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Is It Safe To Eat Sausage During Pregnancy?

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Sausages are too tempting to resist given their spicy taste and ubiquity. They are said to be one of the biggest cravings during pregnancy. You may not have had any issues with sausages earlier, but that does not mean that you could indulge in your temptations when pregnant. Can you eat sausages when you are pregnant or will the bacteria hidden in the sausage have an ill-effect on you and your baby? MomJunction talks about the safe consumption of sausage and gives you some advice on how to consume it.

Is Sausage Safe To Eat During Pregnancy?

Sausage is safe to eat during pregnancy if it is completely cooked and eaten hot. Sausages made of ground beef, pork, lamb, or veal should be cooked to 160 °F, and those made of ground turkey and chicken should be cooked to 165°F. (1)

You need to cook the meat until there is no more pink left inside and the juices dry up (2). With all these precautions, however, do make sure to check with your doctor before you plan to include sausages in your diet.

Types Of Sausages: What Is Safe And What Is Not

Sausages are made of ground red meat or poultry and have a casing made from the intestine of the animal. They could be pan-fried, broiled or barbecued.

The processed meat product is available in uncooked and ready-to-eat forms. Fresh and smoked sausages are uncooked while dry, semi-dry, and cooked are ready-to-eat. Know if you can or cannot eat each variety, here (3) (4):

1. Fresh sausages

Fresh sausages are finely chopped particles of meat, which are usually cured and seasoned. The varieties include fresh pork sausages, fresh beef sausages, breakfast sausages, whole hog sausages, and Italian sausage products.

Safety during pregnancy: Fresh sausage is safe to eat if you refrigerate it properly and cook thoroughly. Uncooked sausages may contain listeria and hence are unsafe to eat (4).

2. Cooked and/or smoked sausages

Cooked or smoked sausages are made of chopped or ground meat. They are seasoned, cooked and/or smoked. This category includes liverwurst, hot dogs, bologna, cooked bratwurst, braunschweiger, cooked Thuringer, and salami.

Safety during pregnancy: Do not consume seasoned sausages unless they are completely cooked and are piping hot.

3. Dry and semi-dry sausages

Dry and semi-dry sausages are cured with salt and sodium nitrite, cultured, mixed with ground or chopped meat, placed in casings, fermented and then dried. Semi-dry sausages are partially dried. Pepperoni, Lebanon bologna, and summer sausage come under this variety.

Safety during pregnancy: The fermentation process and lack of moisture usually kill the pathogenic bacteria in dry sausages. However, it is good to avoid dry sausages when you are pregnant as a few types of bacteria, such as E.Coli, can survive the dry fermentation process. (4)

Side Effects Of Sausages During Pregnancy

While you can ensure that a home-made sausage is safe to consume, there is no guarantee that a ready-to-eat product is free from food-borne diseases. A sausage can affect you in more ways than one during pregnancy:

1. High fat and salt (sodium) content

Two links of pork sausage contains 170 calories and 15g fat. Foods high in calories could lead to excess weight gain, which could pose problems during and after the pregnancy. So, the type and quantity of sausage should be selected cautiously during pregnancy.

Two sausages can meet 50% of your daily sodium requirement of 6g. Sausages are the third largest individual contributors of salt in our diet. A survey in the US has shown that many sausages are full of ‘hidden and unnecessary salt’ (5). The sodium content in sausages can range from 100mg to nearly 2g.

High sodium levels can affect fetal renal development (6) and may also affect the mother’s health. Thus, eating sausage without bun is a good idea as the bun can add another 180-200mg of sodium to the meal (7).

2. Listeria

Listeria monocytogenes is a bacteria that can lead to listeriosis disease. Listeriosis can result in miscarriage, severe sickness, premature babies, or death of a newborn. Fermented or dry sausages carry the risk of listeria (8).

3. Toxoplasmosis and other bacteria

Toxoplasmosis is very rare in pregnant women but could be dangerous. It leads to brain damage or blindness in the baby, premature birth, jaundice, and psychological development problems in the newborn. Toxoplasmosis is caused by Toxoplasma gondii present in raw and uncooked meat. (9)

Poorly cooked sausages could be carriers of other bacteria such as salmonella and E.coli. Salmonella causes diarrhea, vomiting, fever, dehydration, and abdominal cramps. E.coli leads to anemia and urinary tract infections among others.

4. Heartburn

The high amount of spices added in sausages could result in heartburn (10), especially in the third trimester, when the uterus expands to accommodate your growing baby, and presses on to your abdomen. The expansion pushes the acid back into the esophagus. This is not harmful to the baby, but the acidity will make you uncomfortable.

Having a glass of milk after a sausage may avoid this irritation.

Benefits Of Eating Sausage

Would processed meat like sausages have any health benefits? Yes and, here are a few. However, you need not consume sausages for these benefits alone because you may get these from other healthier foods too.

  • Sausages contain all the nine amino acids and are high in proteins that are required to maintain your muscle strength (11).
    They are rich in vitamin B-12 needed to make hemoglobin and metabolize the body fats and proteins (12).
  • Iron is necessary for a pregnant woman to maintain hemoglobin levels and to avoid anemia. A 3oz serving of sausage has 1mg of iron. Two medium pork sausages contain 1.5mg of iron (13).
  • An important point to consider is that these benefits are also present in foods that are healthier than sausages.

7 Safety Tips To Eat Sausages

Pregnancy food cravings make you defy reason, but they also result in guilt pangs after you indulge in them. Here are a few tips for you to eat sausage without the baggage of guilt:

  1. Eat sausage when it is still hot. If you are eating it outside, ask the vendor to re-heat it for you.
  2. Do not eat undercooked sausages.
  3. Refrigerate the leftover sausage and eat it within two days, but only after reheating it until it is steaming hot (14).
  4. Even if you buy precooked sausages, reheat them before eating.
  5. Keep away raw meat from cooked food and ensure that juices from uncooked meat are not dripping into other foods.
  6. Check the labeling of both uncooked and ready-to-eat sausages.
  7. Select the ones that have low levels of sodium and spices.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I eat chorizo during pregnancy?

Chorizo is pork sausage seasoned with garlic. You can eat it in moderate quantities during pregnancy if it is cooked properly. If you are allergic to spices, avoid it. Raw chorizo should not be eaten. Consult a nutritionist to make a wise decision while selecting sausages during pregnancy.

2. Is hot sausage safe during pregnancy?

Hot sausage enhances the taste of your sandwich or soup. You can have it but it is not a good choice when you are trying to eat healthy. If you are craving for one, have it in moderation.

3. How about having a Vienna sausage during pregnancy?

Vienna sausage is made from pre-cooked meat. Sodium nitrates and nitrites are high in it. They are mixed with various spices and herbs and packaged in sauces such as barbecue and chili.

As the sausages are made from pre-cooked meat, you cannot be sure if they are cooked thoroughly. There could be the risk of bacteria still being alive in it.

High levels of sodium may create trouble for women who have swollen legs due to water retention. Spices could aggravate the heartburn.

4. What are Italian sausages? Can I consume them during pregnancy?

Italian sausages contain more than 85% meat and fat. The total fat content is up to 35% of the cooked product. It has salt, spices, pepper, onion, garlic, sugar, dextrose, and corn syrup. It is high in calories, which could add fat to your body.
Spices may give you heartburn. Eating them occasionally will not cause health issues. A DIY sausage can be a healthy alternative. It will give you the freedom to use lean meats, fresh herbs, a lot of vegetables, and limited salt (15).

12 Tasty Sausage Recipes

1. Quick sausage and squeak

Quick sausage and squeak

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • 8 sausages
  • 2 chopped celery sticks
  • 3 chopped mushrooms
  • 2 chopped onions
  • 3 chopped carrots

For the squeak:

  • Any amount of vegetables you wish to use
  • Any amount of mashed potato you wish to use
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Cheese for topping
  • Salt as per taste
  • Black pepper as per taste
  • Oil
  • Ready made gravy or leftover gravy

How to:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200º C.
  2. Heat the oil and cook the sausages till they turn golden brown.
  3. Take a medium casserole dish and add the sausages, onions, carrots, celery sticks, and mushrooms.
  4. Add the gravy and stir it until it mixes well. Place it in the oven and let it cook for about 30 to 35 minutes.
  5. As the sausage and vegetables are cooking in the gravy, take the mashed potato and mashed vegetables and add egg yolk to it. Add the salt and pepper as per taste. Now place it all on the grill and heat for some time with a little sprinkling of cheese.
  6. Once the sausage and gravy are done, serve with the mash.

2. Italian sausage and rocket penne

Italian sausage and rocket penne

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 1 diced red capsicum
  • 2 sliced brown onions
  • 1kg Italian sausages
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 1 cup water
  • 500g penne pasta
  • 3 cups baby rocket
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese

How to:

  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the onions and capsicum. Cook them till they turn a little soft. Take them off the pan and place them aside.
  2. In the same pan, add a little oil and the sausages and keep cooking until they are fried thoroughly.
  3. Add the onion, capsicum, and garlic to the pan. Saute them for about two minutes. Add water and stir everything well.
  4. Cook the pasta as per the instructions on the package. Drain and toss it into the pan.
  5. Mix the pasta well with the sausage and vegetables. Add salt and pepper. Remove the pan from the heat and add the baby rocket.
  6. Sprinkle cheese just before serving.

3. Chorizo sausage salad

Chorizo sausage salad

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • 2 medium chopped red onions with the roots intact
  • 2tsp olive oil
  • 6 fresh chorizo sausages
  • 2 bunches rocket
  • Whole baby beetroot
  • 200g feta cheese
  • For Dressing:
  • 4tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2tbsp vinegar
  • 2tsp honey

How to:

  1. Preheat your oven to 220ºC.
  2. Place the onions on a tray lined with baking paper. Add some olive oil on top and bake for about 25 minutes.
  3. Heat a pan over high heat and cook the sausages. Make sure you cook for at least three minutes on each side, till they are properly cooked and are golden brown. Remove from the pan and slice them lengthwise.
  4. Put the sausages back in the pan and continue cooking, making sure that the cut side faces down. Cook for three to four minutes or till they are completely cooked.
  5. For the dressing, add all the dressing ingredients in a jar and give it a good shake. Wash the rocket and add it to the dressing. Place the dressing on the plate and top it with baked onions, baby beetroot, and chunks of feta cheese.
  6. Add sausage on top and drizzle over the remaining dressing.

4. Fruity curried sausages

Fruity curried sausages

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You will need:

  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 20g butter
  • 2 finely sliced onions
  • 1tbsp corn flour
  • 1tsp curry powder
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 2tbsp apricot jam
  • 6 cooked and chopped sausages
  • 90g sultanas

How to:

  1. In a pan, heat the oil and butter together.
  2. Add onions and cook for about five minutes. Add corn flour and curry powder and cook for another one minute.
  3. Next, add chicken stock and stir everything together to mix it well.
  4. Let it all come to a boil. Once it starts to boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer for about ten minutes. Add the jam and the sausages and stir again. Now add the sultanas and cook for another five minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and serve with warm rice and vegetables.

5. Honey and balsamic glazed sausages

Honey and balsamic glazed sausages

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • 1tsp olive oil
  • 6 sausages
  • ¼th cup brown sugar
  • 2tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1tbsp honey
  • 2tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 sprig of rosemary

How to:

  1. In a pan, heat the oil and add sausages. Cook them for about 12 to 15 minutes, or till they turn golden brown and are completely cooked.
  2. Take another pan and mix balsamic vinegar, sugar, honey, and mustard. Let it boil and then remove from heat.
  3. Once the sausages are done, remove them from the pan and drain away any fat that may be in the pan. Put the sausages back on the pan and keep the heat on medium.
  4. Add vinegar, honey, sugar, and mustard glaze that you prepared and drizzle it on the sausages. Add the rosemary.
  5.  Let it all simmer for about two minutes and make sure you keep stirring the sausages so that they do not get stuck at the bottom of the pan.
  6.  Keep cooking till the sausages are fully cooked and are covered in the glaze.
  7. You can serve it with mashed potatoes and a salad. Add any leftover drizzle on top of potatoes and salad.

6. Sausage hotpot

Sausage hotpot

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You will need:

  • 600 g sausages
  • 2 diced rashers bacon
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1 diced carrot
  • 1 diced potato
  • 1 finely crushed garlic clove
  • ¼tsp Tabasco sauce
  • 6 to 8 chopped basil leaves
  • ¼tsp dried thyme
  • 1 cup beef or chicken stock
  • 1tsp tomato paste
  • 2 stalks chopped parsley
  • 420g diced tomatoes
  • 420g flour bean mix
  • 1 cup cooked pasta
  • Water

How to:

  1. Boil some water in a pan and add the sausages.
  2. As the sausages are simmering in the water heat the oil in a pan. Next, add onion, bacon, potato, carrot, and garlic. Keep frying till the onions turn soft.
  3. Now add Tabasco sauce, thyme, and basil and then add the tomatoes. Keep cooking it on low heat.
  4. Once the sausages are cooked, remove them from the pan. Peel off the skin of the sausages and chop them into small pieces.
  5. Add sausages, bean mix, stock, tomato paste, and pasta and let it all cook together for a while. Simmer on low heat for about five to ten minutes and serve immediately.

7. Sausage kebabs

Sausage kebabs

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You will need:

  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 500g chipolata sausage
  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • 2tsp olive oil

How to:

  1. Preheat your oven to 200º C.
  2. Peel the onions and slice them into wedges. Cut up the zucchini into smaller rounds but keep them thick. Add a wedge of onion and one round of the zucchini to a skewer.
  3. Now add two chipolata sausages and top it up with a cherry tomato.
  4. Place the skewers on an oven tray that is lined with baking paper. Drizzle some olive oil over the kebabs and bake for about 20 minutes. Turn the sausages and the skewer halfway through the time so that they cook properly on all sides. At the end of it, the sausages should turn completely brown.
  5. Serve with a healthy salad.

8. Cowboy casserole

Cowboy casserole

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • 600g baking potatoes
  • 8 sausages
  • 1 diced onion
  • 2 diced carrots
  • 400g baked beans
  • 400g mixed and drained beans
  • 2tbsp sunflower oil
  • 300ml beef or chicken stock
  • 2tsp curry powder
  • 1tbsp tomato puree
  • 50g grated cheddar cheese
  • Water

How to:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  2. Peel and chop the potatoes and put them to boil in a pan of water.
  3. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the sausages. Once they are done, remove them from the pan and keep them aside on a plate.
  4. In the same pan in which you fried sausages, fry the onions and carrots.
  5. Now add the beans, tomato puree, curry powder and stock. Let it all simmer for about ten minutes.
  6. Once the potatoes are done, drain them from the water and mash them using the back of a big spoon or ladle.
  7. Lay the sausages at the bottom of a casserole dish but keep some sausages aside to use as a garnish later.
  8. Add the bean sauce on the top and put the potato mash.
  9. Cut the remaining sausages in half and add them inside the mashed potato.
  10. Place the dish in the oven at a temperature of 180º C. Cook for about 15 to 20 minutes till the sausage and the potato mash have turned a nice golden brown color.

9. Gluten free sausage rolls

Gluten free sausage rolls

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • 400g gluten free puff pastry
  • 400g gluten free sausages
  • 1tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1tsp finely chopped fresh sage
  • Salt as per taste
  • Black pepper as per taste
  • 1 beaten egg

How to:

  1. Preheat your oven to 220ºC.
  2. Roll out the gluten free pastry puff in a rectangular shape. Make it about 30 cm.
  3. Remove the meat of the sausage from the sausage skin and mix it in a bowl along with parsley and sage. Add salt and pepper to season well.
  4. Now spread the meat of the sausage over the pastry. Make sure you do it in a very thin layer and leave some space around the edges.
  5. Brush the edges with the beaten egg.
  6. Start rolling the pastry starting from the short ends at each side. Roll them in towards the middle. As you keep moving, brush the pastry with the beaten egg.
  7. Once the pastry has reached till the middle, use a knife to help cut up the roll. Try and cut it in about 10 to 12 slices.
  8. Now put the rolls of sausage on a baking tray, which should be lined with baking paper.
  9. Brush the sausage rolls with the beaten egg and bake it for about 15 minutes, or until the sausage rolls turn golden brown.
  10. Let it cool properly before serving.

10. Creamy curried sausages

Creamy curried sausages

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • 5 thick sausages
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 1 diced carrot
  • 1tsp sweet paprika
  • 1tsp turmeric
  • 1tsp curry powder
  • Freshly cracked pepper
  • 2 sliced zucchini
  • 100g green beans
  • 1 tin light and creamy evaporated milk
  • 1 glass water
  • 1tsp corn flour
  • 1tbsp brown sugar

How to:

  1. Heat a pan and add oil. Once the oil is hot, add sausages and cook till they are done. The color should turn to golden brown. Set aside and slice up the sausages. Remove the residual oil from the pan.
  2.  In the same pan, add carrots and onions and cook till the onions turn transparent.
  3. Now add paprika, turmeric powder, brown sugar, curry powder, and pepper. Keep stirring and fry it all for about two minutes.
  4. Once they are done, add sliced sausages in the pan. Now add the light and creamy evaporated milk and stir everything together.
  5.  In a glass of water, add corn flour and mix it properly with a spoon, making sure there are no lumps. Once it dissolves, add it to the pan and keep cooking while constantly stirring, till the sauce becomes thick.
  6. Now add beans and zucchini and cook for another three minutes.
  7. Serve it with warm rice or mashed potatoes.

11. Sausage and spinach lasagna

Sausage and spinach lasagna

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 700g tomato passata
  • 250g frozen spinach
  • 3 sheets fresh lasagna
  • 8 cooked and lengthwise halved sausages
  • For the Béchamel sauce:
  • 30g butter
  • 1tbsp plain flour
  • 1½ cups warm milk
  • 1 cup grated tasty cheese

How to:

  1. In a pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and cook for about five minutes till the onions turn translucent. Add tomatoes and tomato passata. Let it all simmer for about 25 minutes.
  2. Add spinach and cook for another ten minutes.
  3. For béchamel sauce, melt butter in a pan. Add the flour and keep whisking. Cook it properly for about one minute and keep stirring constantly.
  4. Slowly, add milk and keep stirring to make sure that it does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
  5. Let the sauce simmer gently for a few minutes till the sauce has become thick. Once done, remove it from the heat and add half of the cheese to it.
  6. Preheat the oven to 190ºC.
  7. In a lasagna dish, place a few spoons of the tomato spinach sauce at the base. Now add one sheet of lasagna on the top. Take eight sausage halves and place them on the top of the lasagna sheet. Add the remaining tomato and spinach sauce over the sausages. Add another sheet of lasagna and layer again with the sauce.
  8. Once you complete your layering, make sure you put the last layer on the lasagna sheet. Now pour the béchamel sauce on top and add the remaining half of the cheese.
  9. Bake it all for about 35 to 40 minutes or till it turns golden brown, and the cheese starts to bubble.

12. Baked sausages and butterbeans

Baked sausages and butterbeans

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • 1 sliced brown onion
  • 6 large sausages
  • 2 sliced capsicums
  • 400g drained butterbeans
  • 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves
  • 2tbsp thyme leaves
  • 400 g chopped tomatoes
  • Parsley for garnish

How to:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  2. In a non-stick roasting tray, place the onions, capsicums and sausages and place it in the oven. Make sure you cook it for about 20 minutes.
  3. After 20 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and add butter beans, thyme, garlic, and tomatoes to it. Mix it well.
  4.  Now add 3/4th cup of hot water to the mix. If you feel that it looks a bit dry, you can add some more water so that the mix looks nice and juicy.
  5. Add the sausages back on the mix and cover it using a sheet of foil. Place the dish back in the oven and cook it for another 20 minutes.
  6. Once done, remove the foil carefully and cook for another ten minutes and then take the dish out of the oven and set it aside to cool for a while. Sprinkle the parsley on the top right before you are about to serve it.

If you are not comfortable with any of the ingredients above, substitute them with some alternatives. Your health and comfort should help you decide what and how you eat..

Sausage is something which is eaten to satiate your cravings during pregnancy but not for any health benefits. Choose healthy alternatives to classic sausage ingredients. Adding fresh vegetables, herbs, whole grains such as barley and homemade sauces with limited sodium can help you make a healthy version of sausage.

References:

1. Cooking Meat? Check the New Recommended Temperatures; USDA
2. Foods to avoid in pregnancy; NHS
3. What Are The Types of Sausage Casings?; American Meat Science Association
4. Sausages and Food Safety; USDA
5. Sausage Survey; Action on Salt
6. Caiping Mao et al.; High-salt diets during pregnancy affected fetal and offspring renal renin–angiotensin system; National Center For Biotechnology Information (2013)
7. A Guide to Hot Dog and Sausage Nutrition; National Hot Dog and Sausage Council
8. Listeria And Pregnancy; American Pregnancy Association
9. Overview on Toxoplasmosis; Information About Toxoplasmosis
10. Acid Reflux; Keck Medicine
11. Are Animal Proteins Better for You Than Plant Proteins?; Cedars Sinai
12. Judy Cunningham et al.; Nutrient Composition of Retail Samples of Australian Beef Sausages; National Center For Biotechnology Information (2013)
13. Children’s Section: Iron Content of Foods; NHS
14. How to store food and leftovers; NHS
15. DIY Kitchen: Simple Sausage; Food And Nutrition

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