When I googled, “What is safe to eat in pregnancy?”, I got 149,000,000 results. That is 149 million websites. How can you possibly know which ones to follow? Many of those results are from blogs, forums, and opinion sites, not even reputable sources. As a Family Support Worker, my job is to reduce that list to just a few reputable sites for moms to reference.
Is Cheesecake a Safe Food? Just knowing the basic food safe rules may not answer all your questions. What about cheesecake? Is cheesecake safe to eat? The answer may surprise you. Yes, it can be safe. But in some cases, can be dangerous.
What Makes Cheesecake so Dangerous?
Some types of cheesecake are not baked and can include raw eggs and unpasteurized dairy. These ingredients may contain three dangerous bacteria you should avoid in pregnancy.
- Listeria – While pregnant, both you and baby are at a much higher risk of being infected with Listeria bacteria. Listeria is found in soil, water, and some animals. It can also be found in unpasteurized dairy products, processed meats, and due to cross-contamination, can be in unwashed produce. Listeriosis presents like a bad flu and if not treated can cause miscarriage or premature labor.
- E. coli – can be found in unpasteurized dairy and can affect baby’s growth.
- Salmonella – a bacterium found in raw foods such as meat and eggs. A Salmonella infection usually does not affect baby, but it will affect your health.
Cheesecake with unpasteurized dairy and raw eggs should be completely avoided during pregnancy. You will need to ask for the ingredients from your hostess or server. This is easily done in a restaurant but what if your Aunt Rose offers her traditional cheesecake?
How Can I Know the Cheesecake Before Me is Safe?
One easy way to avoid the issues with cheesecake is to bake it which kills any bacteria. You will not need to worry about the ingredients list if you know it is baked.
But, if you prefer the unbaked variety, make your cheesecake at home. Cut eggs from the recipe and use cream cheese, mascarpone, or ricotta cheese that is labeled pasteurized.
Here is a great, safe, cheesecake recipe. The dairy in this recipe is unpasteurized but although it has raw eggs, it is baked, so no food concerns.
Are There Other Risks When Eating Cheesecake?
It is important to remember that cheesecake is a high-calorie dessert. Starting at 321 calories for plain cheesecake, it is high in sugar, salt, and saturated fats.
A healthy weight gain is always important for the mother and baby. If you make your own, substitute with low-fat cheese, use sugar sparingly, and top with fresh fruit.
Can I Eat Cheesecake From Cheese Cake Factory?
A night out with the girls is an important tradition and one that you can continue to enjoy throughout your pregnancy. I did some internet diving to find the answer to this question.
The Cheese Cake Factory is very tight-lipped about their ingredients but claims you can ask for specific ingredient lists at each individual restaurant.
Their basic nutritional guides state that they use pasteurized milk and pasteurized cream cheese. However, they use raw eggs and buttermilk (does not state pasteurized) which can be worrisome. So, to be safe, it needs to be baked.
On their site they do not specifically state whether their cheesecake is baked. However, they offer powder mixes of their cheesecakes and those have instructions for baking. Based on this, I assume they bake their cheesecakes which makes them safe to eat.
- Always ask before ordering if the cheesecake is baked and if any of the toppings have raw eggs or unpasteurized dairy.
- These cheesecakes are on steroids, they have a very high-calorie count, almost double what you would make at home, so best to share a serving, or take a portion home to dad.
Can I Eat Ricotta Cheese?
Some cheesecake recipes call for Ricotta cheese or maybe you want to make lasagna. Is Ricotta cheese safe? Most Ricotta cheese you find in the grocery store is pasteurized. But it is good practice to check the label. If pasteurized it is completely safe. Other safe cheeses – if pasteurized are:
- Cream cheese
- Cottage cheese
- Processed cheeses
Why Does Pasteurizing Make a Difference?
Pasteurization is the process of heating foods to a high temperature to kill off harmful bacteria. During pregnancy, these foods should be pasteurized prior to consumption.
- Fruit juice
- Sour cream
Can I Eat Hummus?
Cheesecake may not be the only snack food you are wondering about during pregnancy. Hummus from the store is considered a processed food so it can contain Listeria.
While pregnant you will need to make it from scratch, eat within 3 hours of opening, and/or heat the hummus to steaming temperature to kill any bacteria.
Some stores offer canned hummus which is safer due to the processing method but it needs to be consumed on the day it is opened. As always check your best before and expiry dates. As well, keep up to date with the latest list of food recalls.
What Other Surprising Foods Should I Avoid?
In my research, I was only able to find a couple of safe foods lists that include herbal tea. It is important to learn the concerns as herbal teas have a consumer expectation of safety. Most moms would never consider a cup of Sleepy Time Tea to be a concern.
What Are the Dangers of Herbal Tea?
Tea can be divided into two types: non-herbal and herbal. Non-herbal teas:
- Black tea
- Green Tea
- White Tea
- And more
These teas are generally deemed safe for moderate consumption during pregnancy. The level of caffeine in non-herbal tea is the only concern during pregnancy. This can be avoided by purchasing non-caffeinated versions of your favorite tea.
Herbal teas are more difficult to determine a safe level. With the huge assortment of herbal teas on the market, there is not an adequate amount of research pointing to the safety or danger of drinking herbal teas during pregnancy. You will find many differing opinions on the safety of herbal teas and herbal tea providers but here is a list of tea you should avoid:
- Any teas claiming medicinal effect – headache relief, digestion, sleep, calming, or pregnancy teas.
- Chamomile – in large amounts can lead to premature labor.
- Nettle Leaf – often included in many “pregnancy” teas, can cause premature labor.
- Dandelion Leaf – a diuretic (makes you pee), use with caution, and in small doses.
- Licorice Root – do not consume this tea as it can lead to premature labor.
- Laxative Tea – can affect your electrolyte balance, cause dehydration, and premature labor
- Slippery Elm Bark – only the inner bark is safe to consume in pregnancy, as it hard to tell from a tea label which bark is used, it is best to avoid.
- Chicory Root – a common ingredient in herbal teas, this can cause premature labor.
- Tea blends that have any of these ingredients.
- Raspberry leaf – not in large amounts prior to 37 weeks.
- Peppermint – not in large amounts prior to 37 weeks.
What Herbal Teas are Safe?
Some herbal teas can be used in moderation.
- Teas made with fruits and spices.
- Lemon balm.
- Peppermint – in small amounts due to risk of premature labor in higher dosages.
- Raspberry Leaf – in small amounts due to risk of premature labor in higher dosages.
- Commercial brands such as Celestial Seasonings teas in small amounts.
Nine Months or Longer?
My daughter is counting down the days of her pregnancy so she can have sushi and sunny-side-up eggs. The good news for your pregnancy craving is that for the most part there are very few restrictions during breastfeeding. Your immune system will return soon after birth so the high concern for food-borne illness is quite low. Here are the few exceptions:
- Fish high in mercury – mercury levels can be passed through breastmilk so you will need to limit your fish diet to: salmon, pollock, tilapia, flounder, catfish, shrimp, scallops, crab and light canned tuna.
- Caffeine – limiting caffeine while breastfeeding will help with infant sleep. Every mom and baby have different levels of tolerance to caffeine. Start with two small cups of coffee a day and increase, if desired, if you noticing baby is sleeping well.
- Allergens – most babies will not be affected by anything mom eats but a small percentage may show reactions to allergens like milk and peanuts.
- Food Sensitivities – some babies may be more gassy or irritable if you eat large amounts of citrus, spicy or high-fat foods. Do not eliminate an entire food group without the advice of your pediatrician.
Making choices about what you ingest during pregnancy and breastfeeding are a short-term inconvenience compared with a healthy pregnancy and baby. Even with all the lists of do, not’s remember that your grandma’s advice is still true.
Everything in Moderation.