Can Pregnant Women Eat Ice Cream? Is It Safe?

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Written by Gina Wagg BA, Dip.

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If I had to pick one food that pregnant women both get cravings for and ask the most questions about, it’d be ice cream! As usual with pregnancy-safe foods, it’s not a definite yes or no as to whether you can eat ice cream if you’re pregnant, but with these guidelines, you can make easier choices.

Can Pregnant Women Eat Ice Cream? Ice Cream is safe in pregnancy if it’s made from pasteurized milk and/or eggs. This means some homemade types of it may be unsafe in pregnancy. Soft-serve is not always safe in pregnancy due to the machine that dispenses it.

Raw eggs can contain salmonella, a foodborne illness which can be dangerous in pregnancy. Raw dairy such as raw milk and cream can contain listeria, which can lead to very serious food poisoning called listeriosis. For these reasons, pregnant women should avoid unpasteurized dairy and raw egg.

Now you know you can eat some types of ice cream, logically you’re going to wonder which brand to buy, what the problem with soft-serve is, or whether you can enjoy it as a dessert when you’re eating out. I’ve written this complete guide to it so that you can still enjoy it during your pregnancy if you know what to look for.

By the way, if you’re looking for information on cookie dough ice cream in particular, you might want to read this separate article I wrote covering cookie dough as it’s a flavor that needs more consideration when you’re pregnant due to the fact cookie dough is raw.

Eating Soft-Serve Ice Cream in Pregnancy: Is It Safe?

Soft-Serve(known as “whipped” ice cream or also under brands such as Mr Whippy or Mr Softee) may not be safe in pregnancy. Many pregnant women think that this is because of pasteurization, but that’s rarely the case.

Most of them is made from pasteurized ingredients, as it’s a commercial mix that goes into the machine (either as a powder or a ready-mixed liquid). As this is commercially made, it usually contains pasteurized milk and/or cream.

The main issue is the machine that dispenses it. The soft-serve machine maintains the liquid ice cream at a cold, but not freezing temperature, and then dispenses it in its traditional ‘whipped’ form. If this machine isn’t cleaned thoroughly and often, then listeria can grow inside the machine.

three soft-serve ice creams with different flavors in cones

Listeria is a bacteria that not only survives but thrives in cool temperatures, making soft-serve machines ideal breeding grounds. Many places that sell soft-serve (or other items made from the same machine, like milkshakes) have stringent cleaning policies and maintain hygienic machines.

However, if you eat soft-serve, you’re placing all your trust in the last person (or two) who cleaned the machine and you’re relying on them to have done a thorough job, every time.

They usually do, of course – nobody wants to poison their customers! – but there is no real way to tell, so that’s why it’s better if pregnant women avoid soft-serve. Listeria outbreaks from soft-serve machines are rare.

However, they do happen and have happened in the past, such as two incidents from the same machine reported in 2016 by Public Health Insider.

Since it’s OK for pregnant women to eat ice cream that isn’t soft-serve, like the usual store-bought flavors in a pint, tub or on a stick, it’s something that you may want to opt for instead during your pregnancy. Otherwise, it’s a personal choice vs risk decision for you to make if you really want to eat soft-serve.

You can better evaluate your risk by asking about the machine, the cleaning rota, or checking the restaurant’s public health record.

Common sense applies – a soft-serve cone from a dubious looking street vendor or van isn’t a good idea, whereas a chain-restaurant soft-serve, perhaps somewhere where you know the staff well and can ask them, will be safer.

The safest option of all, though, is to avoid soft-serve ice cream during pregnancy and eat regular type instead. Or make your own! (see below).

Which types of Ice Cream Are Unsafe in Pregnancy?

Pregnant women should avoid ice cream that is made with raw (unpasteurized) milk or cream, and/or raw, unpasteurized eggs. This means that most types of homemade ice cream are unsuitable for pregnant women as they usually use raw egg or egg yolk, even if the milk is pasteurized.

If you’re making your own, use a commercial liquid egg substitute as these are pasteurized, or use an eggless recipe. If you are eating ice cream that someone else has made (e.g. at a party or potluck) then ask about the ingredients.

Coming across a shop or store that has homemade ice cream with raw egg or milk in it is rare, but it does exist (e.g. at farm shops). Always ask first and avoid any of them made with unpasteurized egg or milk.

There is a clever way of making ice cream at home that mimics soft-serve very well – scroll down to the Youtube videos in this post for more details.

Is Store-Bought or Supermarket Ice Cream Pasteurized?

Generally speaking, most commercial ice cream is safe for pregnant women to eat. There is still a very small risk of listeria contamination.

This is because listeria can sometimes get into food at any point along the supply chain and manufacturing process, resulting in a number of ice cream recalls in the past few years. This, however, remains a very rare occurrence and the risk remains low.

Almost all commercial brands (those made in factories for sale in stores) use pasteurized milk and/or cream. To double-check, I reached out to the USA and UK’s most popular brands and double-checked with them whether their ingredients were pasteurized.

  • Blue Bell – at the time of writing their official website has a pregnant lady eating ice cream with the caption ‘Blue Bell is a second trimester’s persistent craving’, so as you might imagine, they are standing behind their products as being safe for pregnant women!

    When I asked them they said: “We are pleased to tell you that all of our products are safe to eat during pregnancy and are actually quite the popular treat during pregnancy!” so that’s good news…
  • Ben and Jerry’s – use pasteurized dairy and eggs both in the ice cream and their flavors such as cookie dough. Their lighter range (called Moophoria) also uses pasteurized ingredients. All their ice creams are safe for pregnant women to eat, as confirmed on their website, though you should stick to regular rather than soft-serve if you’re choosing it in their stores.
  • Tillamook – confirmed on their website that their ice cream (and other products) all contain pasteurized ingredients, including any egg in their recipes.
  • Breyer’s – I reached out to Breyer’s and they confirmed that their ice cream was made from pasteurized ingredients and is therefore pregnancy-safe.
  • Halo Top – the company has confirmed that they use pasteurized milk and eggs in their ice creams. Pregnant women may be interested in Halo Top as it’s lower in fat and sugar than regular, so may be a better choice in pregnancy.
  • Edy’s / Dreyer’s – when I contacted the company they confirmed “All raw dairy products (skim milk, whole milk, and cream) are pasteurized in our facilities using the high-temperature short time (HTST) method. Furthermore, all eggs are pasteurized at the vendor prior to delivery to our production facilities.”

    This means that both brands are safe for pregnant women (they’re the same company, marketed under different labels depending on where you are).
  • Häagen-Dazs – I contacted Häagen-Dazs and they confirmed that their dairy (skim or whole milk, and cream) ingredients are all pasteurized using the high temperature, short time method (known as HTST). They also pasteurize their fruit purees and their cookie dough, so all their flavors are safe for pregnant women to eat.
  • Baskin Robbins – they use pasteurized ingredients in their ice cream products and cakes (including the ‘Baskin Robbins at Home’ range) so they’re safe for pregnant women to eat. If you’re visiting a store, opt for the regular rather than soft-serve.
  • Carte D’or / Walls / Good Humor – these three brands all fall under their parent company, which is Walls/Unilever. All ice-cream brands and products made by the company are pasteurized and safe for pregnant women.

    If you’re in the UK and wonder – can I eat a Magnum or Cornetto if I’m pregnant? The answer is yes, they’re both made by Walls and are made from pasteurized ingredients, so go ahead!
  • Mackies are a Scottish brand prevalent in the UK. They also use pasteurized ingredients and it’s therefore safe for pregnant women.
  • Häagen-Dazs – I contacted Häagen-Dazs and they confirmed that their dairy (skim or whole milk, and cream) ingredients are all pasteurized using the high temperature, short time method (known as HTST). They also pasteurize their fruit purees and their cookie dough, so all their flavors are safe for pregnant women to eat.
  • Turkey Hill uses pasteurized ingredients so it’s also safe for pregnant women to consume.
different ice cream flavors in tubs sold in a store

Can I eat McDonald’s, Dairy Queen or KFC ice cream when Pregnant?

The ice cream products sold by Mcdonald’s (McFlurries), Dairy Queen (Blizzards) and KFC (Krushems) are soft-serve, so it’s better to swap them for other types of it in pregnancy.

But I’ll let you into a secret – you can make your own McFlurry or Blizzard at home, from pasteurized ingredients, that is both pregnancy safe and (apparently) just as good. Here’s a video from the Wall Street Journal on how to make McFlurries at home. Note the interesting comments at the start on how hard the machines are to clean…

and here’s PopSugar on how to make a Dairy Queen Blizzard at home, from pregnancy-safe ingredients:

How Much Ice Cream Should Pregnant Women Eat? Can I Eat It Every Day?

Ice Cream should be a ‘treat’ in pregnancy rather than a regular thing, even if it’s advertised as being low-fat. It can be a welcome treat, but it’s high in calories, sugar, and fat – even more so with added toppings. It also contains calcium, but there are healthier ways of getting extra calcium rather than having it in ice cream.

It’s not advisable to eat it every day in pregnancy. When you do eat it, try to keep your portions smaller to satisfy any craving without eating too much of it in one go. Frozen fruit smoothies or sorbets would be a healthier choice if they’re not made with egg.

Can Pregnant Women Eat All Flavors of Ice Cream?

So long as the ice cream is made from pasteurized ingredients, it should be safe for pregnant women to eat. However, some pregnant women have expressed concern about some flavors, so I’ve specifically mentioned them here

Vanilla – there is nothing in plain, vanilla ice cream that is unsafe for pregnant women, as they can eat vanilla safely in pregnancy.

Chocolate – although chocolate contains small amounts of caffeine, this is in such small amounts in a portion of ice cream that it’s not significant enough to affect your total caffeine intake in pregnancy if you’re eating normal portions.

Coffee – this is slightly different as coffee ice cream does have caffeine in it, but usually only in small amounts. You can safely enjoy it, but watch out if coffee beans are used as a decoration or ingredient, as these can contain as much as 5-10 mg coffee per bean, so skip them.

Alcohol – e.g. Baileys, Rum and Raisin or other alcoholic flavors. The alcohol used to flavor the ice cream is in such small amounts it is unlikely to be significant.

However, be aware if it’s a dessert that involves pouring alcohol over the ice cream (often known as an Affogato) or that has an alcoholic sauce, as this may contain more alcohol than you think. Ask before ordering, if you’re not sure.

Eating Ice Cream in a Cake – (e.g. Baked Alaska) – treat ice cream in a cake as you would regular ice cream – just make sure it’s pasteurized and it should be safe for you to eat in pregnancy. Watch the extra calories from the addition of cake, though!

three different ice cream flavors in waffle cones

Ordering Restaurant Ice Cream When You’re Pregnant

The most common question here is “Can I eat the ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery”? As confirmed on their Frequently Asked Questions page, ” all ingredients used to make Cold Stone Creamery ice cream mix are pasteurized. 

Cold Stone is proud to say that we make it in store daily” – so Cold Stone Creamery ice cream is indeed safe for pregnant women to enjoy.

In other restaurants, you’ll have to ask if the ice cream is made from pasteurized ingredients and not with raw egg. As a general rule:

  • Many large and chain restaurants have their desserts made in a central warehouse or factory where they are redistributed. These types, as they are commercially made, are often made from pasteurized eggs, milk and cream.
  • Independent, small, home-cooking restaurants often make their own ice cream and desserts and subsequently are more likely to use raw egg.
  • Either way, it’s better to ask first and avoid any of it made with raw egg or milk.

Can I eat Ice Cream in the 1st (or other) Trimester?

Pregnant women can eat ice cream at any stage of pregnancy, so long as it’s made with pasteurized ingredients, and doesn’t contain raw egg. Soft serve should be swapped for regular, frozen, as previously discussed above.

Is Ice Cream Good for Heartburn in Pregnancy?

Ice Cream sounds like a logical cure for heartburn because it’s cool and soothing on the palate. Unfortunately, that’s not the case when it reaches the stomach.

According to WebMD, ice cream may exacerbate heartburn because it’s a) made from dairy and b) high in fat and it appears on their list of foods that cause heartburn.

Eating smaller portions and sticking to low-fat foods will help alleviate heartburn symptoms. If you are concerned about heartburn in pregnancy, consult your doctor or health professional.

Is Ice Cream Healthy in Pregnancy?

Ice cream is a much-loved treat for pregnant women but should be just that – a treat, rather than something eaten regularly. It’s a good source of calcium, but it’s often high in fat and sugar. If you have diabetes (including gestational diabetes), then ask your health provider before indulging.

There are better ways of getting calcium in your diet during pregnancy, without eating so many calories. By all means, enjoy an ice cream (that’s why I wrote this article in the first place), but enjoy it in moderation in pregnancy.