Spam is a love it or hate it food, and some pregnant women might find themselves craving Spam quite often. But with concerns about bacteria and processed food, is spam safe during pregnancy?
Spam and most Spam products are safe to eat during pregnancy. However, because Spam is a highly processed food, it might not be something you want to eat on a regular basis when you’re pregnant.
In this article, I’ll walk you through how to safely enjoy spam during your pregnancy as well as healthy options to curb spam cravings!
Is Spam Ham Safe to Eat While Pregnant?
It surprises people to learn that Spam is considered safe to eat during pregnancy.
One of the reasons Spam is safe during pregnancy is because it is cooked meat made up of processed ham and ground pork. Spam also contains preservatives and ingredients to add flavors such as salt, sugar, sodium nitrate and potato starch.
While these ingredients are safe to eat, sodium nitrate is something to limit. The CDC, recommends that you don’t consume more than 3.7 milligrams of this preservative per kilo of body weight per day. Eating Spam every now and again isn’t harmful, whether you’re pregnant or not.
Canned and tinned spam (as well as other ham products) are safe to consume during pregnancy because everything is pasteurized during the canning process. The Spam inside the can is cooked at a very high temperature, which kills any bacteria.
Bear in mind that this only applies to cans that are not found in the fridge – some ham products are not pasteurized, and won’t be ‘shelf stable’ so they are kept in the fridge. That said, Spam is always shelf-stable and pasteurized, so is fully cooked – and doesn’t need to be chilled until opened.
You can eat Spam cold, if it’s straight from the (sterile) can. However, once opened, store the Spam by wrapping it and keeping it in the fridge. Eat it within a couple of days of opening. If you’re worried about listeria after opening, then treat Spam like a deli meat and heat it up before consuming if it’s been kept more than a couple of days. There’s more on food safety later in this article.
Spam that comes in pouches is also cooked before it leaves the factory which means that any bacteria should have been killed before it got to you – so it is also safe to eat during pregnancy.
Spam slices usually come in a pouch or sometimes a tin. These are prepped and made of the exact same ingredients and the same way as the ordinary pouched spam so are just as safe. It’s just the most convenient option so you can add it straight to a sandwich.
Turkey spam is a “healthier” option. Turkey is safe during pregnancy as long as it has been cooked properly, which you should not have to worry about with canned meats, such as Spam. One 56 gram serving of Turkey Spam contains 80 calories compared to the same amount of classic spam which contains 180 calories.
Bacon spam is another variety of spam. As with the other varieties, it’s safe to eat when you’re pregnant.
Spam Dishes and Pregnancy Safety
Spam musubi is a somewhat safer way of eating “sushi” during pregnancy. It’s made up of a slice of grilled spam on top of a cube of rice and wrapped up with seaweed. Nori paper (which is what is usually in sushi) is safe to eat during pregnancy but seaweed should be consumed in moderation due to the high iodine content.
Curious about which sushi is pregnancy safe? Read more here!
Although spam is already cooked, many people like to fry it to give it a crispy texture which is also perfectly safe to eat when you’re pregnant – though frying will add calories and fat.
As spam is already cooked, cold spam right out of the tin is safe to eat but make sure it has been stored correctly and is in date before you do. Hormel, the makers of Spam, also say it can be eaten straight out of the can (source: Hormel).
Cold-cooked foods are tricky. In this instance cooked spam doesn’t refer to spam out of the tin or pouch which had been cooked before you bought it, but rather, cooking it once opened and then eating it cold.
Listeria bacteria is a huge concern in pregnancy and can occur in refrigerated foods that have been stored for too long. If you want to cool down cooked spam, do not eat it after it has been left out for more than two hours.
However, in general, cold cuts are not considered safe during pregnancy due to the risk of Listeria contamination (source: CDC).
Is Spam Good for Pregnant Women? Is It Healthy?
While spam is considered safe to eat during pregnancy, it’s not the healthiest option.
100 grams of spam contains 315 calories. For a meat product, it’s fairly low in protein with only 13 grams for a serving of this size but is high in fat with 27% grams. It also contains 1411mg of sodium which is 59% of the recommended daily allowance (source: Nutritionix).
One study found that people who ate processed meat, such as spam, had a higher risk of incident diabetes but the same levels of incident diabetes were not found in those who consumed more unprocessed red meat (source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition).
Regular consumption of processed meats was also linked to an increased risk of developing gestational diabetes (source: Nutrients). Between 6% to 9% of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes which can increase the risk of stillbirth, birth defects and premature birth (source: CDC).
The high sodium content is also worrying. Sodium is a necessary part of a healthy diet, especially during pregnancy to compensate for your growing baby which is why the recommended daily amount does not decrease, but you should try to avoid going over 2,400mg per day.
While it’s okay to go over this amount every now and then, it’s not something you should do often. Too much sodium has been linked with high blood pressure which is a concern for pregnant women (source: National Library of Medicine).
Spam is also an ultra-processed food and studies show that consuming these foods during pregnancy can increase the risk of obesity and more gestational weight gain as well as neonatal adiposity (source: BMC Pregnancy Childbirth).
While deli meats are not recommended during pregnancy, healthier meat alternatives to curb spam cravings include meats that are more natural such as homemade cold cuts, or heated up ham slices.
Overall, you can enjoy Spam in moderation when you’re pregnant – but there are better options to go for on a regular basis.