The deliciousness of bacon is something craved often by everyone, not just pregnant women. If you’re pregnant and find yourself fancying that bacon sandwich, BLT or bacon topping, you might have wondered if it’s safe to eat bacon at all.
Is Bacon Safe in Pregnancy? Bacon is safe for pregnant women to eat if it’s fully cooked or heated until hot. Pregnant women should avoid cold bacon. This is the case whether bacon is uncured, smoked or made from other ingredients (like turkey).
You’re probably also wondering about nitrates, whether bacon is deli meat, and other information about its pregnancy safety – this is all covered right here.
Can I Eat Cold Bacon if I’m Pregnant? (Is Bacon a Deli Meat?)
This means that pregnant women should avoid bacon that is cold, and eat it heated up until steaming hot instead. To be safe, bacon should reach an internal temperature of 165 F or 75c, which is also called “steaming hot”, if you want a visual cue. Otherwise, you can use a food thermometer to be extra sure.
If you cooked the bacon yourself, rather than buying it from a deli or similar, then it’s safer to eat cold if you really want to. This is because cross-contamination is more prevalent in delis and other places that display several cooked foods in a fridge.
Because bacon is pre-sliced, it also has more surface area that can potentially expose it to more bacteria.
If you want to eat cold bacon or bacon leftovers when you’re pregnant:
- Cook the bacon until it’s well done or crispy
- Let it cool down, but don’t leave it out too long at room temperature (most bacon cools quickly and will be cool enough to refrigerate after 20 minutes or so.
- Never put hot bacon in the fridge, as it will bring your fridge temperature up above safe levels.
- Wrap the bacon and refrigerate it soon after cooking, as soon as it’s cooled.
- Eat it within a couple of days.
This is because sandwich bars, delis, and similar places will have the same slightly higher risk of bacterial contamination. If ordering a BLT or cold bacon in a sandwich, ask for the bacon to be heated up until steaming hot. It’s just as tasty, but might make the lettuce a bit limp!
Nitrates and Bacon in Pregnancy: Should You Go Nitrate-Free?
Many pregnant women worry about nitrates in cured meats like bacon. At present, there are no scientific recommendations for pregnant women to avoid nitrates, unless you’re particularly sensitive to them.
“Nitrate free” is a little misleading, because nitrates are almost always used in bacon production – the difference is whether they occur naturally or are added (usually in the form of Sodium Nitrate).
The most important issue with bacon is to make sure it’s fully cooked. The nitrates – whether advertised as being ‘natural’ or added during production, are a secondary consideration.
For more on deli meat like bacon and information about nitrates, you can read my in-depth guide to deli meat here.
Can I eat Canadian Bacon when Pregnant?
Canadian bacon is more like ham than what is traditionally thought of as bacon. It’s still a processed pork product. The major difference is that Canadian bacon is usually cooked before you buy it.
Canadian bacon should be treated like cold, cooked bacon or ham when you’re pregnant – you should heat it until it’s hot before eating it.
Can Pregnant Women eat a Cheese & Bacon Roll, Sandwich or Croissant?
Cheese and bacon pair up really well so you’ll often find them together in sandwiches, fills, croissants, panini and so on.
Cheese and bacon rolls, sandwiches and croissants are all safe to eat in pregnancy. If you haven’t made the cheese and bacon roll yourself, make sure it’s heated until hot. This makes both the cheese and the bacon safer to eat in pregnancy, as the heat will kill any harmful bacteria present.
The good news is that most rolls and cheese and bacon products of this type taste much better hot than cold anyway, so it’s not too much of a hardship to ask for it to be heated!
If you’re concerned about the particular type of cheese used, then see if it’s on this list of pregnancy safe (and unsafe) cheeses.
Is Bacon Good or Bad / Unhealthy in Pregnancy?
It probably won’t come as much of a surprise to you that a fatty, salty processed food like bacon should be kept to a minimum in pregnancy.
Bacon is high in sodium, saturated fat, and calories. It doesn’t have much nutritional value beyond providing protein, and some phosphorus and selenium (source: Nutrition Data).
There’s nothing to stop you from eating bacon during pregnancy, so long as it’s hot and fully cooked when you eat it.
Some tips for satisfying the bacon craving in a healthier way are:
- Crumble bacon onto soups or salads to get the tasty flavor without making it the bulk of the meal.
- Rather than eating processed ready-made bacon bits or similar (see below for these), make your own by cooking bacon until crispy then blitzing it for a few seconds in a food processor (or chop it finely). You’ll be surprised how many crumbles you can get out of one or two slices.
- Bacon goes really well with root vegetable or bean-based soups or casseroles. It’s also really tasty crumbled over scrambled eggs, which are protein-packed and a healthy option in pregnancy if you cook them through (see this guide to every type of egg cookery in pregnancy)
- One of my favorite healthy diet is bacon crumbles over smashed avocado on wholemeal toast. Delicious.
- Rather than eating strips of bacon on their own or with other fried food like eggs, use bacon to wrap healthier items like green bean or asparagus in bundles, a chargrilled eggplant slice, or roasted peppers, for example.
If it’s just the smoky, meaty taste you’re craving, then bacon substitutes can do the job. Turkey or chicken bacon is still a salty processed product but it’s slightly lower in fat and calories than pork bacon. It should also be heated until hot.
There’s also mushroom bacon too, that you can easily make yourself with shitake mushrooms. Here’s an explainer from ScienCentral:
Are Bacon Bits OK in Pregnancy?
Bacon bits are best made yourself (see ideas above) but there are also commercially made bacon bits available in stores.
Commercially-made bacon bits are pregnancy safe if they’re the canned/non-refrigerated kind. If they’re 100% bacon bits in a fridge (like the Oscar Mayer ones), treat them as you would whole bacon slices and heat them first.
It might even surprise you to learn that one of the most popular brands (McCormick’s Bac’n) isn’t made of bacon at all! (In fact, they’re vegan). They’re pregnancy-safe as they’re made of textured soy, rather than meat.
Hormel bacon bits are also pregnancy safe and can be eaten cold, but it’s easier and better for you to make your own if you’re going to use bacon bits at all. Bacon bits are still a highly processed food.
Is Uncured Bacon Safe in Pregnancy?
Uncured bacon means bacon that has been produced with naturally occurring nitrates, rather than using added ones such as sodium nitrate.
All bacon should be cooked until well done when you’re pregnant, whether it’s cured or not.
For more on nitrates, this article on deli meat should help.
Is Smoked / Unsmoked Bacon Safe for Pregnant Women?
Like the cured/uncured question, it doesn’t matter whether bacon is smoked or not, as far as pregnancy safety is concerned.
You can eat all cuts of bacon, smoked or unsmoked, so long as it’s fully cooked and served hot. If it’s cold, heat it up as you would any other cold deli meat.
If you crave salty, meaty foods, check out my article on deli meat, too.