Proper nutrition is important for good health, and it’s especially important during pregnancy. Women need to eat a variety of foods to support their pregnancy, and the “avoid list” is much shorter than many think. Unfortunately, a lot of the focus is on foods to avoid. Women are typically told to avoid all deli meats during pregnancy, but that’s a myth. However, it IS best practice to heat deli meats before eating and avoid eating raw meat and raw shellfish during pregnancy.
Because ham is commonly consumed around the holidays, I’m dedicating this post to discussing whether it’s safe to eat ham while pregnant. I’ll also share other important information you should know before considering eliminating ham from your pregnancy diet.
Can You Eat Ham During Pregnancy?
So, can pregnant women eat ham? Yes! There are a few things to consider first for “best practice” from a food safety standpoint, including whether the ham is cooked and if the ham is served warm or has been reheated.
Here’s the bottom line on ham (and other deli meats) during pregnancy:
Nearly all types of food can carry listeria, not just deli meats. According to the CDC, pregnant women are ten times more likely to get sick from listeria. However, listeriosis, while very serious, is still extremely rare. According to the CDC, an estimated 1600 people get sick per year in the US, but statistics are similar in Europe (that’s a super low number!!).
Heating deli meats to 165 F greatly reduces the chances of listeria growth in your meat. The risk is overall low, to begin with, but when heated, the risk is even more minimal. Whether to heat, eat, or avoid is up to YOUR comfort level. Still, if you do experience flu-like symptoms such as fever and diarrhea, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
How To Eat Ham During Pregnancy
Heat deli ham to 165 F before eating.
As discussed above, it’s recommended that pregnant women heat deli meats to 165 F or “steaming hot” just before eating for the greatest reduced risk of foodborne illness. When eating out, you may need to ask for the ham to be “extra toasted” or heated a bit longer than usual to ensure the deli meat has reached this minimum temperature.
Properly reheat baked ham before eating.
Like the deli meat ham mentioned above, it’s best practice to reheat baked ham to “steaming hot” before eating. Remember, these are all “best practice” recommendations for food safety and to decrease the risk of listeriosis. It does not mean eating cold ham WILL make someone sick.
Limit ham that is cured rather than cooked.
Cured ham is usually ham served “as is” or cold sliced. This ham differs from cooked hams, but generally, it is safe to eat! Cured ham products are made with a lot of salt; this amount is used as a preservative and antibacterial agent. Curing can also mean a brine was used or a drying process (like jerky). Nitrates/nitrites are also added to protect against harmful bacteria growing. You can learn more about nitrates and our health (and pregnancy) here.
The longer the ham is cured, the lower the risk of infection from parasites, but the risk is still there. Heating and fully cooking these types of hams do basically get rid of the risk, just like cooked deli meats.
Hams such as prosciutto, speck, culatello, lardo, and capulloco are considered cured. Potentially the most common cured meat in America is pepperoni. It is safe to eat if you find any of these meats on pizza, and they are cooked on top. Pancetta is similar to bacon and is mostly used in cooked dishes, so it is also not of concern.
What Ham Is Safe To Eat During Pregnancy?
Is Honey-Baked Ham Safe To Eat During Pregnancy?
Honey-baked ham is commonly served during the holidays, but is it safe for pregnant women to eat?
In most cases, baked ham, including honey-baked ham, is safe for pregnant women to eat, as long as they are baked first and served within 2 hours. Food safety guidelines recommend heating the ham until it’s steaming hot before eating it again.
Honey Baked Ham
Honey-baked ham, in particular, is fine as long as the ham is served hot or reheated. Honey is also okay because it is cooked when the ham is baked. If raw honey is used on baked ham, it is okay also since the ham will be cooked.
Other Baked Hams
Baked ham is traditionally served cold, so it’ll require the extra step of reheating it. This extra step is recommended to ensure that you don’t expose yourself or your baby to potentially dangerous bacteria. Remember, this is the “best practice” to reduce the risk for foodborne illness, BUT the risk of listeriosis is overall low. So, given the information available, it’s up to you if you choose to heat, eat, or avoid.
Baked hams can be called different things depending on where you are from or the area you’re in. Baked ham is a single joint, cured, sometimes smoked, and then baked. In addition to honey-baked ham, these hams are called:
- Spiral Hams
- Christmas Hams
- Yule Hams
- City hams
- Country hams
- Gammon joints
- Smithfield Ham
- York Ham
- Glazed Hams
- Ham “off the bone”
According to government recommendations, there is some debate over whether pre-packaged ham is safe to eat during pregnancy. In the UK, pre-packaged ham, like the kind you put on sandwiches, is considered safe for consumption, even if it’s eaten cold.
However, in the USA, it’s longgg been recommended that you avoid eating pre-packaged ham during pregnancy, although the risk of contracting food poisoning or a foodborne illness is considered very low. With risk this low, still risk nonetheless; it’s up to you to decide if you will consume this type of meat throughout your pregnancy. As discussed throughout this blog post, heating to 165 F does reduce risk and can kill listeria bacteria!
Will you enjoy some ham this holiday season?
Now that I’ve cleared up some of the confusion over ham, do you plan on enjoying some this holiday season? Tell me more about your favorite holiday foods!
Then, I encourage you to check out The Prenatal Nutrition Library. It has tons of information on staying healthy for you and your baby, plus a full Pregnancy Holiday Eating Guide. This guide will help you feel empowered about eating this holiday season, whether you are trying for a baby or currently expecting! Learn more and join us HERE.