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Can You Eat Thanksgiving Turkey While Pregnant? (And What Foods to Avoid!)

From turkey to sweet potatoes, learn what Thanksgiving foods to avoid when pregnant (and what you can eat!)
Turkey Dinner
Updated: May 13, 2023

As you prepare for your Thanksgiving feast, you may be wondering what your plate will look like this year if you're among the millions of pregnant women who will be sitting down for their Thanksgiving meal. We all know that when you're pregnant, certain foods are off-limits because they pose a danger to you or your unborn baby. But, Thanksgiving Day is a time to chow down and you don't want to miss out, especially on the bird!

More: 25 of the Best Thanksgiving Movies for Kids

Is Thanksgiving Turkey Safe for Pregnant Women?

Let's talk turkey. Turkey is a staple of the big day, but many women often ask their Ob-Gyn, can you eat Thanksgiving turkey when you're pregnant?

There's no need to get your feathers in an uproar, Thanksgiving turkey can be a part of your Thanksgiving meal when you're pregnant if it's cooked to the right internal temperature. According to the USDA, the safe minimum internal temperature to cook a turkey is 165 degrees Fahrenheit. But, some doctors recommend turkey be cooked to 180 degrees for pregnant women.

Obviously, if the turkey looks undercooked or raw, it's going to be a hard pass for you (and it should be for everyone else at the table). Eating undercooked turkey poses the risk of food poisoning caused by Salmonella bacteria. Thoroughly cooking turkey kills the Salmonella bacteria.

If you're thinking about leftovers the next day and making a turkey sandwich, you're going to need to heat it. Cold meat is a big no-no because of listeria concerns. A warm turkey sandwich is a safer choice.

Thanksgiving Foods to Avoid When Pregnant

Foods to Avoid

While you may get a green light on turkey if you're pregnant, other foods should be avoided no matter what trimester you may be in when you sit down for your Thanksgiving Dinner.

These include:

  • Unpasteurized dairy
  • Stuffing cooked inside a turkey
  • Undercooked meats
  • High salt foods
  • Alcohol

Eating these foods can lead to swelling in the hands or more serious problems caused by bacteria like listeria and salmonella. When it comes to alcohol, even a glass of wine is not recommended.

Pregnant women will also want to avoid pâté. Some people serve it as an appetizer to their Thanksgiving dinner. Pâté is a combination of fat and cooked ground meat. According to the American Pregnancy Association, refrigerated pâté should be avoided because it may contain the bacteria listeria. Canned pâté is okay to eat. Soft cheeses like feta, gorgonzola, queso fresco, brie, and camembert, are also a big no-no if you see them on your Thanksgiving Day table because they may contain listeria.

When it comes to veggies, raw sprouts like alfalfa, clover, and radishes are out of the mix because bacteria can get into the seeds before the sprouts grow. You also want to make sure that any veggies you eat are washed to avoid potential exposure to toxoplasmosis. This may contaminate the soil where the vegetables came from.

Apple cider can be part of your Thanksgiving dinner as long as it's pasteurized. Unpasteurized cider can lead to foodborne illnesses and have been linked to E. coli outbreaks.

The Best Thanksgiving Foods for Women

Now that we know about the Thanksgiving foods pregnant women should avoid, let's take a look at some of the foods you'll want to load onto your plate. These Thanksgiving treats are healthy for both you and your little one.



Vegetables like green beans, corn, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and sweet potatoes are all a big yes. They are packed with vitamins and minerals that are good for you and your unborn baby. If you're loading up on sweet potatoes, be sure they don't have too much sugar or marshmallows; too much sugar is never good for a pregnant mama!


Pumpkin Pie

If pumpkin pie is on your list of must-have Thanksgiving feast foods, you want to make sure it was made with prepackaged pumpkin. Pumpkin is packed with vitamins like calcium and zinc, so you don't have to feel guilty about having a slice! Pumpkin may also help to reduce swelling and leg cramps. Just be sure any whipped cream you add on top is pasteurized.


While the rest of the guests are having those soft cheese appetizers that you can't eat, have some nuts! Many people put them on the table before Thanksgiving dinner. Nuts are packed with fatty acids and other nutrients that are good for pregnant women and their unborn babies. Studies have also found that eating nuts during early pregnancy can improve a child’s neuropsychological development, so go nuts!

The Final Takeaway for Thanksgiving Dinner

As you gear up for your Thanksgiving feast, know that pregnant women can eat turkey as long as it's cooked to a safe temperature. You can cross stuffing cooked inside the turkey off the list, but keep pumpkin pie and sweet potatoes on.

Soft cheeses are going to have to be a pass as well as pate and apple cider that's unpasteurized. The key is to look for foods that are cooked and warm. If you're still unsure about what foods to eat on Thanksgiving day, you could always run your menu by your Ob-Gyn.

Check out our Healthy Pregnancy Diet Center for more nutritional advice.

Kristina Cappetta

About Kristina

Having previously worked as a news producer, Kristina left the world of television when her… Read more

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