Can I eat Thanksgiving turkey while pregnant? Here’s what to know

Pregnancy is a journey filled with joy and anticipation, but it can also come with an overwhelming amount of advice, especially about what you should or shouldn’t eat. While some women may welcome this guidance, for others, it can feel like just one more thing to worry about. And let’s face it: pregnant mamas already have enough on their plate without having to constantly second guess their food choices.

As the holidays sneak up on us, food becomes a central theme for most get-togethers—especially for Thanksgiving. You aren’t alone if you’re wondering if you can eat Thanksgiving turkey while pregnant. The good news is, yes, you can! Not only is turkey delicious, it’s also an excellent source of protein for your developing baby. With a few basic food safety considerations, you can enjoy turkey and all that Thanksgiving has to offer without stressing over safety.

The concern about listeria

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

Listeria is a type of bacteria that can be harmful to the unborn baby. Deli meats, including turkey, can come into contact with these bacteria after processing. While 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 severe complications such as miscarriage, premature delivery, or life-threatening infections in newborns. As a result, deli meat is usually not recommended (unless it’s heated to above 165 degrees F) just to be safe.

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

Safely preparing and cooking Thanksgiving turkey

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

Be mindful of these other holiday foods when pregnant

You’ve got your turkey covered, but what about other foods? Most Thanksgiving and holiday foods are completely safe to enjoy, but there are a few things to consider.

Any foods with raw eggs (think dressings or homemade mayo) may contain Salmonella bacteria, so it’s best to avoid them. If you’re craving a deviled egg, make sure the filling is thoroughly 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 out 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 appropriately stored in the fridge within two hours of cooking and reheated to at least 165 degrees before eating. If something smells off or looks questionable, it’s better to err on the side of caution and throw it out.

Giving thanks for a healthy pregnancy

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