Can you eat Christmas pudding when pregnant? (5 other things to avoid)

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, can you eat Christmas pudding when pregnant? We will discuss the instances where you must avoid eating Christmas pudding and the harm that it can bring to you and your baby. We will also list a few other things to avoid when pregnant. 

Can you eat Christmas pudding when pregnant?

You can eat Christmas pudding if you are pregnant and the Christmas pudding is fresh and free of liquor. Christmas pudding must not have any form of alcohol and must be in its prime condition. Christmas pudding must be stored properly to retain its freshness.

 You must not eat Christmas pudding if you are pregnant as the alcohol-based liquid can make its way to the baby. Even if the alcohol was added prior to baking, much of it is retained even after. Therefore, you need to avoid Christmas pudding if there is brandy, whisky, or a liquor-based sauce added to the Christmas pudding.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, including birth defects that involve central nervous system impairment, behavioral disorders, and impaired intellectual development, which can lead to difficulties with school and employment. A recent study in four U.S. communities found a 1.1%–5.0% prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders among first-grade students (1).

Why must you avoid eating Christmas pudding when pregnant?

Christmas Pudding is a lightly-steamed fruitcake that is fed with either brandy or whisky poured over it. Christmas pudding served with either brandy or whisky is a crucial part of Christmas.

Alcohol is added either before or after baking the Christmas pudding. If food was cooked in alcohol on a stovetop much of it evaporated but for baked foods such as Christmas pudding, more than 80 percent of it remains.

A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed that different cooking methods reduce the alcohol content of food to different degrees, depending on the food matrix and the time of preparation. After cooking, the amount of alcohol remaining ranged from 4 percent to 95 percent (2).

 In Britain, Ireland, and England, and even in some other western countries, the fruitcake is baked like a regular cake and dressed with alcohol.

 Christmas Pudding has a deep-rooted history with cultural and religious beliefs. Ten ingredients highlighted in religious books mention brandy as one of the ingredients in Christmas pudding at the Christmas dinner. Christmas pudding is made two months ahead so that it soaks in brandy and stays preserved for months and even years.

Christmas pudding is rich and flavorful. The sweet notes are provided by the nuts and fruits while spicy ones by the cinnamon, star anise, and cloves. 

Brandy, Whisky, or rum provides a nice touch to make the Christmas pudding by making it even more strong, sweet, and fruity. It also contributes to the texture of the Christmas pudding by keeping it moist, and crumbly and keeping the Christmas pudding the ideal dessert for the day. 

If you make Christmas pudding at home, omit the brandy or ask your host if they have brandy added to their Christmas pudding.

However, the alcohol amount of a 125 g piece of Christmas pudding is not harmful for a non-pregnant person. According to studies, Christmas puddings contain ethanol that does not all evaporate during the cooking process. However, the rise in blood alcohol content after ingestion of a typical slice of Christmas pudding was negligible and unlikely to affect work performance or safety or impair a health care worker’s ability to make complex decisions (3).

What can you add to your Christmas Pudding if you are pregnant?

If you are pregnant, you do not have to eat bland pudding by itself, there are many recipes out there you could make to eat.

 Instead of a liquor-based beverage, you can try caramelized baked apple terrine, cranberry jelly, zesty orange custard with your Christmas pudding.

 Make marmalade and orange sauce by simmering marmalade with orange sauce on medium flame to make it into a syrup.

 You can also add stem ginger and honeycomb ice cream, or caramelized pistachio.

Why must you avoid alcohol if you are pregnant?

Alcohol can poison and harm your baby by making its way from your bloodstream to the baby. A fetus or baby can not process alcohol. Alcohol would have a negative impact on your child’s development. The liver is one of the last organs to develop, however, months into the pregnancy, the baby’s body still cannot digest alcohol and have consequences to its health. 

During the first trimester, you must not drink any amount of alcohol. Some may permit drinking a couple of glasses of alcohol, but most food authorities discourage consuming any amount of alcohol throughout your pregnancy.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy causes an increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, and disabilities. Mothers who drink during pregnancy have been known to have babies with abnormal facial features, lower body weight and size, and problems with either heart, kidneys, or bones (5). However, other studies suggest that no size measure is as useful an indicator of the enduring effects of prenatal alcohol exposure as are the neurobehavioral outcomes (4).

It mostly affects the mental health of the child, causing it to have poor attention span, a bad memory, learning disabilities, low IQ, poor reasoning and judgemental skills, and speech and language delays. Studies show that deficits in attention, arithmetic skill, spatial-visual memory, and IQ, as well as increased alcohol problems and psychiatric disorders are among offspring outcomes correlated at several ages with maternal drinking during and before pregnancy recognition (4). 

You must also avoid drinking eggnog, pate, cured, or semi-cooked meat such as ham, or unpasteurized cheese. Also, avoid food that has not been handled or stored properly. 

Other FAQs about Pudding that you may be interested in.

Can pudding go bad?

How to make Christmas pudding in a slow cooker using the Morphy Richards method?

How to mature a Christmas pudding?

Can you eat Christmas pudding raw?

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered the question, can you eat Christmas pudding when pregnant? We discussed the instances where you must avoid eating Christmas pudding and the harm that it can bring to you and your baby. We also listed a few other things to avoid when pregnant. 

Citations

  1. Denny, Clark H., et al. Consumption of alcohol beverages and binge drinking among pregnant women aged 18–44 years—United States, 2015–2017. Morbid Mortal Week Rep, 2019, 68, 365.
  2. Grordon, B. No Worries, the Alcohol Burns Off During Cooking—But, Does It Really? 2019. Idaho State University.
  3. Brieger, Daniel G., et al. What proof is in your Christmas pudding? Is caring under the influence possible?. Med J Australia, 2014, 201, 702-704.
  4. Streissguth, A. Offspring Effects of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure from Birth to 25 Years: The Seattle Prospective Longitudinal Study. J Clin Psychol Med Settings, 2007, 14, 81–101.  
  5. Jones, Theodore B., Beth A. Bailey, and Robert J. Sokol. Alcohol use in pregnancy: insights in screening and intervention for the clinician. Clin obstet gynecol, 2013, 56, 114-123.