The truth revealed about pregnancy and weaning
The advice relating to what you can and can’t eat during pregnancy and how best to wean your baby can often be conflicting, and therefore extremely confusing! We asked London-based nutritional therapist Olivia Nottin, also known as ‘The Food Therapist’ to reveal how true some of the most commonly held food beliefs really are…
Myth: You should refrain from eating shellfish and sushi during pregnancy
Shellfish and raw fish can carry a risk of food poisoning. Food poisoning during pregnancy is very uncomfortable but rarely life threatening for the baby. The risk is small but it does exist which is why you need to be careful. If you are craving sushi or raw fish and you are sure about the freshness of the product or having dinner in a restaurant you know well, I would say that the risk is minimal. On another note, large fish like tuna and swordfish contain heavy metals and mercury, so you should limit their consumption to once a week.
Myth: Freezing kills bacteria in food, making it safe to eat
Freezing makes bacteria inactive but it doesn’t kill them, when brought back to room temperature bacteria are still there. Only cooking above 60 degrees Celsius will kill most bacteria.
Myth: Decaffeinated coffee is better than coffee when you’re pregnant
The question of having caffeine during pregnancy is a tricky one. Ideally you should avoid caffeine during the first trimester as it carries a slight risk of miscarriage. After 12 weeks one cup of coffee a day should be fine. Decaffeinated coffee isn’t the better option as it contains two other stimulants and the chemical used to remove caffeine can be toxic. I would advise drinking good quality coffee, preferably organic once a day. Alternatively, if you are dying to feel energised, try Matcha tea, which provides half the amount of caffeine of an espresso and gives a slow release of energy throughout the day. Matcha tea is also packed with antioxidants which can delay damage to cells and help fight disease.
Myth: You should wait until your baby is six months old before moving on to solid foods
You can introduce solid food from four months onwards at lunch. I advise starting with steamed vegetables completely blended, with no added salt. Introduce one vegetable at a time and three days before introducing another one. Once single vegetables have been tried you can mix them together. After two weeks you can introduce fruits in the afternoon. Follow the same protocol as for vegetables and do not add any sugar. Proteins can be introduced in a small quantity (about 5grams) from six months onwards.
Myth: When weaning your baby, it is best to start with sweet vegetables like carrots or sweet potato
No, it is best to start with green vegetables like courgettes or green beans. Your baby will most likely be excited about trying foods and should happily accept green vegetables. Starting with sweet vegetables like sweet potato or carrots may encourage a sweet tooth in the future. Try the sweet vegetables on their own first as per the above process to avoid any food reaction or allergy, then mix them with a vegetable like spinach that may have a strong taste on its own.
Myth: You should wait until eight months before introducing spices or allergenic foods like eggs and nuts to your baby’s diet
Steamed vegetable puree is not overly exciting, babies especially in the early years are willing to try new tastes. From six months you can add a few drops of olive oil or canola oil to vegetables (it’s best to alternate), you can also add some fresh herbs like basil, parsley, mint or rosemary. As for spices, a little cinnamon, vanilla or nutmeg can be added to fruit purees (always one at a time with fruits that have already been tested). Do not add sugar or salt to any puree. If a fruit puree is too acidic, add a sweet fruit like banana to balance the taste.
Olivia Nottin is a certified nutritional therapist and a mother of two who is passionate about cooking and believes that healthy eating can be delicious and easy to achieve. In addition to her consultation she teaches healthy cooking and helps plan menus for family or dinner parties. Her approach to support health through nutrition is practical, tasty and offers a new perception of foods. She is a member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and adheres to the strict BANT code of Ethics and Practice.
To find out more about Olivia’s services please visit The Food Therapist