Is It Safe to Eat Cheesecake While Pregnant?

During pregnancy, many foods and drinks are to be avoided. Yet pregnancy is also a time for hunger pangs and food cravings. An estimated 50% to 90% of pregnant women experience specific food cravings during pregnancy. This is usually in the first and second trimesters.

If you have a craving for cheesecake, you might be wondering whether it's safe to eat during pregnancy. Some cheesecakes are made with eggs and dairy products, which can carry some risks for pregnant women. 

Foodborne Illnesses

Food safety is important. Pregnant women and their unborn babies are susceptible to some foodborne illnesses which can be very serious. 

Listeria (Listeriosis). Listeria, also known as Listeriosis, is an infection caused by the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes. People become sick after eating foods contaminated with this bacteria. Pregnant women and their unborn children are at high risk for an infection. Some 16% to 27% of listeria infections occur in pregnant women.

Many animals can carry the listeria bacteria without illness. As a result, listeria outbreaks often stem from animal products like eggs, deli meats and cheeses. 

The bacteria can survive in the freezer. It also grows in food kept at refrigerator temperatures. 

Pasteurization is the process of heating dairy products and eggs. It kills listeria bacteria. Cooking or reheating foods also kills bacteria. However, if listeria bacteria remains in commercial kitchens, it can recontaminate foods that are packaged as ready-to-eat. 

Pregnant women infected with listeria may not feel sick. They may have mild flu-like symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, and chills. The infection can also cross the placenta and infect your unborn baby. Listeria can cause preterm labor, miscarriage, or stillbirth

Newborns can have serious blood or brain infections. They can also experience other health problems such as blindness, seizures, and paralysis. About 10% to 50% of newborns with listeria die. 

Salmonella. The salmonella bacteria can contaminate a variety of foods such as eggs, meat, and vegetables. It’s estimated that salmonella causes 1 million illnesses every year in the US. 

Pregnant women are not at an increased risk when it comes to salmonella infections, but, if left untreated, it could lead to miscarriage.

Eggs that look normal can contain salmonella. You can reduce your chances of getting infected if your eggs are cooked and handled properly, or if you use pasteurized eggs. 

Salmonella bacteria can survive, for example, in cheesecakes that are not properly handled or stored. Doctors recommend that pregnant women get their food from a reputable eatery where the foods are stored and handled properly.

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Types of Cheesecakes That Are Safe During Pregnancy

In general, most cheesecakes are safe to eat during pregnancy. However, there are different ways of making cheesecakes. Here are some of common types of cheesecakes:

New York-style cheesecake. This type of cheesecake is made with cream cheese, cream (heavy and sour), cornstarch or flours, eggs, and sugar. The base is usually a graham cracker crust with sugar and melted better. New York cheesecakes are baked in the oven. 

“Regular” cheesecake. This is similar to New York-style cheesecake, but lighter and flavored with different ingredients.

No-bake cheesecake. This is made with cream cheese that is set with gelatin. Some versions use condensed milk, whipped cream, or sour cream. No-bake cheesecakes contain no eggs. This type of cheesecake is chilled in the fridge to set before eating. 

Non-cream cheese cheesecake. These types of cheesecake use ricotta or mascarpone instead of cream cheese. Some variations use cottage cheese or a German cheese called quark, which is similar to cottage cheese but without rennet. 

Japanese cheesecake. This type of cheesecake has no crust and is very light because of whipped egg whites. It contains cream cheese.

Vegan cheesecake. These non-dairy cheesecakes usually contain soaked cashews and coconut milk. Some of them are made with soft tofu or with vegan cream cheese substitutes.

Most store bought or restaurant cheesecakes are made with pasteurized dairy. Check the ingredients list before buying. It’s important to follow thawing or cooking instructions before eating it. Also, refrigerate any leftovers within 2 hours. 

If the ambient temperature is above 90° F (32° C), refrigerate leftovers within 1 hour. If you’re eating out at a restaurant, ask the server to check if the eggs and cheese are pasteurized. If they’re not sure, pick a different dessert. 

Types of Cheesecakes to Avoid During Pregnancy

Don’t eat any cheesecakes that are made with raw milk products, raw or undercooked eggs, or unpasteurized cheese.

A Healthy Diet During Pregnancy

Cheesecakes tend to be high in calories and sugar. A 100 gram slice of a store-bought plain cheesecake has 350 calories, 27.64 grams of fat and 15.45 grams of sugar. 

Doctors recommend that pregnant women eat about 300 extra calories a day. So, try not to eat too much of this high-calorie dessert.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 02, 2021

Sources

SOURCES: 

ACOG: “Listeria and Pregnancy,” “Nutrition During Pregnancy.”

Canadian Family Physician: “Food-borne illnesses during pregnancy.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Listeria (Listeriosis),” “Salmonella and Eggs,” “Salmonella and Food.”

Chowhound: “A Comprehensive Guide to Different Types of Cheesecake.”

FDA: “Listeria from Food Safety for Moms to Be.” 

Frontiers in Psychology: “Pickles and ice cream! Food cravings in pregnancy: hypotheses, preliminary evidence, and directions for future research.”

Journal of Food Protection: “Cheesecake: a potential vehicle for salmonellosis?.”

Journal of Perinatal Medicine: “Listeriosis in Human Pregnancy: a systematic review.”

MERCK MANUAL: “Listeriosis in Newborns.”

US Department of Agriculture FoodData Central: “Cheesecake.”

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