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Can I Eat Cold Cuts While Pregnant?

Can I Eat Cold Cuts While Pregnant?

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can i eat cold cuts while pregnant

Are you pregnant, facing cravings, and sick of the stink eye you’re getting from your mom friends when you say you want a deli meat sandwich for lunch?


What exactly would happen to you and your baby if you threw caution to the wind and ate cold cuts? Put up your swollen feet, relax, and let’s dive right into this meaty issue.


In this article:


I Ate Deli Meat While Pregnant: Should I Be Worried?

Maybe your doctor told you not to eat cold cuts, and it only made you want them more. Suddenly, all you could think about was scarfing down a filling, meaty sandwich. So you did, figuring it was just cooked meat. How bad could it be, after all?


Or maybe you didn’t know cold cuts made the list of forbidden pregnancy foods. Blissfully unaware, you ate a sandwich and are now worried it will come back to bite you.


Either way this sandwich situation played out, don’t worry. You and your baby will likely be just fine. The stress you’re putting yourself through over this already-eaten sandwich might be the worst problem you’ll experience from this.


That being said, you better have enjoyed that cold cut sandwich because it really should be your last one until your baby is born.


So, what’s so bad about indulging your cravings since we just said you’ll probably be fine after eating that sandwich? The problem isn’t with the meat itself, but with what could be lurking in it.


That turkey, bologna, salami, or ham could be harboring Listeria.


What is Listeria?

Listeria is a bacteria that can lead to listeriosis. While listeriosis sounds like a spell they’d say in the Harry Potter books, it’s actually an illness that could be fatal to you and your baby.


So, if Listeria is so bad, why are you allowed to eat cold cuts normally? Why isn’t there just a universal ban on deli meats?


It’s because healthy people usually don’t get sick from ingesting Listeria. People who have weakened immune systems are more likely to get sick. Along with morning sickness and back pain, a weakened immune system is just one more unwanted side effect of pregnancy.


As a pregnant woman, you’re ten times likelier to contract listeriosis than you were before your pregnancy.


Listeriosis isn’t anything you want to mess around with – not for your health or your baby’s. Here is what this illness could do to you. It can cause:

  • Chills.
  • Fever.
  • Diarrhea. 
  • Stomach pain.
  • Aching muscles.
  • Headache.
  • Confusion.
  • Imbalance.
  • Stiff neck.
  • Vomiting.
  • Dehydration.
  • Preterm labor.
  • Stillbirth.
  • Miscarriage.

Even if you feel perfectly fine, the infection can be passed on to your fetus. Some of the problems listeriosis can cause for your baby include:

  • Brain infection.
  • Blood infection.
  • Intellectual disability.
  • Seizures.
  • Blindness.
  • Paralysis.
  • Kidney issues.
  • Heart problems.

In rare cases, listeriosis could be fatal to both you and your baby. Are you suddenly understanding why that sandwich isn’t worth the risk?


How Common is Listeriosis During Pregnancy?

With how serious listeriosis can be, you might be wondering how we can say you’re probably okay if you’ve eaten a deli meat sandwich while pregnant. Your blood pressure might be skyrocketing right now as you think of the consequences you and your baby may suffer all because of your pregnancy cravings.


Calm down, though. The statistics are on your side. While approximately one-sixth of all listeriosis cases happen in pregnant women according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the illness is still rare.


Only an approximate 1,600 people contract this illness annually. And since you’re probably freaking out too much to do the math right now, we’ll do it for you. If one-sixth of 1,600 cases are pregnant women, that means there are only roughly 266 cases out of the almost 4 million births in the U.S. each year.


That’s why you shouldn’t panic if you ate a cold cut sandwich without understanding the possible consequences. Do you think you’re the only woman out there who broke the rules or didn’t know that cold cut rule in the first place? Not a chance.


So, take it easy on yourself if you made a mistake. As a parent, you should get used to it. You’ll make many, many more in the years to come. Now that you know better, though, you can do better. You’ll know why that tempting sandwich isn’t worth the price you and your baby could both pay.


Can I Eat Lunch Meat While Pregnant if I Microwave It?

If you have a serious lunch meat addition, you’re in for some good news. You can still eat it while pregnant if you take precautions.


If you microwave or cook that meat on the stove, it will be safe for consumption. To be certain it’s hot enough, make sure it registers at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit on a meat thermometer before you eat it. That will be hot enough to kill off that pesky bacteria.


Don’t have a meat thermometer? That’s okay, we’re not all the Martha Stewart type. Instead of checking it, make sure that meat is steaming hot before you eat it.


Other Healthy Work Lunches that Are Pregnancy Safe

You’ve decided to skip cold cuts while pregnant just to be on the safe side. But now you aren’t sure what you can bring with you to lunch while you’re working. You want something fast, healthy, and simple. Here are some ideas:

  • Chicken sandwich: Cook a chicken breast the night before and shred it up for a sandwich. Add tomato, lettuce, cucumber, and any other veggies you love. Add a banana, and you’re good to go.
  • A salad: Stop rolling your eyes. A salad might only seem like what your doctor wants you to eat, but you can make it tasty with enough toppings. Add some hard-boiled eggs, veggies, cooked chicken breast, beans, and hard cheese. You can add some salad dressing too. But don’t get crazy, especially if your doctor is already on you about your weight gain.
  • Peanut butter and jelly: Peanut butter is a quick, relatively healthy, and affordable choice for lunch. Opt for whole-grain bread instead of white, and add some fruit and carrot sticks on the side.

Click here for even more ideas on what you SHOULD eat while pregnant.


If you’re not sure what other foods you should avoid while pregnant, talk to your doctor. And remember, you only have to give up certain foods for nine months. Your baby’s health is worth it!


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Listeria (Listeriosis), September 2019.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Prevent Infections During Pregnancy, June 2019.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Preventing Listeria Infections, March 2017.

National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, Microwave oven heating for inactivation of Listeria monocytogenes on frankfurters before consumption, October 2009.

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  • Shannon Serpette
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