The guidelines on which cheeses pregnant women can eat are often blurry.
Cream cheeses like Philadelphia and cheese spreads are soft in texture, so does that mean that they are one of the ‘no-go’ soft cheeses?
Cream Cheese such as Philadelphia is usually safe for pregnant women to eat, despite its soft texture. This is because cheese spreads and cream cheese are not ‘soft cheese’, but processed cheese products that are commonly made with pasteurized milk.
However, sometimes it’s hard to tell which brands are pasteurized and therefore safe for pregnant women.
There’s also a difference between commercial cheese spreads and those made at home or in restaurants.
Here’s a complete guide to whether cream cheese is safe during pregnancy, and a list of safe cream cheese brands for pregnancy.
Can I Have Cream Cheese During Pregnancy?
You might already know that pregnant women are advised to avoid “soft cheese” (source: APA).
This leads to confusion when it comes to cream cheese, or cheese spread because they’re a cheese, and they’re soft, right?
Well yes, but that’s not what the advice is really meant to convey.
“Soft cheese” doesn’t just mean that the cheese is soft. It usually means that the cheese is mold-ripened with unpasteurized milk. These are sometimes called ‘soft-ripened’ cheeses.
When we talk about “soft cheeses” and pregnancy safety, these are ones like brie, Camembert, Gorgonzola, and so on. These are the ones pregnant women should avoid. Not necessarily because they are soft, but because of the way they are made.
Soft cheeses have a higher water content and lower acidity, meaning that bacteria such as listeria grows more easily in them (source: Center for Food Safety).
The advice is meant to be helpful in that MOST cheeses made in this way are soft, so you know to avoid them without doing too much research, just by knowing their texture.
The problem is that cream cheese and cheese spreads are soft, so pregnant women presume they can’t have them. But don’t worry – you can!
Cream Cheese can be eaten safely in pregnancy if it’s made with pasteurized ingredients. This includes most flavors of Philly cream cheese and other popular brands – a full list of safe ones is below.
Brand Guide to Pasteurized Cream Cheese and Cheese Spreads
Rather than picking through every aisle in the supermarket, it’d be nice if you could be told WHICH cheese spreads are known to be made with pasteurized milk, so you can enjoy them safely in pregnancy, right?
We’ve done this for you below, listing the most popular brands. It’s always a good idea to check the label, though, as recipes and manufacturers can change.
Is Philadelphia Cream Cheese OK for Pregnant Women?
Also known as Philly, Philadelphia cream cheese is safe for pregnant women, and all Philadelphia Cheese branded products use pasteurized milk.
However, exercise caution with the smoked salmon spread flavor as it may not be suitable for pregnant women – this is covered later in this article.
Other brands you might want to know about are:
Dairylea Cheese – Everything in the Dairylea range uses pasteurized milk, so Dairylea is also safe during pregnancy.
Kraft Cheese Spread – Kraft Cheese Spread (including
Old English Cheddar) and the Kraft range of cream cheese is all pasteurized and pregnancy-safe. They often use Philadelphia products as they’re both owned by Kraft.
Laughing Cow – Laughing Cow cream cheese is safe during pregnancy as it’s also made with pasteurized milk.
|Pasteurized or Not?
| President Authentic Spreadable
|Also called “Port Wine” cheese,
President’s version is made
with pasteurized milk
|Merkt’s Cheese Spreads
|Yes, all made with pasteurized milk
|Kaukauna Spreadable Cheese
|Yes, all made with pasteurized milk
|Any type of commercially-made Neufchâtel
|All commercial neufchâtel (usually found next to the cream cheese in stores) will be made with pasteurized milk.
However, traditional Neufchâtel (from France) is not safe in pregnancy, but it’s extremely uncommon unless bought from a specialist cheesemonger.
Is Cream Cheese Frosting (Icing) Safe in Pregnancy?
It’s natural to wonder if you can eat cream cheese frosting (or icing) when you’re pregnant because it contains the word cheese.
The good news is that cream cheese frosting is usually fine for pregnant women, so long as it’s made with cream cheese that has in turn been made from pasteurized milk.
If you’re baking at home, use the table above to choose which cream cheese brand to use in your recipe.
Commercial, ready-made cream cheese frosting is often also safe to eat in pregnancy, but not for the reasons you may think.
Many of them contain no cream and no cheese! Just oil, sugar, and other ingredients. I looked at a few brands:
- Betty Crocker Rich & Creamy Frosting – no cream or cheese
- Pillsbury Creme Cheese – no cream or cheese
- Duncan Hines Creamy Home-Style – no cream or cheese
All the above would be considered safe to eat due to the absence of cream or cheese, but subsequently, the frosting has little or no nutritional value.
It’s fine if you have a craving or are offered a cupcake, but try to limit the amount of processed, sugary food in pregnancy.
Can Pregnant Women Eat Pimento Cheese?
Pimento cheese isn’t the same as many spreadable cheeses and may need extra investigation depending on where and how it’s made. Commercially-made pimento cheese (for example, the version made by Kraft) is made from pasteurized milk, so is therefore safe for pregnant women.
However, pimento cheese made at home or in restaurants may not be safe for pregnant women as it usually contains mayonnaise.
If the mayonnaise is made with unpasteurized raw egg, then it’s unsuitable for pregnant women to eat due to the risk of Salmonella. If you’re making it yourself, used mayo with pasteurized eggs and if you’re eating out, ask about the ingredients used in its preparation.
For more on mayonnaise, you might like to read this guide to eating mayonnaise in pregnancy, too.
Is Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese safe for Pregnant Women?
Cream cheese on its own has been covered pretty thoroughly here, but a question mark remains over some food items that cream cheese is often served with, most commonly smoked salmon (or lox) in sandwiches, bagels or as a flavored spread or schmear.
The cream cheese itself should be benchmarked against the information in this article, so you should find out if it’s pasteurized or not. Smoked salmon, however, is a whole different question.
Its safety in pregnancy depends on how the salmon has been cured, whether it’s hot or cold smoked, and how it’s prepared. I wrote a whole article on this here, going through all the possible factors to consider when eating cream cheese with smoked salmon.
Nutritional Considerations for Eating Cream Cheese whilst Pregnant
Although it’s a common craved item, cream cheese isn’t particularly nutritious for your or your baby. The majority of the fat in cream cheese is saturated, and it doesn’t have many vitamins and minerals.
Some spreadable flavors add sugar too (such as honey nut or brown butter), which isn’t a good combination.
Cream cheese does contain small amounts of calcium and provides some protein, though not enough to warrant eating it much during pregnancy.
Try to eat cream cheese sparingly, and choose one of the following flavors over others if you want to eat it during pregnancy:
- Lower fat or ‘light’ versions (however, sometimes these have more sugar, so check the label)
- Plain flavors rather than sweetened nuts/honey or chocolate/strawberry
- Whipped cream cheese is usually better than a block, simply because they contain more air and go further when you’re spreading them
- Try to spread any cream cheese more thinly than you usually would
- Get creative with how you can eat the cream cheese. Instead of a bagel, you could spread chive flavor on celery, for example.
As with everything fatty or sweet, there’s no need to deny yourself, but try to limit cream cheese in your diet during pregnancy where possible.
Cream Cheese in Cheesecakes when Pregnant
If you’re specifically looking for information related to cheesecakes (often made with cream cheese), then I wrote this article on whether cheesecakes are safe to eat in pregnancy, too.