Christmas dinner and pregnancy: tips and precautions
The holiday season is a time for celebration for everyone. However, certain foods should be excluded from a pregnant woman’s Christmas plate. Here are some gourmet pieces of advice from the Laboratoire CCD so that you can reconcile the culinary pleasures of Christmas time with your pregnancy.
Pregnant? Your Christmas dinner shall be well cooked (and not raw!)
Raw foods are often on the menu for Christmas. Despite their undeniable nutritional qualities, they are unfortunately not recommended for pregnant women. The digestive system of animals and the soil in which vegetables grow is a harbor for bacteria and parasites. Although they are usually removed during cooking time, these microorganisms do present a risk of food poisoning.
Even if contamination is benign and often asymptomatic for the mother, it can nonetheless affect the fetus. This is commonly referred to as a ‘congenital disease’. The consequences on the unborn child will vary depending on the nature of the organism that has been ingested. Possible complications include neurological abnormalities, malformations, prematurity or miscarriage.
Three infectious diseases to watch out for at Christmas
- Toxoplasmosis (Toxoplasma gondii): consumption of raw or undercooked meat is responsible for 30 to 63% of cases of toxoplasmosis in pregnant women. In case of infection, the risks of sequelae for the child are greatly increased during the first trimester of pregnancy.
- Listeriosis (Listeria monocytogenes): this bacterium proliferates in dairy or meat products. As a renown resistant bacterium, it has the capacity to continue to multiply even in cold storage. Despite a moderate occurrence (300 cases per year in France), it does represent a significant threat for the mother and her fetus.
- Salmonellosis (Salmonella): this bacterial infection belongs to the gastroenteritis family. In Europe, it is the second most common cause of foodborne illness. Foods based on raw eggs are commonly the cause behind this condition. It is therefore preferable to ban them from a Christmas meal if you are pregnant.
Foods to avoid if you are pregnant during the festive season
- Cold cuts and raw meat (semi-cooked foie gras, carpaccio, terrines, tartar)
- Seafood, shellfish and raw fish (sushi, caviar, shrimp)
- Raw eggs (homemade mayonnaise, tiramisù, Yule log cake)
- Raw vegetables
- Unpasteurized cheeses with a bloomy rind and blue cheese (Camembert, Chaource, Roquefort)
- Special cases: game meat, large bioaccumulative fish (tuna, swordfish, skate), smoked salmon.
Christmas meal and pregnancy: a big no-no to alcohol
Zero tolerance for champagne, wine nor liqueurs during a pregnant woman’s Christmas meal. It has been proven that alcohol can pass into the placenta and then into the baby’s bloodstream. It is a toxic substance, and this is true at any time of the pregnancy. It is said to be “teratogenic”, meaning that it can cause malformations during fetal development.
The repercussions of prenatal exposure to alcohol vary according to: gestational age, maternal impregnation and possibly individual history. Every year, 8,000 children are born with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder). 1 in 10 of them suffers from the most serious form: FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome).
Limit your sugar intake during the holidays
We already know that they should be consumed with moderation in normal times, sweets and sugary foods are subject to even more additional restrictions when pregnant. It is therefore advisable to regulate the ingestion of Yule log cakes, puddings, chocolate truffles or candied fruits during Christmas as a mother-to-be. All these typical desserts and treats of the end-of-year festivities unfortunately increase the risks of gestational diabetes.
It is estimated that gestational diabetes affects 3 to 20% of pregnant women. Gestation is indeed a risky period, since hormones produced by the placenta inhibit the action of insulin. This leads to hyperglycemia, which increases maternal-fetal risks: macrosomia, preeclampsia, stillbirth.
So what does a balanced, pregnancy-friendly Christmas meal look
From the 5th month of pregnancy onwards, the unborn child is able to discover flavors through the amniotic fluid. It would therefore be a shame to deprive him or her of a generous and tasty holiday dinner. Even better, a pregnancy-friendly Christmas meal can provide the baby with all the nutritional resources necessary for its development. These include in particular
- vitamin D
If necessary, a special food supplement for pregnant women will help the mother to rebalance her nutritional intake.
Sample menu for a pregnant woman’s Christmas meal
- Preparing a Christmas dinner’s pregnant woman requires scrupulous respect for the cold chain. It is essential that all meat should be thoroughly cooked at a minimum of 60°C. Here are a few examples of tasty dishes to be enjoyed on the big day.
- Appetizers: eggplant caviar on toastq, petits fours with cheddar, avocado and grapefruit in a shrimp-cocktail style
- Starter: garlic oysters au gratin (cooked in the oven)
- Main course : capon stuffed with chestnuts and vegetables, served with mashed potatoes
- Cheese platter : fresh cheese with herbs, cheddar, gruyere, beaufort
- Dessert: vanilla-raspberry ice cream log
- Treats: roasted exotic fruit brochettes
To enjoy the holidays peacefully, do not hesitate to seek advice from your general practitioner or your midwife.
If you have any doubt concerning your Christmas menu for a possible poisoning, always ask your doctor or gynecologist for advice. In addition to food, remember to drink enough water during the holidays. This will limit the risk of urinary tract infection and the complications that usually come with pregnancy.