Deli Meat When Pregnant – Can I Eat & How Safe is It?

Eating meat during pregnancy is a great way to increase your protein intake. But not every type of meat is ideal for you during this period.

If you enjoy eating deli meats before pregnancy, you may ask, can you eat deli meat when pregnant? While deli meats, like many other types of meat, are good sources of protein and iron, it is not recommended for pregnant women.

However, the Centers for Disease Control has advised that it should be heated to a temperature of 165°F before eating.

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What Are Deli Meats?

Deli meats or cold cuts are precooked meats sliced into thin slices and eaten cold or hot. They’re usually eaten in sandwiches or alone.

There are different types of deli meats:

  • Corned beef
  • Bresaola
  • Cotechino
  • Chicken breast
  • Pork roll
  • Roast beef
  • Roast lamb
  • Roast pork
  • Mortadella
  • Turkey breast
  • Spam and treed
  • Ham
  • Meatloaf
  • Dutch loaf.

Most pre-sliced deli meats have higher nitrates and sodium than the ones sliced on the order because the exposed surface uses more preservatives.

This way, processed meats increase the risks of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, even more than red meat.

Studies across Europe and the US show an association between precooked meat and death from cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

Also, the World Cancer Research Fund International guidelines on cancer prevention recommend avoiding all processed meats.

Nutritional Information

 Per 100g
Calories 353% Daily Value
Total fat 32 g49%
Cholesterol 55 mg18%
Sodium 1,293 mg53%
Potassium 202 mg5%
Total carbs 2.3 g0%
Protein 13 g26 %
Vitamin C0%
Vitamin B610%
Vitamin D10%

Can You Eat Deli Meat When Pregnant?

Meat is a major source of iron and protein and is important for pregnant women for cell development in both the mother and fetus.

Some meats are precooked and cut into thin slices to make them tastier and easier to eat.

However, these precooked meats can be a breeding ground for listeria, toxoplasma, salmonella, and other disease-causing parasites which can cause food poisoning.

During pregnancy, your immune system is compromised and weaker, making it harder for your body to fight against diseases.

Since cold cuts harbor these bacteria, they’re seemingly more dangerous to pregnant women and their unborn babies.

Especially listeria is common and can cause Listeriosis to inhibit the baby’s development.

If you intend to continue enjoying cold cuts during pregnancy, here are some safety guidelines to keep yourself and your baby out of harm’s way:

  • Healthy Storage Practices: Do not store raw meat together with cooked meat. Or serve cooked meat on a plate that you previously put raw meat in, or at least not without washing it with dish soap and white vinegar.
  • Adequately cook your meat.
  • Always reheat cooked meat before eating.
  • Avoid undercooked meat, poultry, or fish while pregnant.
  • Refrigerate any leftovers or new purchases within 2 hours or 1 hour for meats above 90° F.

Eating undercooked or precooked meats while pregnant exposes you to the following bacteria and parasites:


Listeria monocytogenes is a bacterium that causes listeriosis, a disease characterized by fever, confusion, loss of balance, headache, muscle aches, and stiff neck.

Many people with a healthy immune system may not fall ill after eating foods contaminated with this bacterium.

Still, pregnant women (healthy or not) have higher chances of falling ill after contracting listeriosis which can be passed to the fetus.

The dangers of listeriosis include stillbirth, miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight, and in extreme cases, bacteremia and meningitis.


This parasite causes toxoplasmosis, an infection that can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, long-term neurological damage, or worse.

Most healthy people may not know when they have toxoplasmosis because their bodies fight against it gradually, but it has obvious effects on pregnant women and the pregnancy.


Even though this bacteria has milder symptoms, the high fever, diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, and weakness can result in preterm or a miscarriage.

How To Ensure That Your Meat is Properly And Safely Cooked

You can use a thermometer to monitor the temperature of your meat, but by mere observation, you should be able to tell when meat is not cooked properly.

  • Cook beef, pork, lamb, veal, and seafood to 145° F or above.
  • Cook poultry to 165° F or above.
  • Heat leftovers to 165° F or above before eating.
  • It is better to cook meat over a stove to ensure it is evenly cooked, but if you decide to use a microwave, cover the meat and rotate it twice or more to cook evenly.

Meats To Avoid When Pregnancy

It’s best to avoid deli meats or lunch meats when pregnant unless you have heated it to at least 165° F before serving to avoid any risks of food poisoning that can lead to infant mortality or other pregnancy complications.

But not just for deli meats. There are other types of meats to avoid while pregnant.

  • Smoked meat
  • Deli (turkey, chicken, roast beef, ham, bologna)
  • Dry sausages

When preserving any meats, you can slow down the growth of bacteria in them by keeping your refrigerator at 40° F or colder. But this doesn’t mean you should throw caution to the wind and eat the meat without heating.

If you’re craving for deli meal, try out these options:

  • Heat the deli meat before putting it in your sandwich.
  • Try vegan sandwiches by replacing the meats with cheese or veggies.

Are Hotdogs And Bacon Safe During Pregnancy?

Even though hotdogs and bacon aren’t cold cuts, they can equally harbor listeria and other pathogens that cause food poisoning.

Also, processed meats are preserved with nitrates and nitrites, which can increase the risk of cancer.

In Pregnant women, frequently eating foods containing nitrates increases the risks of preterm birth, especially if said woman takes nitrosatable.

Hotdogs and bacon have high sodium and saturated fat levels, which should be eaten moderately.

Always preheat all hotdogs and bacon to 165° F and above before eating, and do not leave opened bacon outside the refrigerator.

Read Also: Foods To Avoid When Pregnant

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you eat sliced deli cheeses that are hard varieties?

It is best to avoid soft cheeses (like queso fresco, queso blanco, panela, brie, Camembert, blue-veined, or feta) unless they’re made with pasteurized milk. 

It’s safer to heat the deli cheese, regardless of whether an outbreak is ongoing or not, for deli cheeses. 

Whenever possible, heat [deli meats and cheeses] before eating them.

What other steps can first-time moms take to protect themselves from listeria?

There is a list of foods with general recommendations for pregnant women, not just in outbreak situations. 

In those recommendations, they tell you the safest way to eat specific items like soft cheeses, raw sprouts, undercooked eggs, and things like that, and they tell you how to consume and store them safely. 

You can also look at how to clean your refrigerator if you have contaminated food. In general, it’s a good idea to clean in between using raw meats and ready-to-eat foods when cooking with raw meats.

Pregnant women should also pay attention to food recalls and outbreak notices. 

What should pregnant women do if they are exposed to listeria?

Look out for symptoms such as fever, fatigue, or muscle aches if you think you’ve been exposed to a recalled or contaminated product. 

If anything seems a little off about your pregnancy or how you’re feeling, I recommend calling your doctor and telling them that you may have consumed a product that could have contained listeria as soon as possible.


Deli Meats are common protein options in most American restaurants and grocery stores and have continued to be a go-to choice for people who are too lazy to cook meat from scratch.

You may be wondering, can you eat deli meat when pregnant while you can safely eat deli meats as a protein source, the Center for Disease Control advises that pregnant women should avoid cold cuts during pregnancy.

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