Can You Eat Pepperoni When Pregnant?

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Pepperoni, a spicy Italian-American variation of Salami, is a preparation of cured pork and beef seasoned with spices. It gives a distinct flavor to your dishes, adding spice to pizzas, sandwiches, pasta, and wraps.

If you are craving for pepperoni during pregnancy, you might want to know about its safety before adding it to your meals. In this MomJunction post, we tell you if it is safe to eat pepperoni during pregnancy, its side-effects, and the alternatives you may try.

Is It Safe To Eat Pepperoni During Pregnancy?

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 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.
  4. 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 the fetal renal functions (4).If you are worried about the side effects of taking pepperoni, you may try some alternatives.

[ Read: Pizza During Pregnancy ]

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.
  • 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 the 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 for your overall health.

Overeating pepperoni can lead to health problems. Therefore, have it occasionally and in small quantities.

Do you like pepperoni or have a recipe for homemade pepperoni? Write to us about it in the comment section below.


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. Nitrate/Nitrite Toxicity; Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (2016)

7. Erin Digitale; NIH study supports screening pregnant women for toxoplasmosis; Stanford Medicine (2012)

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