Can I Eat Thanksgiving Turkey While Pregnant?

Pregnancy is a journey full of joy and hope, but it can also come with a lot of advice, especially about what to eat and what not to eat. While some women may welcome this guidance, for others, it may feel like one more thing to worry about. And let’s face it: pregnant moms already have enough on their plate without having to constantly second-guess their food choices.

As the holidays approach us, food becomes a central theme for most gatherings—especially for Thanksgiving. You’re not alone if you wonder if you can eat Thanksgiving turkey while pregnant. The good news is, yes, you can! Not only is turkey delicious, it’s also a great source of protein for your growing baby. With a few basic food safety considerations, you can enjoy turkey and all that Thanksgiving has to offer without stressing about safety.

The concern about listeria

If you’re asking, “Can I eat turkey while pregnant?”, it’s probably stemming from concerns about lunch meat and listeria, but there’s a big difference between cooked turkey and the kind you find in the deli aisle.

Listeria is a type of bacteria that can harm an unborn baby. Deli meats, including turkey, can come into contact with these bacteria after processing. Although infection from listeria is rare, pregnant women are at a higher risk of contracting it. Pregnancy naturally lowers your body’s immune system, making you more susceptible to infections.

Listeriosis, the infection caused by listeria, can lead to serious complications such as miscarriage, premature birth, or life-threatening infections in newborns. As a result, deli meat is generally not recommended (unless it is heated above 165 degrees F) just to be safe.

The good news? Thanksgiving turkey is usually served hot and cooked, which can kill any bacteria. So, while it’s good to be aware of the risks, remember that a cooked Thanksgiving turkey can be safely enjoyed when you’re pregnant.

Safely preparing and cooking a Thanksgiving turkey

Food safety is always important, especially when you are pregnant. Enjoying your Thanksgiving turkey starts with preparation and cooking, including properly thawing it in the refrigerator if it’s frozen and making sure it’s cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Skip any pieces that look a little pink in case they are a little undercooked.

Be careful with these other holiday foods when pregnant

You’ve got your turkey covered, but what about the rest of the meal? Most Thanksgiving and holiday foods are perfectly safe to enjoy, but there are a few things to consider.

Any foods with raw eggs (think dressings or homemade mayo) can contain Salmonella bacteria, so it’s best to avoid them. If you’re craving deviled eggs, make sure the filling is fully cooked before eating.

Raw, unpasteurized cheeses like brie and feta can also be contaminated with Listeria, so stick to pasteurized versions. And even if your aunt makes the absolute best stuffing but cooks it inside the turkey, ask her to leave some to cook separately for you to enjoy to avoid any potential cross-contamination.

As for leftovers (and who doesn’t love Thanksgiving leftovers)? They should be properly stored in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking and reheated to at least 165 degrees before eating. If something smells or looks questionable, it’s better to err on the side of caution and throw it away.

Grateful for a healthy pregnancy

Your ability to enjoy the holidays, including your Thanksgiving feast, doesn’t have to be overshadowed by constant worry about what to eat. While there are potential risks associated with certain foods, following proper food safety guidelines can significantly reduce these risks, and you can still enjoy the foods you love—including turkey .

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