Read on for our top tips on how to eat and drink your way through the festive season when you have a bump.
Christmas when pregnant is a little bit different to your standard issue festive affair. But don’t worry, as there are lots of Christmas treats you can still enjoy when pregnant.
1. From cocktail to mocktail
It’s fair to say that booze plays a part in Christmas festivities for a lot of us. And as doctors are still unsure how much alcohol – if any – is safe when pregnant, the best thing to do is avoid it completely (NHS Choices, 2017a).
Avoiding alcohol might not feel like the easiest thing for everyone. So rally some support from your partner, family and friends. Perhaps they might like to cut down with you…especially when there are so many great non-alcoholic options available now.
Swap your bubbles for non-alcoholic fizz, and brush up on seasonal mocktails. A mulled apple juice will give you all the festive warmth of a traditional spiced wine or cider, without any of the alcohol. Or try a soft drink in a champagne or cocktail glass to get the ‘feel’ of a real drink without the hit.
Just think how great it’ll feel to be the only one waking up with no hangover.
2. Know your cheeses
Cheese boards are everywhere during the festive season but you don’t have to fear the fromage. While it’s true you should avoid some cheeses when pregnant, there are plenty you can still eat.
- Hard cheeses are fine. Even if made with unpasteurised milk. These include Cheddar, Edam, Emmental and Gouda.
- Mould-ripened soft cheeses like Brie, Camembert and Danish Blue should be avoided. These cheeses might contain listeria bacteria, which can be harmful to your baby. Yet thorough cooking should kill any bacteria in cheese, meaning you can eat these cheeses when cooked until piping hot.
- All other soft types of cheese (other than mould-ripened ones) are OK to eat, provided they're made from pasteurised milk. These cheeses include mozzarella, feta, cottage cheese and cream cheese.
- Mould-ripened goat’s cheese, called Chevre, should be avoided. But it can be eaten if it’s cooked. This means it’s safe to eat in a goat’s cheese tart or a pizza, as long as (again) it’s thoroughly cooked through. Other types of goat’s cheese that don’t have a white rind (like hard goat’s cheese) are fine to eat.
(NHS Choices, 2017b)
3. Fish dishes
A festive staple, the good news is that fish is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals for you and your baby. You should aim to eat up to two portions a week but don’t go over two portions of oily fish (NHS Choices, 2017b).
As of July 2023, The Food Standards Agency advises that pregnant women shouldn't eat ready-to-eat cold smoked fish or cured fish products, including smoked salmon, gravlax or raw fish in sushi, because of the risk of listeria. To make it safe to eat, cook the fish until it's steaming hot all the way through (not just warmed on scrambled eggs, for example) (Food Standards Agency, 2023).
Cooked shellfish, including cold pre-cooked prawns, are safe to eat during pregnancy too (NHS Choices, 2017b).
Other fish to avoid are shark, swordfish or marlin. These fish contain more mercury than other fish, which could affect your baby's nervous system (NHS Choices, 2017a).
4. Eggs – runny or not?
Eggs stamped with a red lion are produced under the food safety standard called the British Lion Code of Practice. These eggs are considered very low risk for salmonella, so are safe to eat even if raw or partially cooked (NHS Choices, 2017b).
This means you can get cracking with some soft-boiled eggs, runny omelettes, souffles, mousses and fresh mayonnaise, as long as you see the red stamp. All other eggs should be cooked until the white and yolk are solid (NHS Choices, 2017b).
5. Be cautious with cold meats
Pre-packed cooked meats such as ham and corned beef are safe to eat when pregnant (NHS Choices, 2017b).
Uncooked cured and fermented meats, such as salami, prosciutto, chorizo and pepperoni, are not safe. They might contain toxoplasmosis-causing parasites, which can be harmful to your baby. But there is a way you can still enjoy them. You can reduce the risk of parasites by freezing them for four days at home before eating them. This kills most parasites and makes cured or fermented meats safer to eat (NHS Choices, 2017b).
Don’t eat raw or undercooked meats, such as rare steaks, and make sure you wash and dry your hands, as well as any surfaces and utensils carefully after handling raw meat (NHS Choices, 2017b).
6. Partaking in pates
Pates, even the vegetable ones, are on the ‘no’ list we’re afraid as they may contain listeria (NHS Choices, 2017b). Plus liver is in many pates, and liver should be avoided in pregnancy. Liver contains high levels of vitamin A, which the NHS says can harm your baby (NHS Choices, 2017b).
7. Peanuts are fine
The latest advice is that it’s fine to eat peanuts during pregnancy. There’s no clear evidence that eating peanuts while pregnant affects your baby’s chances of developing an allergy (NHS Choices, 2017b).
Nuts are a good source of protein so make an excellent healthy snack for you and your baby (NHS Choices, 2017b). Just go easy with the salty or sugary ones.
8. You can have a chocolate fix but watch out for the caffeine
While it’s important to eat healthy foods throughout your pregnancy, there’s no harm in enjoying a little bit of what you fancy over Christmas. And that probably means one or two chocolates (a day). But be aware of your caffeine intake, as you shouldn’t have more than 200mg a day.
Milk chocolate typically contains less than 10mg per 50g, and dark chocolate less than 25mg per 50g. So we’re not talking huge amounts but it all adds up. Don’t worry if you occasionally go over the 200mg limit though as the risks to your baby are small (NHS Choices, 2017b).
9. Try not to overdo it
With so much tempting food on offer it’s hard for anyone to resist the urge to eat for two over Christmas – pregnant or not. But there’s no need to eat any more when pregnant, until the third trimester when you only need an extra 200 calories a day (NICE, 2010).
What’s more, all those rich foods can play havoc with heartburn when you’re pregnant, so try not to overdo it. Eat little or often rather than indulging in heavy meals (NHS Choices, 2017c).
This page was last reviewed in November 2018, information about risk of listeria in cold-smoked and cured fish dishes updated July 2023
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Food Standards Agency (2023) https://www.food.gov.uk/listeria
NHS Choices (2017a). Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/alcohol-medicines-drugs-pregnant/ [Accessed 29 Oct 2018]
NHS Choices (2017b). Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/foods-to-avoid-pregnant/ [Accessed 29 Oct 2018]
NHS Choices (2017c). Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/indigestion-heartburn-pregnant/ [Accessed 29 Oct 2018]
NICE (2010). Weight management before, during and after pregnancy. Available from: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ph27/chapter/1-Recommendations#recommendation-2-pregnant-women [Accessed 29 Oct 2018]