Can you eat processed meat when pregnant?

In this brief guide, we will discuss the following question, “can you eat processed meat when pregnant?”, and other queries related to this topic.

Can you eat processed meat when pregnant? 

No, you can not eat processed meat when pregnant because they are not completely safe due to the risk of being contaminated with Listeria, a bacteria present in undercooked and raw products and have a life-threatening risk to your fetus.

Pregnancy is a very critical stage yet so amazing. The mother of the pregnant woman should be careful about any food that she ingests to avoid eating bad or contaminated food that might affect her health and thus her fetus’s health and development.

If the mother’s health is affected significantly in the first half of pregnancy, the baby will be affected. The growth retardation can not be reversible if the mother has been sick for a long time. So, the mother should watch her food quality and quantity.

So, processed meat might be risky in pregnancy especially if the mother is eating cold-cut meat such as salami, pepperoni, prosciutto, and ham without cooking them. However, if processed meat has been cooked at a high temperature like added to pizza, it will be safe for consumption.

Cooking and high temperatures will kill bacteria and mainly Listeria which is the main hazard in processed and cold-cut meats. So, steam and heat your deli or processed meat so that the pregnant woman will enjoy them without feeling guilty or putting herself at risk of poisoning.

Listeria which causes listeriosis can cross the placenta and get to your fetus. In this case, the baby will develop irreversible health problems such as seizures, blindness as well as heart, brain, and kidney problems. To note that pregnant women are more susceptible to infections.

In addition, good and proper food handling are crucial during this time. Because Listeria can proliferate in your refrigerator despite the low temperature. Also, raw meat can leak into pre-cooked dishes. So, be attentive to how you organize your fridge to avoid cross-contamination.

Moreover, processed meats are not rich in nutrients needed to support the mother’s health during pregnancy or the baby’s development. These foods are high in sodium which can have adverse health effects on pregnant women that are more prone to gestational hypertension. 

What are safe alternatives for processed meat during pregnancy?

You can substitute processed meats with healthier and safer choices during pregnancy. So, first of all, you can substitute your ham with homemade roasted turkey, beef, or chicken, like that you can control the amount of salt added and you will ensure their safety.

Moreover, you can eat low-mercury fish such as salmon, shrimp, octopus, and mussels. These foods are high in omega-3 which is crucial for the brain development of your fetus. Also, fish are high in zinc and proteins. However, avoid deep-frying fish and go for healthier options like grilling.

Furthermore, eggs are also a good replacement for processed meat, since they are essential food for a healthy and balanced diet. Eggs are rich in protein which is present in the egg white and high in healthy fats, a major component of egg yolks. Besides, eggs are high in vitamins.

What foods should a pregnant woman avoid?

A pregnant woman should avoid certain foods to avoid harming herself and the baby. So, as previously stated, the pregnant woman should avoid any unheated or uncooked deli and processed meat due to the risk of being contaminated with Listeria.

The second food that should be avoided during this phase is soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk and those that contain mold and fermenting bacteria like blue cheese and Roqueforte. Instead, consume hard cheeses and read the labeling before purchasing. 

Moreover, pregnant women should avoid high-mercury and big fish like sharks and tuna. Because mercury can affect the development of the baby’s nervous system leading to kidneys, hearing, vision, and lung problems. Go for salmon, scallops, shrimps, and mussels instead.

Furthermore, avoid consuming any raw meat or fish such as sushi and sashimi. These types of food are prone to bacterial contamination. So, if not well handled raw fish and meat can lead to food poisoning and thus alteration in the development of the baby. 

Moreover, avoid runny and undercooked eggs because they might contain salmonella, which is bacteria that lead to diarrhea, and abdominal pain. It is more likely to affect the mother than the baby. But, an alteration in the health status of the mother will turn back to the baby. 

Finally, pregnant women should avoid certain beverages, specifically alcohol that will lead if excessively consumed to negative outcomes for the baby. Also, the mother should reduce her intake of caffeine to less than 200 milligrams per day to be on the safe side.


In this brief guide, we will discuss the following question, “can you eat processed meat when pregnant?”, and other queries related to this topic.

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Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.