Is American Cheese Safe During Pregnancy?

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Written by Gina Wagg BA, Dip.

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What makes American cheese an American cheese? Can pregnant women eat it?

Pregnant women shouldn’t worry about eating American cheese because it is pasteurized. Other versions of it are heated. But although it is high in calcium and protein, it is also high in sodium and fat.

How should you go about eating this cheese – or should you avoid it altogether?

Keep reading to find out what makes this cheese unique, how it can be beneficial (and risky), and what types are available for you to enjoy!

Is American Cheese Safe for Pregnant Women to Eat?

American cheese is made from cheddar cheese, Colby cheese, washed curd cheese, granular cheese, or a blend of two or more of any of these, combined with other kinds of cheeses (source: Code of Federal Regulations).

According to the National Dairy Council, it is a pasteurized process cheese. Therefore, it is safe for pregnant women to eat.

It is made by combining one or more natural cheeses. The cheese is then heated, and emulsifying agents are added to the cheese. It has more moisture compared to natural cheeses due to this process (source: National Dairy Council).

Because it is a combination of many kinds of cheeses, it is heated twice. Pasteurization is also done to prevent spoilage (source: Iowa Department of Public Health).

Some American cheese labels and examples include:

  • Pasteurized Process Cheese (Deli sliced American cheeses)
  • Pasteurized Process Cheese Food (Kraft singles)
  • Pasteurized Process Cheese Spread (Cheez Whiz)
  • Pasteurized Process American Slices (American Sandwich Slices)

(source: Serious Eats)

It comes in loaves (solid blocks), individual slices, or smaller blocks (source: Cheese). It is also available grated or shredded. 

several slices of american cheese

Is White American Cheese Safe During Pregnancy?

White American cheese is safe when pregnant. American cheese’s color can be white, yellow, or white depending on the producer (source: Cheese). There is no significant difference between these colors, and they are all safe to consume during pregnancy. 

Is Deli American Cheese Safe When Pregnant?

Deli American cheese is usually safe for pregnant women because it is pasteurized or heat-treated. However, there was a 2019 listeria outbreak linked to deli meats and cheeses (source: CDC). The specific type of cheese was not identified.

To be extra cautious, make sure there are no current recalls or outbreaks linked to deli meats and cheese before you eat it.

american cheese on burgers

Is American Cheese Good During Pregnancy?

Pregnant women can make the most of American cheese because it is considerably high in calcium and protein. However, it’s also high in sodium and fat. 

Because of the significantly high calcium and phosphorus content of it, it has been shown to help with tooth decay (source: National Dairy Council).

Who would’ve thought, right? A cheese that helps with tooth decay?

American cheese has around 293 mg of calcium and 5 g of protein per 1 ounce serving (source: PennState Extension). Calcium is important for expecting moms because it helps develop the baby’s bones as well as regulate your body fluids. Protein is necessary for the baby to grow and develop, and for the mother’s uterine tissue to expand (source: APA). 

However, it also contains high amounts of sodium at 468 mg and fat at 9 g, (5 g of which is saturated) per 1 ounce serving (source: PennState Extension). Both are not good for pregnancy when eaten in excess.

Too much sodium can contribute to high blood pressure, kidney problems, and in pregnancy, holding too much water in the body. Too much fat can also contribute to cardiovascular diseases.

It is best to eat American cheese in moderation because calcium and protein can also be obtained in other foods. Like cheddar cheese or other processed cheeses, it can be used in many dishes, such as casseroles, burgers, sandwiches, mac ‘n’ cheese, and even kebabs. 

It melts pretty well even though it is processed. However, if you want to melt it even faster, you can grate it, cut it into smaller pieces, or place it on a microwave-safe plate and heat it (source: National Dairy Council).

Don’t want to feel guilty about eating American cheese? You can eat your main meal with salad and other vegetable-based sides. In fact, you can top vegetables with it (source: Iowa Department of Public Health).

American cheese is not only safe, but it is also a versatile cheese that you can use in any dish that calls for processed cheese. We hope this helps you enjoy this cheese during pregnancy.