Cheese During Pregnancy: What To Eat, What To Avoid

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Cheese can make any dish more intriguing, delicious, and enticing. However, it is often debatable whether or not you can eat cheese during pregnancy. It is recommended that you eat a range of foods, including cheese, when pregnant.

Read this post to know about the safety of eating cheese during pregnancy, what kind of cheese you can eat, and how much of it you can consume while pregnant if you have a cheese craving.

Are You Craving For Cheese?

You have cravings for a reason. It can be a way for your body to tell you to have certain nutrients (1). A strong craving for cheese could indicate that your body needs more protein, calcium, vitamins, and minerals.

Some old wives tales say that a strong urge to eat cheese indicates the sex of the baby. But they are just tales and have no scientific backing.

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Is It Safe To Eat Cheese When Pregnant?

Yes, it is safe to have hard cheeses during pregnancy (2) as they contain listeria bacteria in negligible amounts.

However, you need to stay away from soft cheeses, especially the mold-ripened and soft blue-veined varieties as the concentration of listeria is high in them.

Listeria leads to listeriosis, and pregnant women are more vulnerable than normal individuals due to their weak immunity. Go for pasteurized varieties of cheeses as the process removes listeria.

So, before you relish cheeses, you need to know about the types that are safe to eat, and the ones to avoid during pregnancy.

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Safe And Unsafe Cheeses During Pregnancy

The below table lists the safe cheeses you can consume during pregnancy.

Safe Cheeses

1. Hard cheese

It has a firm texture and long maturation period. It is prepared from pasteurized milk or is cooked at high temperature; therefore, the presence of listeria is almost nil.

Hard cheese during pregnancy

Image: Shutterstock

1. Cheddar Made from cow’s milk, it is a hard and natural cheese.The fresh form has a smooth texture, and it crumbles as it ages.
2. EmmentalOriginated in Switzerland, it is made from cow’s milk.An unpasteurized hard cheese with walnut-sized holes in it.
3. HalloumiMade from goat and sheep milk. It originated in Cyprus.Semi-hard cheese with a springy texture. Typically eaten during warmer months because of its refreshing nature.
4. HavartiMade from highly pasteurized cow’s milk. It is a widely used cheese product in Denmark.Has buttery aroma and is slightly acidic. It is aged for around three months. As it ages it becomes saltier and tastes like hazelnut.
5. JarlsbergMade of cow’s milk. Named after the place Jarlsberg in Norway.Has a slightly sweet and nutty flavor.
6. ManchegoMade from unpasteurized milk produced by the sheep breed manchega, in the La Mancha region of Spain.Has a fruity, grass and slightly tangy flavor. It is aged for around three months.
7. PaneerThe un-aged curd cheese is prepared by curdling the milk. It is commonly found in South Asia.Crumbly and moist in texture. It is mildly flavored.
8. OrkneyA form of cheddar produced in the Orkney Scottish Island.Firm, smooth, and soft texture.
9. ParmesanMade from the milk of cows that graze on fresh grass and hay.Has hard, gritty texture and a fruity flavor.
10. Pecorino Made from 100% cow milk in the US and sheep milk in Italy.Feels hard and has a strong taste. It is aged for up to 12 months.
11. ProvoloneMade from full-fat cow’s milk and originated in Italy.Semi-hard and firm texture with a mild, smoky flavor.
12. StiltonAn English cheese made from cow milk. Available in two varieties, blue and white.Semi-soft, crumbly, and creamier with a strong smell and taste.
13. EdamNamed after a town in North Holland, it is low in fat content compared to other cheese varieties.Is semi-hard and creamy. Its fresh form tastes salty and nutty and is odorless. Attains a sharper flavor on maturation.

2. Soft processed cheese

Soft processed cheese during pregnancy

Image: Shutterstock

Soft cheeses made from pasteurized milk are safe to eat during pregnancy. This cheese has a soft texture and can sometimes be watery and runny. While buying them, read the label to make sure it is pasteurized. Soft cheeses include:

  • Cottage cheese
  • Garlic and herb roulade
  • Goat cheese without white rind
  • Cream cheese
  • Mozzarella
  • Mascarpone
  • Quark
  • Ricotta

Autumn Bates, an expecting mom and clinical nutritionist, shares how she included cottage cheese in her pregnancy diet. She says, “For my first meal, I am going to make a cottage cheese pancake. I’ve been enjoying it since it’s high in protein. My midwife wants me to consume around 80 to 100 grams of protein from complete sources, and I’m already meeting that requirement quite easily (i).”

3. Processed cheese

Processed cheese during pregnancy

Image: Shutterstock

Made from modified natural cheeses, it has a homogeneous and flexible texture. The heating process makes processed cheese safe for pregnant women. However, it contains salt emulsifiers, stabilizers, and other additives; therefore limit them to small quantities. Processed cheese includes:

  • American cheese
  • Velveeta
  • Cheese whiz

As mentioned above, these cheese varieties are considered safe due to the absence of listeria.

protip_icon Quick fact
Gruyere, cheese spreads, goats’ cheese without a white coating on the outside (rind), and steaming hot and cooked soft and blue cheese are safe options during pregnancy (2).

Unsafe Cheeses

You need to avoid cheeses, which increase the risk of listeriosis during pregnancy.

1. Mold-ripened soft cheese

Consumption of mold-ripened soft cheese during pregnancy

Image: Shutterstock

These cheeses are more likely to contain listeria:

  • Brie
  • Blue brie
  • Cambozola
  • Camembert
  • Chèvre

2. Blue-veined cheese

Consumption of blue-veined cheese during pregnancy

Image: Shutterstock

The cheese is soft and filled with moisture, providing an ideal environment for bacterial growth. The varieties include:

  • Bergader
  • Bleu d’Auvergne
  • Blue Wensleydale
  • Shropshire blue
  • Danish blue
  • Dolcelatte
  • Gorgonzola
  • Roncal
  • Roquefort
  • Tome

3. Soft, unpasteurized cheese

Consumption of soft, unpasteurized cheese during pregnancy

Image: Shutterstock

Cheeses made from unpasteurized milk should be avoided. Some unpasteurized types include:

  • Chabichou
  • Feta (goat cheese)
  • Pyramide
  • Torta del cesar cheeses

Cheese is mostly made from cow milk, but it is also made from other sources such as goat milk. Let’s see if it is safe to consume such varieties.

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protip_icon Be watchful
Avoid eating Roquefort cheese during pregnancy unless you are sure that it is made with pasteurized milk (8).

Is It Safe To Eat Goat Cheese While Pregnant?

Goat cheese is safe if the milk is pasteurized or the cheese is hard. However, there are some cheeses you must avoid. One such cheese is chevre, which is often served in restaurants and is widely used in cheese salads.

The soft, mold-ripened cheese creates a ground for bacterial proliferation. It carries the bacteria called listeria monocytogenes (2).

Why should a pregnant woman be so careful about avoiding cheese that has the risk of carrying listeria?

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Listeriosis Risk

Eating contaminated or unpasteurized cheese could lead to listeriosis. You need to be careful while selecting the cheese because it is difficult to identify infected cheese as it lacks any distinct taste or smell.

Pregnant women are ten times more likely to get infected by listeria than non-pregnant population. The condition is caused by listeria bacterium and results in mild, flu-like symptoms in adults but is more likely to harm the unborn baby (3).

Listeriosis can put a pregnant woman at the risk of miscarriage, severe illness, stillbirth, premature birth or can lead to the death of the fetus (4). However, early detection and treatment of listeriosis using antibiotics may help prevent serious complications in the baby.

Tips To Prevent Listeriosis

It is true that cooking helps kill the listeria bacterium, but these bacteria are resilient. They can grow and survive in the refrigerator or freezer. Here are some tips to avoid getting listeriosis during pregnancy:

  1. Avoid soft cheeses during pregnancy. According to the CDC guidelines, pregnant women should refrain from consuming brie, feta, camembert, blue-veined cheeses, and Mexican-style cheeses like queso blanco, queso fresco, and panela as it may negatively impact the maternal health.
  1. In case you wish to eat soft cheese, then cook it till it starts bubbling and eat it immediately. Avoid consuming it later or storing in the refrigerator. Since listeria is susceptible to heat, cooking it at 160oF will kill the bacteria (5).
  1. Use only pasteurized dairy products. While buying hard cheese made from unpasteurized milk, make sure to check for the label marked as ‘aged 60 days’ or longer (6). Only such aged cheese is good for you.
  1. Maintain hygiene while storing food in the refrigerator. Makes sure to clean the refrigerator often and maintain the temperature at 40°F or below and freezer at 0°F. This temperature is ideal to slow down the growth of listeria (7).

Be careful about cheese consumption during pregnancy. You can have only cheese in limited quantities if it is pasteurized and/ or hard. Do not take a risk by eating soft cheese when pregnant, as it can have an adverse effect on your infant. Wait for a few months until your pregnancy ends, and you can return to your cheese days.

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Have you had a craving for cheese while pregnant? Share your experiences in the comment section below.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are the nutritional benefits of eating cheese during pregnancy?

Cheese is a nutrient-rich dairy product and a good source of calcium, protein, phosphorus, vitamin B12, and vitamin A (9). These nutrients are important for a healthy pregnancy (10).

2. How much cheese is safe to eat during pregnancy?

Pregnant women may take a total of three cups of dairy products daily. For cheese, one cup may equal two small slices of Swiss cheese or 1/3 cup of shredded cheese (11).

3. What are the effects of overeating cheese during pregnancy?

Eating too much cheese during pregnancy may increase your intake of saturated fats and sodium (9). This may contribute to excessive weight gain and increased blood pressure.

Infographic: Which Cheese Should You Eat And Avoid During Pregnancy?

Being skeptical about anything and everything you eat during pregnancy is typical. Cheese is one of the foods that require proper knowledge before consuming since not all cheeses are safe and may cause an infection. So stay aware of which ones to eat and avoid during pregnancy to prevent complications.

cheese during pregnancy (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Key Pointers

  • Cheese is a good source of protein, calcium, and vitamins essential for the growth and development of the baby.
  • Pregnant women should be aware of their cheese choices since certain types of cheese may contain bacteria, such as Listeria.
  • Listeria can cause flu-like symptoms in pregnant women, which can affect fetal well-being.
  • Hard and pasteurized cheeses like cheddar and parmesan are safe during pregnancy.
  • Soft cheeses like feta, brie, and camembert should be avoided to prevent the risk of infection while pregnant.
Cheese During Pregnancy_illustration

Image: Stable Diffusion/MomJunction Design Team

Cheese is a delicious addition to any food, but is it safe for pregnant women? Find out more through this informative video!

Personal Experience: Source

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Claudia Wilson
Claudia WilsonMS, RDN, CSSD, CSCS
Claudia Wilson is a registered dietitian/ nutritionist, a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Nutrition (CSSD), and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). With an experience of 12 years, she currently manages her private practice All of Nutrition and authored One-Two Punch.

Read full bio of Claudia Wilson
Swati Patwal
Swati PatwalM.Sc. (Food & Nutrition), MBA
Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist, a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) and a toddler mom with more than a decade of experience in diverse fields of nutrition. She started her career as a CSR project coordinator for a healthy eating and active lifestyle project catering to school children.

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Rebecca is a pregnancy writer and editor with a passion for delivering research-based and engaging content in areas of fertility, pregnancy, birth, and post-pregnancy. She did her graduation in Biotechnology and Genetics from Loyola Academy, Osmania University and obtained a certification in ‘Nutrition and Lifestyle in Pregnancy’ from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU).

Read full bio of Rebecca Malachi
Aneesha holds a Bachelor's degree in Biotechnology from USTM, Meghalaya and Master’s degree in Applied Microbiology from VIT, Vellore. With two years of experience, she has worked on different research projects in the field of Food Sciences.

Read full bio of Aneesha Amonz