Thanksgiving Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

Thanksgiving Dinner

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Thanksgiving is usually a time to gather with family or friends and celebrate. Typically these celebrations center around food and lots of it. The problem is that in pregnancy, some of these traditional foods may be hazardous to you and your baby. The good news is that with some easy and common sense planning, you can thoroughly enjoy most of your traditional foods without adding in the potential of illness. Stay safe this Thanksgiving by avoiding the following foods:

Undercooked Turkey

One of the most talked about traditional foods is the turkey. And if you watch the media around the month of Thanksgiving, there are lots of people talking about how to cook a turkey correctly to avoid foodborne illness. Your turkey needs to be thoroughly cooked. Undercooked turkey (or stuffing) leaves you at risk for salmonella or toxoplasmosis.

USDA guidelines call for the turkey meat and stuffing to be cooked until the minimum internal temperature is 165 °F. It is best to use a food thermometer to check accurately.

Stuffing Cooked in a Turkey

This year skip the stuffing of the turkey and make your stuffing or dressing outside in a pot or pan. Stuffing that is cooked inside the bird runs the risk of being contaminated by undercooked meat as well as not getting hot enough on the inside to destroy those germs.

Raw Batter 

Many people enjoy baking for the holidays. Families traditionally love to make pumpkin pies, cookies, and cakes. Just be watchful that you don't sample the batter while cooking or contaminate a surface that isn't cleaned with the raw batter. Remember that raw eggs are putting you at risk for salmonella. Try snacking on some sliced fruit or nuts as you bake and wait until your baking is done before sampling. If you absolutely love raw cookie dough batter, there are some products on the market that taste like cookie dough but are not dangerous.

Soft or Unpasteurized Cheeses

There is nothing as yummy as a big tray full of hors-d'oeuvres like fruit and soft cheeses. However, in pregnancy, these cheeses are off-limits due to the risk of listeria. So avoid cheeses like Brie, Camembert, goat cheese, Gorgonzola, Havarti, Muenster, and Roquefort. Don't fear, there are some safe cheeses, like Cheddar and Swiss.

Homemade Sauces and Creams 

Traditional family sauces like Hollandaise sauce, creams or ice cream can be made with unpasteurized eggs. This increases the risk of salmonella. Consider using a pasteurized egg product like Egg Beaters instead to add safety to your holiday cooking.

Unpasteurized Ciders

If your family is serving up hot or cold cider, skip it if it's homemade or made from unpasteurized products. The risk here is from E. coli. Try hot chocolate or a commercially prepared version this year.

Raw Vegetables 

These need to be thoroughly washed before you eat them. They can be exposed to toxoplasmosis in the dirt, and if not properly washed, you're also exposed. Take charge of washing them yourself to ensure a good, thorough washing.

Smoked Meats 

Looking at some lox or smoked salmon? Unless you know it's from a can, skip it. Those products found in the refrigerated section of the grocery can be contaminated with listeria. The same goes for patè. There is a really good vegetarian pate recipe you could try instead, we find it commercially prepared with beans.


Don't be tempted to "celebrate" with alcohol and watch for hidden alcohol in drinks. If you want a fun substitute, consider virgin recipes or sparkling cider. This may take some planning ahead or supply your own fun beverage.

General Food Safety 

Remember to wash your hands before, during and after food preparation to avoid germs and contaminating other foods. Thoroughly clean surfaces and utensils that have come into contact with raw meats. When it's all said and done, be sure to get food into the refrigerator within two hours for maximum safety.

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Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Foodborne Germs and Illnesses. Updated March 18, 2020.

  2. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Turkey Basics: Safe Cooking. Updated October 22, 2019.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Food Safety Tips for Your Holiday Turkey. Updated November 4, 2019.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Salmonella and Eggs. Updated February 14, 2020.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevent Infections During Pregnancy. Updated June 19, 2019.

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Toxoplasmosis & Pregnancy FAQs. Updated June 26, 2019.

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