Pregnant women can eat bacon and sausage in moderation as part of a balanced diet, but should avoid excessive intake due to the high sodium and nitrate content. It’s generally recommended to limit bacon to 2 servings per week and choose low-sodium options when possible. Sausage intake should also be limited to 2-3 servings per week, with a preference for fresh, uncured sausages over highly processed varieties.
Can I Eat Bacon When Pregnant?
Many women wonder if they need to eliminate bacon entirely while pregnant or if occasional consumption is safe. Here are some key considerations regarding bacon intake during pregnancy:
Potential Concerns with Eating Bacon While Pregnant
- High sodium content – The high salt content of most bacon may contribute to fluid retention and blood pressure issues.
- Nitrates/nitrites – Bacon often contains preservatives like nitrates and nitrites, which some research links to an increased risk of certain cancers and birth defects.
- Listeria risk – Improperly cooked or handled bacon can potentially harbor Listeria, a dangerous food-borne illness for pregnant women.
Guidelines for Eating Bacon While Pregnant
- Limit intake to 2 servings or less per week.
- Opt for low-sodium bacon whenever possible.
- Cook bacon thoroughly until crispy to reduce Listeria risk.
- Avoid eating bacon that is raw or undercooked.
Following these guidelines allows pregnant women to still enjoy occasional bacon in moderation without major health concerns. While not necessarily something to eat daily, the occasional BLT or breakfast with bacon is unlikely to cause harm.
Can Pregnant Women Eat Sausage?
Like bacon, most types of sausage can be eaten in moderation during pregnancy but intake should be limited due to certain ingredients:
Potential Concerns with Eating Sausage While Pregnant
- High fat content – The high fat and calorie density may contribute to excessive weight gain.
- Sodium content – Processed sausages contain lots of salt, which can cause fluid retention issues.
- Nitrates/nitrites – Sausage often contains added nitrates/nitrites, which are linked to some health risks.
- Undercooking risks – Raw or undercooked sausage may harbor toxoplasma, salmonella, or listeria.
Guidelines for Eating Sausage While Pregnant
- Limit intake to 2-3 servings per week.
- Choose fresh, uncured sausages when possible.
- Cook sausage thoroughly until no longer pink inside.
- Limit processed sausages high in salt, fat, and preservatives.
Following a few precautions allows pregnant women to still incorporate some sausage in their diets in moderation. Fresh sausages made without a lot of sodium or preservatives are the healthiest options.
Healthiest Bacon and Sausage Options in Pregnancy
When choosing bacon and sausage foods to eat while pregnant, here are some of the best options:
Healthy Bacon Options
- Turkey bacon or veggie-based “bacon” (less fat than pork bacon)
- Uncured turkey or chicken bacon (no added nitrates/nitrites)
- Center-cut bacon (less fat than regular styles)
- Low-sodium bacon (contains less salt)
Healthy Sausage Options
- Fresh turkey or chicken sausage (more lean protein than pork)
- Uncured chicken apple sausage (no added nitrates)
- Lean vegetarian sausage (made from vegetables, beans, etc.)
- Low-fat breakfast sausage (look for 90% lean or higher)
Choosing these lower-sodium, nitrate-free, and leaner bacon and sausage options can allow pregnant women to still enjoy these foods in moderation without many of the potential drawbacks.
Recommended Serving Sizes for Bacon and Sausage
To keep bacon and sausage intake in check during pregnancy, here are some recommended serving size guidelines:
Bacon Serving Sizes
- 2-3 strips of regular sliced bacon
- 1 oz of chopped bacon pieces (about 2 tbsp)
- 3-4 slices center-cut bacon
- 1 turkey bacon strip
This provides 1-2 servings of bacon, which is a reasonable amount for one meal.
Sausage Serving Sizes
- 1 fresh sausage link or patty (approx 3 oz)
- 1⁄2 cup crumbled breakfast sausage
- 2 oz sliced deli meat sausage
- 1⁄2 – 1 cup sausage pieces in dishes like jambalaya
One average-sized fresh sausage or 1⁄2 cup of crumbled sausage equals one serving. For dishes with sausage mixed in, a 1⁄2 to 1 cup portion contains a reasonable amount.
Sticking within these serving size ranges allows pregnant women to keep bacon and sausage intake in moderation. This limits any risks while still allowing them to enjoy these foods.
Healthy Recipes With Bacon or Sausage for Pregnant Women
Here are some recipes incorporating bacon or sausage that can be enjoyed in moderation during pregnancy:
Healthy Bacon Recipes
- BLT Salad – Toss crispy bacon bits with lettuce, tomato, avocado, and ranch dressing.
- Bacon-Wrapped Chicken – Wrap chicken breasts with turkey bacon before baking.
- Brussels Sprouts and Bacon – Roast Brussels sprouts sliced in half and topped with bacon pieces.
- Bacon-Topped Baked Potato – Bake potatoes and top with crumbled bacon and chives.
Healthy Sausage Recipes
- Sausage and Peppers Sheet Pan – Roast sausage links and bell pepper strips on a baking sheet.
- Sausage and Tortellini Soup – Simmer lean Italian sausage and cheese tortellini in broth.
- Sausage, Kale and Rice Skillet – Cook sausage crumbles, kale, and instant rice together.
- Breakfast Burrito – Wrap scrambled eggs, low-fat sausage, and vegetables in a whole wheat tortilla.
These provide just a few ideas for healthy meals that let pregnant women enjoy bacon or sausage safely.
Safety Tips for Cooking Bacon and Sausage While Pregnant
Properly cooking bacon and sausage helps reduce pregnancy-related risks:
Sausage Safety Tips
- Cook sausages to an internal temperature of 160°F.
- Fully cook sausages before eating, do not eat raw or undercooked.
- Reheat leftover sausages thoroughly to 165°F.
- Avoid nicking or piercing sausages before cooking.
- Discard sausage packages with tears or that have leaked.
Bacon Safety Tips
- Cook bacon until fully crispy.
- Drain bacon grease after cooking and do not reuse.
- Do not eat partially cooked or soft bacon.
- Avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw bacon separate from other foods.
- Wash hands, utensils, pans after handling raw bacon.
Following basic food safety practices helps minimize risks when cooking bacon and sausage.
Health Risks of Eating Too Much Bacon or Sausage While Pregnant
Potential health issues that can occur if bacon or sausage intake is excessive include:
- High blood pressure – The sodium from processed meats may increase blood pressure.
- Gestational diabetes – Nitrates may impair insulin response and raise gestational diabetes risk.
- Foodborne illness – Undercooked meats may contain toxoplasma, Listeria, Salmonella, or other bacteria.
- Weight gain – The high fat and calorie content can lead to excess weight gain.
- Heartburn – Greasy, fatty foods commonly trigger pregnancy-related heartburn.
Sticking to recommended serving sizes and intake frequencies can help avoid these risks. Moderation is key when incorporating bacon and sausage in a healthy pregnancy diet.
Foods to Eat Instead of Bacon and Sausage in Pregnancy
For pregnant women looking to further limit processed meat intake, some healthier alternatives include:
- Turkey, chicken, or salmon
- Beans, lentils, tofu (for vegetarian options)
- Nuts and seeds
- Hummus or bean dips
- Avocado toast
- Cheese and yogurt
- Nut butters with fruit or toast
These provide lean protein, healthy fats, and nutrition without the high sodium and nitrates found in many bacon and sausage products.
Key Takeaways on Eating Bacon and Sausage During Pregnancy
Here are some key takeaways to keep in mind regarding bacon and sausage consumption when pregnant:
- Bacon and sausage can be eaten in moderation, about 2-3 servings per week.
- Avoid raw, undercooked, or nitrate-cured meats.
- Opt for low-sodium, uncured products when possible.
- Stick to recommended serving sizes, not large portions.
- Balance intake with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains.
- Properly cook to safe temperatures to avoid foodborne illness.
As part of a healthy, well-rounded pregnancy diet, consuming some bacon or sausage within moderation and basic safety precautions is unlikely to cause harm for most women and their babies. However, a diet high in processed meats should be avoided due to the correlated health risks. Moderation and balance are key for staying healthy.
In conclusion, incorporating occasional servings of bacon and sausage into a pregnant diet is considered safe and reasonable by most health experts, though intake should be limited. To minimize any potential risks, pregnant women should opt for low-sodium, nitrate-free options whenever possible, cook meats thoroughly, and stick to recommended portion sizes of around 2-3 servings per week. Avoiding excessive consumption and instead focusing on a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean proteins allows pregnant women to safely enjoy bacon and sausage foods in moderation. However, it is still wise to minimize intake of highly processed meats overall. With some basic precautions and balance, bacon and sausage can be reasonably incorporated into a healthy pregnancy diet.