Can You Eat Pepperoni When Pregnant?

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Pepperoni is an Italian-American variation of salami and is prepared with cured beef and pork seasoned with different spices. While relishing its spicy flavor isn’t a cause for concern in general, knowing about the safety of eating pepperoni during pregnancy is vital if you are pregnant.

Pepperoni can increase your risk of foodborne infections if consumed raw or undercooked. Since pregnant women have naturally lower immunity, knowing about the safety of pepperoni before adding it to your diet is necessary. Keep reading to know about the safety of pepperoni for pregnant women, including its side effects and safer alternatives.

Is It Safe To Eat Pepperoni During Pregnancy?

Pepperoni is not a healthy food you should have during pregnancy.

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Pepperoni is not a healthy food you should have during pregnancy. It is high in fats, salts, and spices. But if you have a strong craving for it, you might take it in moderate amounts.

The cured meat could be vulnerable to the exposure of toxoplasmosis bacteria. Therefore, eat the pizza or pasta topped with pepperoni that is cooked thoroughly or is piping hot (heat could kill the bacteria) (1).

Some of the possible risks of overeating pepperoni include indigestion, weight gain, ulcers, and water retention. You may eat the one that does not have nitrates and nitrites or use shredded chicken or lean ground beef as toppings.

Possible Side Effects Of Pepperoni During Pregnancy

Think before you extensively add pepperoni to your diet. The ingredients and preservatives used in it could affect you and your baby.

  1. Pepperoni is a high-fat food that offers around 141 calories and 13g of fat in a one-ounce serving (2). They are mostly saturated fats that may result in unhealthy weight gain and other problems such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and heart disease.
  2. Cured and salted meats contain nitrite and nitrate They could react with meat components and produce nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic (3).
  3. The spicy content of pepperoni is likely to cause heartburn.
Pepperoni could lead to heartburn in pregnancy

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  1. One ounce of pepperoni contains around 443mg sodium (2). It increases the salt content in the body, and a study has found that high sodium intake during pregnancy can adversely affect fetal renal functions (4). If you are worried about the side effects of taking pepperoni, you may try some alternatives.

Safer Alternatives To Pepperoni

  • Go for pepperoni made of turkey as it contains fewer fats and saturated fats.
  • Read the label before you buy commercial pepperoni. Take the one that has no nitrates and nitrites.

    Take pepperoni that has no nitrates and nitrites

    Image: Shutterstock

  • Make your pizza with whole-grain tortilla or pita, and substitute pepperoni with lean meats such as grilled chicken breast and lean ground turkey.

Next, we answer some common queries raised by our readers about pepperoni and pregnancy.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I eat cold pepperoni during pregnancy?

Cold pepperoni is safe to eat only if the label says the product is ready to eat. The risk of bacteria is reduced when it is frozen (5). But the risk of getting toxoplasmosis or listeriosis from cold meats can’t be completely ruled out. Therefore, you may consider eating topped pepperoni that is hot and properly cooked.

2. Can I eat raw pepperoni when pregnant?

Raw pepperoni poses the risk of toxoplasmosis that is usually associated with raw meat. Toxoplasmosis could increase the risk of stillbirth and miscarriage and cause congenital disabilities in babies (6).

3. Does pepperoni contain listeria?

Pepperoni is a cold cured meat and holds less chance of carrying listeria bacteria as freezing kills the parasite.

4. Is uncured pepperoni safe during pregnancy?

Uncured meats are cured with natural products such as celery powder rather than nitrates. There is no evidence to say that uncured meat is safer than cured one.

5. Can I have Hormel pepperoni when pregnant?

Hormel pepperoni contains nitrite preservatives, high saturated fats, added sugars, and high sodium content. Therefore, it is good to avoid it for your overall health.

Pepperoni is prepared from beef or pork and contains high amounts of fats, spices, and salt. Further, improper handling, storage, or cooking of pepperoni can lead to food infections. Hence, eating pepperoni when pregnant is not recommended since it may negatively affect the fetus. Instead, you could pick healthier alternatives, such as lean meats or pepperoni made from turkey. Be careful to avoid commercial pepperoni that is rich in nitrites and nitrates. Finally, discuss the safety of consuming pepperoni when pregnant with your healthcare provider or nutritionist.


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Food prep for pregnancy; Northwell Health; 2018
  2. Pepperoni beef and pork sliced; Basic Report 174575; USDA
  3. Caiping Mao et al.; High-salt diets during pregnancy affected fetal and offspring renal renin–angiotensin system; J Endocrinol (2015)
  4. Foods to avoid in pregnancy; NHS (2017)
  5. Erin Digitale; NIH study supports screening pregnant women for toxoplasmosis; Stanford Medicine (2012)
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Swati Patwal

Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist, a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) and a toddler mom with over eight years 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. Then she worked as a nutrition faculty and clinical nutrition coach in different...
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Jyoti Benjamin

Jyoti Benjamin has 25 years of experience as a clinical dietitian and currently works in Seattle. She focuses on teaching people the value of good nutrition and helping them lead healthy lives by natural means. Benjamin has a masters in Foods and Nutrition, and has been a longtime member and Fellow of AND (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) and the...
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