Pregnancy: Nutrition and Food Safety

A recent media article questioned whether Australia’s food safety guidelines for pregnant women are too restrictive. The article ‘Pregnancy diet overkill’ (Sydney Morning Herald – SMH) suggested cautious pregnant women may be sacrificing diet quality by limiting their diet for fear of getting food poisoning.

The Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) believes soon-to-be-mothers need to eat a nutritionally-adequate diet and be mindful to limit their risk of food poisoning. Both can be achieved – they are not mutually exclusive. DAA believes pregnant women need better education and support to achieve good nutrition and to reduce their risk of food poisoning.

A healthy diet in pregnancy

Good nutrition during pregnancy is more about the quality of food eaten than the quantity. The need for certain nutrients, such as iron, iodine and folic acid, is increased at this time but only a small amount of extra kilojoules is needed. Unfortunately, recent research has shown many pregnant women are not eating enough fruit or vegetables, and are falling short on nutrients like iron, folate and calcium.

The key is to eat a wide variety of healthy foods, in the right amounts. And DAA recommends pregnant women see an Accredited Practising Dietitian for individual, expert advice on how to achieve this. For general guidelines, see DAA’s fact sheet on healthy eating in pregnancy.

Food safety in pregnancy: Be alert but not alarmed

Food Standards Australia New Zealand’s (FSANZ) recommendations on food safety during pregnancy help women make informed food choices – and DAA supports these guidelines.

Listeriosis (caused by eating foods contaminated with listeria) was mentioned in the SMH article, and is of particular concern for pregnant women. The risk of listeriosis is low, but the consequences for a pregnant woman (and her unborn baby) can be serious. In line with FSANZ’s guidelines, DAA recommends avoiding those foods that have a higher potential rate of contamination. A list of these foods can be found on the FSANZ website.

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