Can Pregnant Women Eat Monterey or Pepper Jack Cheese? Is It Safe?

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Written by Gina Wagg BA, Dip.

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It’s hard to say no to types of cheese, especially delicious and versatile cheeses like Monterey Jack and pepper jack. But are they safe to eat during pregnancy?

Monterey Jack and pepper jack are both safe to consume during pregnancy. They are made with pasteurized milk and are unlikely to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

They are also low in sodium and good sources of protein, calcium, and phosphorus.

How different is pepper jack from Monterey Jack, how much can you have, and what are the benefits during pregnancy? The answers to these questions are found below!

Is Jack Cheese Safe During Pregnancy?

Monterey Jack and pepper jack are safe cheeses for pregnant women because they are pasteurized cheese and have low chances of causing listeria

Monterey Jack

Monterey Jack is a true American cheese and is recognized by the American Cheese Society as having originated in America (source: ACS).

In the United States, cheese product does not need to be refrigerated if it is made with heat-treated or pasteurized milk, produced in hygienic conditions with live lactic acid bacteria, compliant with CFR specifications, and certified by regulating authorities.

Monterey Jack is one of these cheeses. It doesn’t require refrigeration whether it is being stored, aged, shipped, or displayed in the store. It’s also exempted from date marking.

cutting jack cheese using a knife

Monterey Jack is a hard to semi-soft cheese made from heat-treated cow’s milk. However, it is classified by the FDA and USDA as a semi-soft cheese product. 

This type of cheese has a low frequency of Listeria monocytogenes contamination and growth, whether it is stored at home or in retail stores (source: Food Protection Trends).

This also means that it is a safe cheese to eat during pregnancy.

Monterey Jack is similar to cheddar cheese, but it does not go through the cheddaring process (source: Safety of Goat Milk Products). Monterey Jack is sometimes made with goat’s milk.

Pepper Jack

Pepper jack is basically Monterey Jack seasoned with peppers and other spices or vegetables, which provide its signature flavor. The most common additions are sweet peppers, jalapeños, habanero chilies, rosemary, and garlic (source: US Dairy).

Pepper Jack cheese is safe to eat during pregnancy, because it’s the same as Monterey jack.

Pepper jack is excellent in nachos, quesadillas, burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, casseroles, mac and cheese, omelets, pizzas. It’s also commonly served in the classic way, with crackers or a side of fruit.

Is Jack Cheese Pasteurized?

Jack cheeses generally use pasteurized milk as mentioned above, which makes them safe to eat during pregnancy. 

Monterey Jack and pepper jack are both American cheeses. Cheese made in the U.S. is usually made with pasteurized milk. 

Is Jack Cheese Good During Pregnancy?

Both Monterey Jack and pepper jack are great sources of protein, calcium, and phosphorus.

The serving size for Monterey Jack during pregnancy is 1.5 ounces or 42.5 grams (source: MyPlate).

A slice (28 g) of Monterey Jack contains 6.86 g of protein, 209 mg of calcium, and 124 g of phosphorus.

Protein is the building block of a cell. During pregnancy, about 15–25% of protein synthesis happens in the second and third trimesters. 

Adequate protein supply is therefore needed to fuel baby’s growth and development. Protein is also vital to the production of collagen and other functions like amino acid transport (source: NIH). 

When pregnant, women are recommended to consume 75–100 g of protein every day (source: APA).

Pepper Jack Cheese Slices

Calcium is also important during pregnancy because it is involved in cell signaling and tissue formation. About 30 g of calcium goes into the baby’s bones, while the rest goes to the mother’s bones to prepare for lactation (source: NIH). 

Calcium helps regulate bodily fluids. It also helps form your baby’s bones and tooth buds. The recommended calcium intake for pregnant women is about 1,000 mg per day (source: APA).

Phosphorus helps with cellular formation, cell function, signaling, and bone ossification (source: NIH). The recommended daily intake for phosphorus during pregnancy is 700 mg (source: NIH). 

Monterey Jack is also considered a low-salt cheese (source: WIC Oregon). This is a good choice of cheese when pregnant because high salt intake can negatively affect both the mother and unborn baby, especially when it comes to renal functions and excretion (source: NIH). 

Like most cheeses, however, it can be high in fat and calories, so you can enjoy Jack cheese during pregnancy as part of a healthy pregnancy diet – and try to eat it in moderation.

The following are some great and pregnancy safe choices for Monterey Jack and pepper jack cheeses:

Casa Solana Monterey Jack Cheese (Shredded)

365 by Whole Foods Market Monterey Jack Bar

Tillamook Monterey Jack Cheese

California Select Pepper Jack Cheese (Sliced)

365 by Whole Foods Market Pepper Jack

Tillamook Pepper Jack Cheese

Monterey Jack and pepper jack are excellent cheeses for snacking or adding to a variety of dishes. We hope this article has shed some light on their benefits during pregnancy!