If you find yourself craving Mexican food during pregnancy, you’re not alone. It’s pretty common to crave spicy, highly-flavored food at some point during your pregnancy, and Mexican cuisine fits the bill. But is it safe, or even healthy?
Can You Eat Mexican Food When Pregnant? Most Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes are safe in pregnancy, particularly if they’re freshly made. There are a couple of foods that might be unsafe when pregnant, such as queso cheese or meat that isn’t cooked until well-done.
Since this site is all about getting into specifics, I’ve gone through most popular Mexican dishes and assessed them for their pregnancy safety. There are a couple of things to look out for, too.
Mexican Dips and Sides in Pregnancy
Most of these are more ‘Tex Mex’ than Mexican, because that’s the style of cuisine you’re most likely to find outside of Mexico. Here are some guidelines on smaller dishes and sides:
- Guacamole – avocados are an excellent food choice in pregnancy as they’re full of essential vitamins such as Vitamins C, K, and B12, plus a variety of minerals. Freshly-made guacamole is best, that isn’t from a buffet or self-serve, and that hasn’t been standing around for a long time.
- Salsa – “Salsa” is a loose definition for many types of sauces in Mexican cuisine, but here I’m referring to the most common types: salsa roja, which is the red, tomato-based type, and its variants like salsa picante – similar, but spicier.
All are safe in pregnancy and it’s best to stick to those ‘freshly made’ versions. Alternatively, if you’re buying it from a store, eat it as soon as possible after opening.
- Refried Beans – a good way to increase your veggie intake, refried beans are safe in pregnancy if, yes, you guessed it – they’re freshly made. Store-bought ones in a can are fine, too. As with all other dip-style sides, avoid any in open buffets or at self-serve counters due to the risk of cross-contamination.
- Sour Cream – you should check if this is pasteurized before eating it in pregnancy. Commercial versions used by restaurants are usually pasteurized, but ask first. For more on this, see the guide to sour cream in pregnancy.
- Queso cheese – this should be checked to see if it’s pasteurized. In many USA and European “Mexican” restaurants, it will be, but bear in mind that queso is frequently made with unpasteurized, raw milk in Mexico and other Hispanic cultures, so be sure to check this. Cooked, hot queso dip will be safe.
- Nachos and Tortillas / Chips – these are all safe in pregnancy but can ramp up the fat and salt, especially if combined with creamy dips, so try to go easy on them in pregnancy. The same goes for other salted, crunchy snacks like chicharrones or salted nuts.
- For loaded Nachos – cross-check what you’ve asked for as a topping. Nacho cheese is usually processed cheese, but you can check the cheese used against this list of safe cheeses in pregnancy.
Mexican Dishes and Main Meals in Pregnancy
Here are some of the most popular, frequently found meals in Mexican style restaurants. They often contain many of the dips and sauces mentioned above, so you can cross-check when needed.
- Carne Asada, or any other steak or meat – this should always be cooked to a ‘well done’ temperature in pregnancy. The same if you have steak strips or slices in a fajita or other main. For more on this, here’s a guide on how to order steak and other meats safely when you’re pregnant.
- Burritos – they usually contain pregnancy-safe ingredients as they are a combo of items already mentioned in this guide. No two burritos are alike, so check when you’ve decided on the filling. Skip the shredded lettuce or salad items if the salad isn’t prepped and made in-house (more on this below).
- Tacos and tostadas – like many other mains, it depends on the filling, as the taco or tortilla itself is fine in pregnancy. When you’ve decided what to put in your taco or tostada, then check its contents against the items already mentioned here.
- Quesadillas are much the same as burritos and tacos in that it depends on the filling. Most are safe, but you can find each individual ingredient on this page and then check it.
- Tamales – the basic tamale is OK in pregnancy as it’s made with masa harina, a type of maize flour. They’re usually filled or accompanied by something else, so check the meats/sauces on this list, too. The healthier versions are made with a little vegetable or olive oil, rather than the traditional lard.
- Ceviche – pregnant women should avoid ceviche as the fish or seafood is only ‘cured’ in acid, and not cooked. Only heat kills potential bacteria and parasites in raw fish and seafood. To avoid these types of foodborne pathogens, you should only eat fish and seafood when it’s fully cooked (source: FDA). The same goes for Mexican shrimp cocktails, which are covered in this guide to shrimp.
- Fish and Seafood – this should always be fully cooked, and never eaten undercooked or raw. The most common dish to avoid is ceviche (mentioned above), but if eating fish steaks, tacos or quesadillas, check that the fish is cooked all the way through. If having tuna, bear in mind you should limit tuna fish in pregnancy due to its mercury content – more on that here.
- If ordering huevos rancheros or any other dish containing eggs, ensure that the eggs are fully cooked all the way through, without any runny yolk. This article tells you everything you need about egg safety in pregnancy.
- Pre-prepared salads – these depend on whether they’re scratch-made in house, or are bagged and brought into the restaurant. In pregnancy, it’s better to avoid bagged salad due to the slightly increased risk of listeria contamination. Since each restaurant is different, you should ask first and avoid salads that are prepared/packaged elsewhere and then brought in.
Mexican Desserts and Sweets When Pregnant
Mexican food wouldn’t be complete without some of these classic desserts, most of which can be safely eaten in pregnancy. As with many foods that are high in fat and sugar, they should be enjoyed in moderation:
- Flan – is one of the commonly queried ones because of the egg content, so I wrote a separate article on everything you need to know when eating flan in pregnancy!
- Churros – or Spanish donuts, as they’re sometimes called, are OK to have when you’re pregnant. The traditional chocolate dipping sauce is also safe, but it can, surprisingly, contain caffeine. This article should help with what the caffeine levels are in chocolate.
- Tres Leches Cake – a rich, decadent cake usually made from different types of milk and cream. So long as the milk and cream are pasteurized, tres leches cake is safe when you’re pregnant.
- Fresh fruit – it sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s best to avoid pre-prepared fruit in pregnancy, unless you’ve prepared it yourself. There is a small increase in the risk of listeria for pre-prepared fruit, particularly if it’s not washed again after chopping it. You can read this guide to washing fruit in pregnancy to learn more.
- Ice Cream – so long as it’s made with pasteurized milk (as most commercial ice creams are), then it’s usually all right, although you may want to exercise caution with soft-serve. Click here to read a full guide to ice cream in pregnancy, including what to look for.
Can I Eat Jalapenos, Hot Chilis and Salsas When Pregnant?
You may be reading this page because you’re craving Mexican food for its spicy heat. You may also have read that spicy food might not be good or safe in pregnancy.
Rest assured that spicy food is not harmful to your unborn baby. It’s a myth that still gets circulated online. Spicy food may, however, give you indigestion or stomach discomfort, which you’re more likely to be prone to in pregnancy.
To put your mind at rest, I’ve written this complete guide to spicy food in pregnancy, including the science-backed evidence that means it’s fine to enjoy hot, spicier foods if you want to.
Can Pregnant Women Eat at Taco Bell?
Pregnant women sometimes wonder if it’s safe to eat at fast-food restaurants that serve Mexican food, such as Taco Bell. Highly processed food should be kept to a minimum in pregnancy, but there’s nothing wrong with having it from time to time when you’re pregnant, if it’s a craving or out of sheer convenience.
Most items on the Taco Bell menu are safe for pregnant women, because the meat in Taco Bell’s products is fully cooked, and Taco Bell’s cheese is a pasteurized, processed product (source: Taco Bell). Their sour cream is also made from pasteurized ingredients.
However, you should skip the lettuce at Taco Bell when you’re pregnant. This is because it’s washed, shredded and packaged separately, and then shipped in to each store.
Pre-prepared bagged salad has a higher risk of contamination, particularly if it’s not washed again on site. Pre-prepared bagged salads have caused numerous recalls, including one that happened to Taco Bell’s lettuce supplier in 2007 (source: Reuters).
It appears on many of their menu items, so if ordering at Taco Bell, avoid the lettuce and ask for your order to be made fresh, wherever possible. This ensures it’s at a hot, rather than just warm temperature.
Can Pregnant Woman Eat at Chipotle Mexican Grill?
Like many other Mexican restaurants, the majority of the food at Chipotle is safe for pregnant women to eat.
The cheese at Chipotle (including the queso) is made from pasteurized ingredients, and so is Chipotle’s sour cream, as confirmed on their site (source: Chipotle).
Chipotle prep and make a lot of their food in-house. Since the salad isn’t prepared, bagged and then brought in, you can also eat Chipotle’s salad items when you’re pregnant. As with any restaurant, try to get your order made as fresh and hot as possible.
Previously, Chipotle has suffered several heavily-publicized incidents relating to food safety (source: BBC). However, all these were at an individual branch level, rather than something being inherently ‘wrong’ with the food and the way they serve it in every branch.
Use common sense, and if you feel your individual branch of any restaurant – not just Chipotle – falls below an expected level of hygiene, cleanliness or sanitation, then don’t eat there, and speak to the management.
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