Is It Safe To Eat Turkey During Pregnancy?

Is It Safe to Eat Turkey While Pregnant

Pregnancy is one of the happiest times in a woman’s life when you’re supposed to eat more. Yet, a host of restrictions crop up, and every food you’ve loved seems to be suddenly off-limits. This popular poultry dish is a part of the standard cuisine of North America and is prepared mainly during culturally significant traditional events such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you’re wondering, “why can’t you eat turkey when pregnant?” it is better to stay safe at this time as those sumptuous turkey dishes could endanger your pregnancy and affect the developing fetus if not cooked in the right way. So let’s delve into all about eating turkey in pregnancy.

Can You Have Turkey When Pregnant?

Wondering about eating turkey while pregnant? As a member of the poultry family, turkey poses the risk of food poisoning caused by Campylobacter jejuni, Salmonella bacteria, and Clostridium perfringens. Depending on the way it is cooked, the nutrition of Turkey also varies. So, it’s important to prepare Turkey as per a few simple rules to keep yourself and your baby safe. Pregnant women are advised to avoid eating processed meats as they contain bacteria listeria, leading to listeriosis.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, expecting mothers are ten times more susceptible to get listeriosis than the common population as their immune system is low at this time. According to the USDA, eating undercooked or raw turkey poses the risk of foodborne illnesses. Thus, Turkey needs to be cooked up to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F to kill the bacteria.

However, some doctors recommend turkey be cooked up to 180 degrees for pregnant women to maintain optimum health. You can use the leftovers of a turkey to make a turkey sandwich the following day, after heating it. You should avoid cold meat due to its listeria concerns.

Health Benefits of Eating Turkey During Pregnancy 

Turkey is a large bird native to North America. It’s hunted in the wild and raised on farms for food. It offers a diverse and impressive nutrition profile that is especially needed during pregnancy.

Here are some health benefits of eating turkey while pregnant:

  • Turkey is a good source of protein, selenium, and phosphorus that support healthy growth for the baby. 
  • The skin of Turkey is high in fat. So, cuts on the skin have more calories and fat than skinless cuts.
  • Four ounces of turkey contains around 32gm of protein that scores high on the satiety index scale, helping you to feel full and satisfied at this time. Adequate dietary protein forms are an essential component of a pregnant woman’s healthy diet, supporting rapid growth and development. 
  • Turkey contains vital amino acids that you should take during the gestational stage to meet the adequate energy needs of the body. Amino acids during pregnancy could also help mitigate reproductive disorders.
  • Turkey is a good source of B vitamins needed for a healthy pregnancy. B3 is important for efficient energy production and cell communication. B6 supports amino acid formation and helps produce neurotransmitters, whereas B12 is vital for DNA production and the formation of red blood cells.
  • Turkey is a good source of iron, which is essential during pregnancy to prevent iron-deficiency anemia. Iron plays a crucial role in transporting oxygen to the growing fetus, supporting healthy brain development, and preventing fatigue and weakness in the expecting mother
  • Turkey, particularly when sourced from pastured or grass-fed birds, contains omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are important for the development of the baby’s brain and eyes. Omega-3s also have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy and promote overall maternal and fetal health.

Tips to Prepare Turkey Properly

Turkey needs to be appropriately cleaned and washed well before starting to cook. Cooking Turkey meat at the right temperature and eating it in moderation ward away the major concerns of falling ill during pregnancy. Here are some simple tips that can ensure the turkey you cook tastes best and is perfectly safe to eat. 

  • Steady cooking at a lower temperature means cooking for a longer duration.
  • Roast the meat at 300°F to make sure the turkey is cooked well.
  • Once the oven temperature reaches 140 degrees, you can turn the heat to 400°F to make the meat golden brown.
  • Use an instant-reading culinary thermometer to make sure the meat is cooked well.
  • The best temperature to remove the turkey is between 155-160 degrees.
  • Ensure the thermometer does not touch the bone while testing temperature results incorrectly.
  • Keep the turkey in standby mode for 20 minutes to make sure it is perfectly cooked.


1. Is It Safe to Eat Turkey Hot Dogs During Pregnancy? 

Many Turkey hot dog packages instruct you to cook until the turkey frankfurter is warmed through. However, just “warmed” isn’t enough during pregnancy. Turkey dogs need to be cooked to the temperature of 165°F/75°C and served when “steaming hot” for them to be termed safe for pregnant women.

2. Is Turkey Sausages Safe to Eat During Pregnancy? 

Turkey sausages are made from ground meat, and pregnant women can safely eat them once they have been cooked fully to 165°F/75°C, which may kill the bacteria present.

3. Can I Eat Cold Cuts or Cold, Cooked Turkey While Pregnant?

Cold cuts or pre-cooked/cured Turkey meat such as Turkey ham. At the same time, pregnant and especially those purchased from deli counters and then sliced on a deli counter can become contaminated or are potentially contaminated with Listeria bacteria. Therefore, The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advises that pregnant women avoid eating them in cold cut, fermented or dry sausages form unless they are heated to an internal temperature of 165°F or steamed just before serving to steer away from any Listeria infection. These meats can harbor bacteria that can continue to grow even when refrigerated.

4. Can Pregnant Women Eat Smoked Turkey? 

Eating smoked or grilled Turkey during pregnancy and eating the right quantity is a matter of individual choice. If the lunch meat you love is smoked turkey or smoked brisket or ham on the menu for dinner, make sure it is not cold or at room temperature either. Smoked Turkey meats cooked or reheated at the right temperature of 165°F/75°C can help destroy the potentially harmful chemical compound Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH), which is likely to be carcinogenic. Grilling even releases the bacteria in them. Thus, when the turkey is grilled, using hot coals or a flame for cooking quickly at a high temperature, it is best to eat it only in small amounts, especially for mothers in their third trimester. Finally, steaming hot or smoked turkey should be eaten right after it is served.

5. Is It Safe to Consume Turkey Burgers or Ground Turkey? 

Turkey burgers and other ground turkey products are often marketed as a “healthier swap” to traditional beef-based products. Turkey is 50% lower in fat than the standard 80/20 ground beef. However, regardless of fat content the principles of traditional ground meats, it is essential to cook Turkey until the inside of the product is at least 165°F to prevent foodborne illness. Whether pre-cooked or not, you should still heat any packaged or frozen or not, ground turkey items to about 165°F/75°C to destroy the presence of any bacteria and help prevent sickness for you and your baby.

6. Can I Eat Turkey Deli Meat Or Turkey Lunch Meat When Pregnant?

Deli turkey while pregnant is safe only if they have been dried and salted, such as pepperoni and salami. You should avoid processed and readymade products, such as bologna, hot dogs, roast beef, and sliced turkey breast, as they have not been dried between processing factories and being displayed at a deli counter, prepackaged or sliced to order, deli meats are highly likely to be contaminated with Listeria. While the overall risk of Listeria infections can be minimal, there is a possibility of the mother getting sick with fever, diarrhea, and bloodstream infections. It may also lead to serious complications like miscarriage, poor fetal growth, pre-term delivery, and stillbirth. Thus, steaming the meat or warming Deli Turkey to 165°F/75°C or warming Deli meat in the microwave for even heat distribution can destroy any bacteria that are especially dangerous when the immune system is low during pregnancy.

7. Is Turkey Bacon Safe to Eat When Pregnant?

Due to its lower fat content, Turkey bacon is considered a healthier alternative to pork bacon. All the varieties of turkey bacon, including the ones with and without nitrites, cured, and ready-to-heat, can be safe to eat during pregnancy provided they’ve been cooked thoroughly and served hot. So, the bottom line is that you should avoid cold Turkey bacon at any cost.

Turkey raised under organic conditions ensures the best nutrients in your dish. Grass-fed turkeys are rich in superior quality nutrients than those injected with antibiotics and those that don’t feed around on natural pastures. To be on the safe side, do consult your doctor about the daily recommended allowance of turkey during your pregnancy so that you can satisfy your craving and stay healthy at the same time.


1. Foodborne diseases of poultry and related problems; Science Repository;

2. To Wash or Not to Wash… Your Turkey?; U.S. Department of Agriculture;

3. Food Safety Charts: Cook to a Safe Minimum Internal Temperature;;

4. Foods to avoid in pregnancy; NHS UK;

5. Nutrition During Pregnancy FAQs; The American College of Obstetrician and Gynecologists;

6. Food Safety A Need-to-Know Guide for Those at Risk; United States Department of Agriculture;

7. Outbreak of Salmonella Infections Linked to Butterball Brand Ground Turkey; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;

8. Nutrition and healthy eating: How long can you safely keep leftovers in the refrigerator?; Mayo Clinic;

Also Read:

Eating Fish when Pregnant
Eating Liver during Pregnancy
Consuming Chicken during Pregnancy
Is It Safe to Eat Duck while Pregnant?

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Rama is a proud Delhiite with three years of content writing experience in her pocket. She is a commerce graduate with an advanced degree in the German language, but writing feels like home to her. When she is not writing,, you can probably find her researching on environment sustainability, devouring a novel, or exploring hidden nooks for delicious food around the city.