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Pregnancy health

Can Pregnant Women Eat Pepperoni?

Tell your cravings "you don't pepper-own-me" before you chomp down.

Can Pregnant Women Eat Pepperoni?

Getty / ArtistGNDphotography

When the third-trimester-steaming-hot-pizza-craving strikes, pepperoni feels like the immediate topping of choice. It's the perfect pizza companion. But just as pregnant women can't eat deli meat, it's worth considering if pepperoni, another cold cured meat, is safe. And, because pregnant women can eat hot dogs — with a few guidelines — it seems like pepperoni might pass the test. Here's everything we know about eating pepperoni during pregnancy and our favorite little meat circles of joy.

Can pregnant women eat pepperoni?

Craving pepperoni during pregnancy is normal, but safety is the biggest concern.

"Pregnant women CAN eat pepperoni," says Nishta Saxena, Dietician and owner of Vibrant Nutrition. "Pepperoni is a very high sodium food, which can also be irritating in pregnancy when hydration and fluid overload is common. It's best as a once-in-a-while option on a pizza rather than a staple food."

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Can pregnant women eat cooked pepperoni?

Now that you know you can enjoy pepperoni now and then, there's a definitive difference in how it's prepared. When you're pregnant, you can't go willy-nilly with food like you may have before. As with all cured meats, ensuring it's safe to eat pepperoni comes with a few guidelines.

"Only if thoroughly cooked and heated through," Saxena says. "Having a compromised immunity during pregnancy means raw or cold pepperoni can increase the risk of toxoplasmosis and parasite infection; therefore, heating through at high temperature is required."

What pizza toppings are safe to eat while pregnant?

When it comes to eating pizza during pregnancy, and pizza toppings, cooked pepperoni is undoubtedly a fan favorite. According to Saxena, others include vegetables, fruits, cheeses, tomato sauces, and spices. But she says to save ground meats for another dish.

"Any pizza toppings should be washed, cooked, and prepared properly," Saxena adds. "Cured meats like ham or pepperoni, sausage, and chicken should be pre-cooked to proper internal heat before being used as a topping."

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And if you need to order pizza, ensure dairy products like feta cheese are pasteurized."

Is pepperoni healthy to eat while pregnant?

Saxena says there are no “better” alternatives to cured and processed meat except fresh, unprocessed beef, poultry, or fish. And honestly, nothing else hits the spot quite like pepperoni.

"The added nitrates and nitrites, preservatives, smoke, and methods for curing meat and fish make them more problematic for the immune-compromised pregnant body," Saxena says. "Vegetarian 'meats' and processed soy foods can also contain many additives and should be eaten cautiously."

Young pregnant woman using laptop eating pizza Getty / Nastasic

FAQ's

What are better alternatives?

As Saxena suggests, the only real comparison to eating pepperoni while pregnant is to other types of meats. The general rule, regardless of what kind of meat, is that it's thoroughly cooked and unprocessed. If you're craving pepperoni, you can (and should!) eat it in moderation with the above guidelines intact. Safety is key.

Does pepperoni have any nutritional value?

A little bit of pepperoni goes a long way. For instance, 14 slices (28g) of Hormel pepperoni have 13 grams of fat, 0.3 carbs, and 5.3 grams of protein. They're not the most nutrient-dense food, but boy are they delicious! Eating pepperoni while pregnant just means you'll have to be more vigilant with the rest of your day's food. We know how easy it is to down a few servings in one take, so moderation is key.

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The TLDR on pepperoni while pregnant: The easiest way to keep track of what's okay to eat while pregnant is to keep things basic. Whole foods, vegetables, fruits, and the occasional cheese or pepperoni pizza are fine. No need to completely give up one of life's true joys!

This article was originally published on Jun 21, 2023

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Candace (Ganger) Powell is a former editor for sites like Newsweek & The Dodo. She previously worked as Senior Entertainment Writer for Showbiz Cheatsheet and is a contributing writer for TODAY Show, Teen Vogue, Romper, Bustle, TWLOHA, Hello Giggle & more with thousands of bylines to her name.

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