Milk, cheese and cream are dairy items that are healthy to eat during pregnancy as they provide the much needed and easily absorbed calcium (essential for your baby's bones and teeth), protein and some vitamins. Dairy foods are also a good source of protein for women who are on a meat-less diet.
The Goodness of Dairy
- Milk is said to be the nearest thing to being a complete food. Whether skimmed or whole, milk contains good quantities of calcium, protein and riboflavin, vitamin B2 and B6, magnesium and zinc. Since full fat milk is high in saturated fats, semi skimmed or skimmed milk make better options. Make it a practice to drink milk on its own or with cereals.
- Cheddar cheese is a good source of the bone and teeth- growing nutrient calcium, and phosphorus and your baby needs a good supply of both of these minerals. Second to this is ricotta cheese which is a low fat and calcium-rich variety.
- Yogurt which is fermented milk contains all the goodness of milk; it is rich in calcium, phosphorus and B2 for energy. Choose low fat versions and plain over flavored if your palate permits.
- Cheeses that are safe to eat include hard cheese like cheddar, parmesan. Softer cheeses that do not have any mould or rind and are made from pasteurized milk e.g. cottage cheese, processed cheese, cheese spreads and mozzarella are also safe choices. To play safe, cook all soft cheeses till they are bubbling.
- Use only pasteurized dairy products. Read food labels when shopping
- Bad choices include mold ripened cheeses such as Brie and Camembert, feta cheese, goat's cheese, blue cheeses or any cheese made from unpasterized milk. Pasteurized dairy, including those mentioned above are safe bets e.g. Brie cheese labeled pasteurized is safe for pregnant women.
- When unsure read the label. Avoid eating altogether if you are absolutely uncertain or make sure the cheese is cooked until bubbling.
- Raw milk and cream from cow, goat and sheep which has not been pasteurized should be avoided during pregnancy. They may contain harmful bacteria and other organisms. It is best to avoid raw milk from the time you plan to have a baby to the time you finish breastfeeding.
- Pasteurized milk from cow, goat and sheep are safe for consumption
- Try using reduced fat milks, yogurts and cheese. Low fat dairy contain the same percentage of calcium but less fat.
- Store all dairy products in the refrigerator and this includes pasteurized dairy as they can become contaminated if left at room temperature. Do not use them after the expiration date or if they smell or look suspicious.
- Discard soft dairy products e.g. sour cream, yogurt butter even if they have slight mold on top or sides.
- Food items such as dairy can pose a risk to your well being if caution is not practiced. It is sensible to avoid foods that are major sources of listeria during the planning stages and throughout pregnancy.
- Foods contaminated with harmful bacteria listeria can cause listeriosis. Pregnant women are at an increased risk of coming down with this infection because of their suppressed immune systems.
- Listeria monocytogenes, a food borne organism causes flu like symptoms and manifests after 2-3 days of eating a contaminated food.
- It can lead to infection in the newborn including meningitis or could cause miscarriage or stillbirth.
- Unlike other bacteria, listeria enters the bloodstream directly and into the fetus's system rather quickly.
- Although listeria is destroyed during cooking, it can grow in the refrigerator and survive in the freezer.
- Inform your doctor immediately if you experience fever, chills, headache or nausea or any other flu-like symptoms.