If you are pregnant and wondering which cured meats you can eat, there is good but not great news. Yes, the cured meats can be eaten, no, no all of them, unless you are immune to toxoplasmosis, a disease that can damage the foetus and the baby’s development during gestation.
In these nine special months, only cured meats present in the “cooked” category are allowed, while those obtained from raw processing should be avoided. Moreover, be careful with calories and salt: the diet must be healthy and balanced, in short, mother and childproof!
The allowed cured meats in pregnancy
During the gestational period, all cooked cured meats are allowed, or rather those subjected to cooking at high temperatures (above 60° C) and for a very long time, like cooked ham, mortadella, chicken and turkey cured meats, sausages (but strictly boiled or grilled) and porchetta, even though the latter is classified as a “fatty” food and therefore has to be limited, if not excluded, during pregnancy.
Of course, their consumption, even if they are cooked, must be disciplined because, lacking in nutrients and rich in salt, they promote water retention and hypertension and, in some cases, can contribute to increasing some pregnancy disorders, like swelling or sense of exhaustion.
Nothing prevents you from eating them when you are pregnant, just pay attention to the quantity (and quality): the ideal portion is 50 gr, a couple of times a week and, if it is cooked ham it is better to remove the fat in excess.
In doubt, chicken and turkey cured meats should be preferred over pork, because they are lighter and more digestible.
Another piece of advice, when you are pregnant, it is recommended to make sure that the cooked and raw cured meats are cut with knives or with different slicers, to avoid the risk of “cross-contamination”, as it is called in jargon, or rather avoiding the blade to carry the toxoplasmosis parasite from one food to another.
Statistically, the contagion hypothesis is very low, but it is better to buy the safest ready-made trays on the market, to be consumed within a maximum of four days from opening.
The “no” cured meats in pregnancy (and why)
Unfortunately, some of the most popular are included in the off-limits cured meats’ list: raw ham, salami, saw sausage, pancetta, speck, bresaola, and capocollo.
In practice, all those foods that have raw processing or a method that does not guarantee the elimination of contracting toxoplasmosis such as smoking, salting and short curing.
The only way out is freezing them at a temperature of -80° C (which requires specific machinery and not a simple home freezer, which does not exceed -25° C) or cooked them above 70° C, to destroy the toxoplasmosis’ pathogen, a not too serious disease, but which can lead to important problems for foetus, especially in the first trimester of pregnancy.
The culprit is the protozoan Toxoplasma gondii, which can be found in cats’ faeces, raw or undercooked meats. The toxo test is one of the first that has to be carried out in the pregnancy’s screening (which is repeated monthly).
If you are not immune, you must always pay attention to wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly and cooking cold cuts and meats very well.
Another very common question is: Can I eat “raw” cured meats on pizza? “So and so”, or rather, “yes” if they are added at the beginning of the preparation, before putting pizza in the oven, “no” if they are added at the end of cooking, such as speck, raw ham, or bresaola because there is no guarantee that the suitable temperature is reached to neutralize the toxoplasmosis parasite.
This foresight must be kept in mind in all other preparations. The only exception to this rule is tested positive for toxo, which allows the hams and salami’s consumption (sparingly though!)
The right nutrition for mothers-to-be
The diktat is always the same: if you are pregnant you must prefer a type of healthy and low-fat diet with lots of fruit and vegetables. However, you can give yourself occasionally some whims, using cooked meats in all their flavour variables.
From the most classic of the classics, the cooked ham sandwich, passing through appetizers or light aperitifs, up to the first and second courses, the “cooked” cured meats can be interpreted and used in many delicious recipes.
But, always remembering a fundamental rule: when you are pregnant, you should never overdo (and never eat for two!)
Cooked cured meats to experience during pregnancy
Delicious amuse bouche, ideas for an aperitif or appetizers, everything is possible, even a platter of cured meats, you just have to choose the right ones during pregnancy, or rather, those cooked, from ham to mortadella, passing through sausages and salami, chicken or turkey.
You can start with simple canapes to combine with pickles, pinzimonios (vegetables must always be washed very well!) or spreadable cheeses, up to fanciful voule-au-vent, savoury brioches with a delicate flavour or mini-quiches to taste… without overdoing! A non-alcoholic cocktail or beer is also allowed, depending on your preference.
However, if you want to experiment with new combinations, which will make you forget these nine months limitations, here is how.
Toasted bread with cooked ham, ricotta and mint mousse and dried tomatoes topping
Ingredients for 4 people
- 8 slices of bread for sandwiches
- 200 g of ricotta
- 150 g of cooked ham
- Mint leaves
- 60 g of dried tomatoes
- Cut the bread lengthwise to obtain two triangles from each slice. Toast the bread for a few minutes and set aside
- Chop the ricotta, cooked ham and mint leaves in a food processor. Adjust with oil and salt, according to taste and to have a soft and thick mousse
- Cut the dried tomatoes into strips
- Arrange the mousse on the bread’s slices with a spoon and finish with the dried tomatoes
Full-flavored cured meats even during pregnancy
In the first courses category, you can indulge yourself largely because salami and cold cuts (even the raw ones) can be cooked at high temperatures. To be on the safe side, however, it is better to choose cooked ones that also allow “raw” processing.
Among the most successful combinations, there is certainly pasta, the classic Mediterranean diet’s basis, which can be cooked in many different ways like, for example, ham cooked in slices and cut into cubes, or salami ragu (cooked) mixed.
By cooking them well, it is possible to use sausage or speck, even in the risotto variant. Who says that you have to give up taste when you are pregnant?
Baked pasta with sausage and eggplants ragu
Ingredients for 4 people
- 420 g of pasta
- 850 g of tomato sauce
- 2 medium eggplants
- 250 g of minced sausage
- 250 g of mozzarella
- 100 g of Parmigiano Reggiano
- Half a red onion
- Put a saucepan with plenty of water on the stove and add salt. When the water boils, add the pasta and cook it until firm
- While the pasta is cooking, prepare the eggplant and sausage sauce
- In a pan pour a little oil and the chopped onion, add the eggplants cut into small cubes (according to taste, remove the eggplant’s peel to eliminate its bitter side) and leave to cook for about 15 minutes over medium heat
- Add the tomato sauce, season with salt and cook with lid on low heat for another 20 minutes
- Add the minced sausage to the sauce and leave to flavour for a few minutes, then turn off the heat
- Season the pasta with the prepared sauce
- Cut the mozzarella into small cubes and set aside
- In a baking dish, pour a little pasta then the mozzarella and finally the Parmesan. Repeat the process a second time to create two layers and finish with the grated Parmesan
- Bake in a preheated static oven at 200° C and bake for about 20 minutes
Looking for new flavours
Nothing to complain about the main courses or single dishes: cooked meats give a twist to the “usual” tastes with an original and really good touch. The most common way?
Surely the savoury pies, but also the savoury leavened products enriched with cooked ham, mortadella or Vienna sausage, like Neapolitan sandwiches and soft rustic donuts.
There are also the omelette rolls, hot or cold roulades, to be filled with cooked ham or rump and delicious vegetables. If you are looking for the right inspiration (toxoplasmosis proof), there are many easy and balanced recipes to be tried, like this one.
Turkey breast rolls stuffed with barley and vegetable salad
Ingredients for 4 people
- 200 g of barley
- 250 g of sliced turkey
- 2 courgettes
- 1 eggplant
- 3 carrots
- Mint leaves
- 1 clove of garlic
- Chives strands (q.s. to close the turkey rolls)
- Fill a pot of water, bring to a boil and add salt. Add the barley and cook until firm, checking the cooking time on the package
- Cut the vegetables into cubes. In a saucepan, pour the oil and heat it for a few minutes along with a clove of garlic. Then add the vegetables, add salt and cook for about 10 minutes so that the vegetables remain a little crunchy
- Once ready, season the barley with the vegetables and allow to cool
- Take the turkey slices and place a little barley salad on each slice, lengthwise. Roll up the slices and close them with a blade of chives
- Arrange the turkey rolls on a serving plate, serve and enjoy
Conclusion about cured meats in pregnancy
Throughout pregnancy, nutrition has a direct influence on women’s health and baby’s nutritional status, for this reason, it must be carefully balanced to prevent excessive weight gain.
The diet must be as varied and balanced as possible with specific attention to protein, vitamin and salt intake.
What about the cured meats? They have to be consumed sparingly, paying attention to the product’s quality!