacteria, such as Listeria.
What to avoid: Refrigerated pate and meat pastes, as the risk of Listeria could occur between the cooking and packaging stages.
Fruit, Salads and Juices
- Fresh, frozen, and canned fruit and vegetables are good. Prepare your own fresh cut fruit and vegetables at home, and wash them before consumption.
- Pasteurised juices are safe to drink because they are heated to a temperature that ensures any food poisoning bacteria are destroyed.
What to avoid: Fruits and vegetables that have been pre-cut and aged; pre-packaged salads, and fresh juices at cafes or from grocery stores.
Seafood and Shellfish
- Smoked seafood and cooked crustaceans can be safe if included in fully cooked dishes.
- Watch your intake of certain types of cooked fish that have high levels of mercury (such as flake, swordfish and marlin).
What to avoid: Cold-smoked seafood, raw fish and pre-cooked prawns.
Sushi & Oysters
- It’s safe to consume freshly prepared sushi that only contains fresh ingredients which are cooked.
What to avoid: Raw fish sushi and oysters. Raw fish is more likely to accumulate bacteria or viruses than cooked seafood.
- Seed sprouts (such as alfalfa sprouts and bean sprouts) that are cooked are safe to eat, because the heat kills off any bacteria.
What to avoid: Any kind of raw sprout poses high risk of Listeria, Salmonella and E. coli. Always check sandwiches and salads to see if they contain raw sprouts.
Chocolate, Ice Cream, Yoghurt
- Chocolate is completely safe
- Hard frozen ice-cream and gelato is safe as Listeria can’t grow in a frozen product
- Soft-serve yoghurt should be safe to consume because the acidity doesn’t allow Listeria to grow.
What to avoid: Soft serve ice-cream is high in moisture and protein content, and Listeria can grow in this product.
If you have any concerns or questions about what foods you should be avoiding, consult with a doctor.