Can Pregnant Women Eat Pad Thai? Safety and Risks

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Written by Amy Kaczor RDN

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Pad Thai is a popular Asian dish of stir-fried rice noodles, vegetables, and protein mixed with a sweet and salty sauce and topped with peanuts. However, is pad Thai safe to consume during pregnancy?

Pad Thai is safe to consume during pregnancy. However, it is important to leave off the raw bean sprouts. If you are eating at a restaurant, food truck, or picking up takeout, ask for the sprouts, fresh herbs and lime wedge to be removed.

With all the variations of sauces, toppings, and ingredients in pad Thai, it’s confusing to know how to order it when dining at a restaurant, for example. Here’s a quick guide!

Is Pad Thai Safe During Pregnancy? 

Pad Thai is a noodle-based dish often enjoyed with veggies, meat, seafood, and a wide array of toppings, such as lime, peanuts, and soy sauce

Overall, pad Thai is safe to consume during pregnancy as long as it is fully cooked. We will discuss more on specific ingredients next in this article!

seafood pad thai on a plate

Pad Thai should be consumed piping hot, whether it is served hot at a restaurant or food truck, prepared at home, or reheated from takeout. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends not taking home leftovers unless you will be able to get home within two hours to refrigerate.

Additionally, do not let takeout sit at room temperature for very long; either eat them or put them in the refrigerator as soon as possible.

Are the Beansprouts in Pad Thai Safe When Pregnant?

Beansprouts are typically added in or on top of pad Thai to give it a signature crunch. However, many wonder if beansprouts are safe to consume during pregnancy. 

According to the FDA, raw sprouts, including alfalfa and beansprouts, are at high risk of containing harmful bacteria, including E. Coli. Therefore, though unlikely to cause harm, ensure your bean sprouts are entirely cooked during pregnancy. 

Check out this article for more information on consuming sprouts and beansprouts during your pregnancy.

Can Pregnant Women Eat Chicken or Shrimp/Prawn Pad Thai?

Meat and seafood, such as chicken or shrimp, are commonly added to pad Thai to boost protein. Fully cooked protein is safe to consume during pregnancy. However, if you are eating at a restaurant, make sure your meal is piping hot and steaming when it arrives (source: FDA).

Regarding mercury content, shrimp are considered low in mercury but high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids (source: Mayo Clinic). Therefore, it is a safe choice for pregnant women if it is fully cooked when the flesh is pearly and opaque. 

Check out our dedicated article for more information on eating shrimp during pregnancy.

What About Pad Thai Sauces or Toppings? 

Let’s discuss some standard toppings and sauces included in pad Thai dishes. 

Crushed Peanuts: There are no safety concerns for consuming nuts during pregnancy. Nuts are a part of a healthy diet (source: FDA). For more on this, check out our peanuts during pregnancy article.

Fresh Herbs: When cooking at home, ensure any fresh herbs added on top of your pad Thai, such as cilantro or chives, have been washed and adequately dried. When dining out, it is safest to ask for your dish without fresh herbs.

Egg: Eggs are safe to consume during pregnancy, if they are pasteurized and fully cooked. If eating at a restaurant, the FDA recommends asking the staff if pasteurized eggs are used to ensure safety. If the egg is cooked through, it should be fine during pregnancy.

chicken pad thai with peanut sauce

Lime Juice or Wedge: According to the FDA, ensure fruits and vegetables are washed thoroughly under running water and scrubbed with a vegetable brush. However, if you do not know if the lime has been thoroughly cleaned at a restaurant, order your Pad Thai without the slice of lime, just to be safe. 

Fish Sauce: While actual fish is sometimes a concern during pregnancy, depending on the mercury level, fish sauce typically contains anchovies (source: U.S. Department of Agriculture [USDA]). According to the Mayo Clinic, anchovies are low in mercury, making them safe for pregnant women.

Soy Sauce: Soy sauce is very high in sodium, with over 800 milligrams of sodium in just 15 milliliters, or one tablespoon (source: USDA). Therefore, consider limiting the soy sauce you use or purchasing a low-sodium variety. 

Chilies/Heat: Spicy toppings such as chilies are perfectly fine to consume during pregnancy, based on your preferences. For more information, check out this article on spicy food during pregnancy

Tips for Ordering Pad Thai When You’re Pregnant

When ordering a fresh, hot pad Thai at a restaurant, here are a few tips to make your delicious meal as safe as possible during pregnancy. 

Ask the wait staff to leave off the lime wedge and fresh herbs, such as cilantro, since you are unsure about preparation/cleaning methods. 

Additionally, inquire if the bean sprouts in your pad Thai are fully cooked. If they are raw, as they often are when used as a topping on the dish, ask that they be left off as well.

I hope you found this article helpful in breaking down pad Thai safety and how to enjoy it during your pregnancy, especially when eating at a restaurant.