Lettuce Safety in Pregnancy: Iceberg, Romaine + More

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Written by Amy Kaczor RDN

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Lettuce is a common ingredient in many dishes, whether it’s eaten in a salad or added to a taco, sandwich, or burger patty. But is it safe to consume all kinds of lettuce during pregnancy? 

Overall, lettuce is safe and healthy during pregnancy as long as it is thoroughly washed before eating. You should wash your lettuce leaves even if the label says it has been pre-washed.

In this article, we will discuss the safety, nutrition, and benefits of eating lettuce when you are pregnant! 

Is Iceberg Lettuce Safe When Pregnant?

Iceberg lettuce is safe to eat while you are pregnant as long as it is prepared and washed correctly.

Iceberg lettuce is a popular topping choice for tacos, salads, burgers, and more. You can purchase fresh heads of iceberg lettuce or pre-bagged products.

iceberg lettuce in the garden

As with any fresh produce, it is essential to thoroughly wash your lettuce under clean running water to reduce the risk of foodborne illness (source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA]).

Leafy green vegetables, including iceberg lettuce, can contain harmful bacteria such as E. coli, norovirus, salmonella, listeria, and more (source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]). 

Do not soak your raw lettuce when you clean it, because this can encourage the spread of food-poisoning bacteria from one leaf of lettuce to another (source: CDC). Instead, it is best to wash your lettuce under clean running water. You do not need to use a produce wash or solution to wash your lettuce. 

If you purchase your iceberg lettuce pre-bagged, it is important that you wash this lettuce again, even if the package says “Triple-Washed,” “Ready To Eat,” or something similar.

During pregnancy, you are at a heightened risk of foodborne illness. Re-washing your lettuce helps lower the number of harmful bacteria even more.

Finally, avoid cross-contamination when preparing lettuce. When chopping an entire head of lettuce, make sure you use separate cutting boards and knives. Always wash your hands after touching raw meat, eggs, or poultry (source: FDA).

You can even separate your raw meat from your fresh produce in the refrigerator to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.

Raw Green Organic Romaine Lettuce

Is Romaine Lettuce Safe When Pregnant? 

Like iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce is also safe when pregnant if it is washed well. Following the guidelines mentioned above, wash your romaine lettuce thoroughly under clean running water, even if it is pre-bagged, and avoid cross-contamination with raw and undercooked meats and eggs. 

When choosing lettuce from the grocery store, including romaine lettuce, avoid any products that are damaged or bruised (source: CDC). Also, make sure you store your lettuce in the fridge as soon as possible after purchase.

But what about eating lettuce when you are dining out or getting carry-out? Since you cannot be sure that lettuce on sandwiches, salads, and other items purchased from restaurants has been adequately washed, it is best to avoid lettuce at restaurants if you want to avoid all risks of food poisoning. 

Since the structure of romaine lettuce is much more open compared to a tight head of iceberg lettuce, it has more risk of contamination, which is what has often led to romaine lettuce recalls over the past few years (source: North Dakota State University).

However, as long as you thoroughly wash it, your romaine lettuce is safe to consume as long as it has not been recalled, of course. 

Are There Benefits of Lettuce During Pregnancy? 

When safely washed and prepared, lettuce is an excellent source of nutrition during your pregnancy. Keep in mind that the darker green your lettuce is, the more essential nutrients it is likely to have. For example, dark green kale contains more beneficial nutrients than iceberg lettuce. 

washing fresh lettuce in sink

For a nutrition-packed option, mix your lighter greens, such as iceberg or romaine lettuce, with darker ones, such as arugula or Swiss chard, to increase your intake of vitamin A, vitamin K, folate, dietary fiber, and more!

Unfortunately, despite the claims to the contrary, no scientific evidence exists that consuming lettuce will reduce pregnancy-related nausea

Since lettuce is low in calories, you can freely eat lettuce. So if you find yourself craving lettuce during pregnancy, feel free to enjoy it!

Lettuce is a safe and nutritious option for a healthy pregnancy, as long as you take the time to prepare it safely. We hope this article helps!