Tis the season to jolly well eat, drink and be merry. But when you're pregnant, that can be tricky – whether you're been pregnant for a few months and have got pretty familiar with the main pregnancy food guidelines¹ or you're newly pregnant (congrats!) and are still getting to grips with it all. And that's because, of course, Christmas food, generally speaking, means a whole lot of stuff you don't eat everyday – from mince pies to panettone to Stilton.


"It can be daunting to be faced with foods you've not thought about in the context of your pregnancy," says Dr Rana Conway, registered nutritionist and senior research fellow in the Research Department of Behavioural Science and Health at UCL, "but there are lots of festive foods that you can enjoy when you're pregnant – and even some foods that can boost your and your baby's health."

With Dr Rana's expert help, we've set out below the Christmas foods it's safe to enjoy in pregnancy, the Christmas foods it's best to avoid and the Christmas foods that offer extra nutritional benefits to anyone with a baby on board.

The good news is: there's plenty to tuck into! "There's definitely no need to miss out," says Dr Rana. "Sometimes you may need to make a few swaps but, as long as you go in prepared, you can certainly join in with Christmas celebrations and have a lovely time."

Here's our expert guide to which Christmas foods you can eat when pregnant – and which to avoid

Christmas lunch

Turkey (including leftover turkey and reheated turkey)

SAFE. If you're the one buying the turkey, opt for a free-range or organic one, to help you swerve potentially ingesting any artificial hormones or growth hormones. Make sure the meat is well-cooked, with juices running clear, so on the off chance the raw meat was carrying salmonella bacteria, the bacteria are all killed and you avoid the risk of getting food poisoning, which can sometimes be more serious in pregnancy.²

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Cool and store any cooled leftover turkey in the fridge within 2 hours and eat leftovers within 2 days. As with any food, if you're warming it up, always reheat thoroughly.


SAFE, if cooked properly and separately. Cooking the stuffing inside the turkey is a no-no – whether you're pregnant or not – because, says The Food Standards Agency,³ "stuffed birds take longer to cook and may not cook thoroughly."

Be particularly mindful if your stuffing contains minced sausage meat as minced meat poses a higher risk than meat pieces of harbouring E coli, listeria and toxoplasmosis bacteria – all of which can cause illness that could affect your baby. As with turkey meat, thorough cooking will kill these bacteria.

Cranberry Sauce

SAFE. Think of it like jam and keep it in the fridge, once opened.

Bread Sauce

SAFE, so long as it's made using pasteurised milk and/or cream.

Pigs in Blankets

SAFE, if properly cooked (see our advice on killing bacteria with thorough cooking, above). Remember: if you’re cooking several dishes or lots of food together in the oven, you'll need to increase the cooking time to ensure everything is heated adequately.

Cakes and puddings

Christmas cake

SAFE, although, if it's home-made, it's worth doing a quick icing check: was the icing made with raw eggs and, if it was, were they British Lion stamped? Raw and partially cooked eggs (also in mousse and cheesecake) are considered fine to eat in pregnancy, as long as they have the British Lion stamp¹ but eggs without the stamp are best avoided, as they are more likely to contain salmonella bacteria. If you're not sure about the stamp on the eggs, it’s best to swerve them to be on the safe side.

Christmas pudding

AVOID, unless alcohol-free. Most shop-bought puds will have an advertised level of alcohol (some contain as much as 30% booze) but homemade puds can contain even more. So, a slice could contain the equivalent unit of an alcoholic drink. The current NHS advice is to steer clear of alcohol in pregnancy4 as a sensible precaution: it's known that alcohol can pass through your bloodstream and potentially cause harm, especially in large amounts. For more on this, see What Christmas drinks can I have?, below.

Brandy butter/Brandy cream

AVOID, although it largely depends on the alcohol content. While a small spoonful of low-alcohol-by-volume (check the label) butter or cream is probably fine, a larger serving (containing more alcohol) probably isn't. Homemade versions are generally riskier as it is hard to know exactly how much alcohol has been put in the mix.


SAFE, as long as it doesn't contain sherry and is made with pasteurised milk and cream.

Ice cream

SAFE, as long as it's shop-bought and/or made with British Lion stamped eggs and pasteurised milk.


SAFE, if shop-bought or home-made with British Lion stamped eggs and pasteurised cream.


SAFE to eat during pregnancy if made the traditional way. Avoid non-traditional ones where the cake's been soaked in alcohol.

Mince pies

SAFE, as long as they don't contain alcohol and, if home-made, contain pastry made using British Lion stamped eggs.



SAFE. Pasteurised or unpasteurised hard cheeses, such as Cheddar, Gruyere, Edam and Parmesan, are safe to eat in pregnancy¹ and are good sources of calcium, which is needed for the development of your baby's bones and teeth.


AVOID. Pasteurised or unpasteurised, mould-ripened soft cheeses with a white coating on the outside, such as Brie, Camembert and goat's cheese (chèvre), can contain listeria unless they’re cooked thoroughly and steaming hot. The same applies to pasteurised or unpasteurised soft blue cheeses, such as gorgonzola, Danish blue and Roquefort.

What Christmas drinks can I have?

"The official advice from the NHS is to avoid all alcohol during pregnancy to keep any risk to your baby to a minimum and, although there's no evidence of harm from small amounts, there's no doubt that drinking in pregnancy can lead to long-term harm to your baby," says Dr Rana. "Thankfully, there are now so many great non-alcoholic versions of favourite Christmas tipples, including Champagne, prosecco, eggnog and mulled wine, plus zero-alcohol beers and alcohol-free spirits such as gin, that you shouldn't feel you're missing out on the festive fun."

If you like fruity flavours, try mixing your own mocktails using fresh fruit juice for extra flavour and vitamins. The Cinderella is a tangly blend of lemon, orange and pineapple juice plus grenadine and ginger ale. Or try a refreshing Virgin Mojito, blending sugar, mint and lime juice with soda water.

Then raise a glass (of your non-alcoholic beverage) to the Brownie points you're earning for your post-childbirth future by nominating yourself designated driver over the festive season!


SAFE, if it's been made with pasteurised milk. It is a blue-veined, mould-ripened cheese but it's considered safe¹ because it has a lower moisture content and is more acidic, meaning it’s far less likely to harbour listeria bacteria.

Soft cheeses

SAFE. These include ricotta, paneer, mozzarella, Boursin, halloumi, processed cheese spreads and goats’ cheese that doesn't have a white coating or rind.

Cold meats


AVOID. Cold-cured meats, such as salami, pepperoni, Parma ham, chorizo, prosciutto and salami, carry a small risk of toxoplasmosis¹ which can adversely affect your baby. However, it’s safe to eat cold-cured meat that has served hot – pepperoni on a pizza, for example.


SAFE, if it's pre-packed as it will have been thoroughly cooked before being vacuum-packed.

Seafood and fish


SAFE, as long as they are pink (which indicates they're properly cooked) unless they are served with homemade mayonnaise made with eggs that aren't British Lion stamped. If you're unsure, mayonnaise from a jar is a good, safe alternative.


SAFE, when cooked properly, as are lobster, crab, scallops and clams.

Smoked salmon

AVOID. Pregnant women have been advised by the Food Standards Agency to avoid all cold smoked or cured fish because of the risk of contracting listeria.6 But your favourite Christmas breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs isn't off the menu as you can eat smoked salmon if it’s cooked until steaming hot, not just warmed on the scrambled eggs.

Alternatively, serve your eggs alongside grilled or baked salmon, which is a great source of protein, iron and vitamins as well as a good source of long-chain fatty acids that are needed for your baby's brain development.

Party foods/buffet foods


SAFE, as long as they don't contain unpasteurised milk, yoghurt or cream. However, don't eat things that have been sitting around for hours, as even safe food can start to develop high levels of harmful bacteria if it's left at room temperature for a long time. Follow your instincts and, if you're worried, don't have it. That way, you can relax and enjoy yourself without worrying.


AVOID. All pâté, whether it's made from meat, fish or vegetables, may contain elevated levels of listeria bacteria, which can be harmful to your unborn baby.

Salads and vegetable crudités

SAFE but only if they're carefully washed before eating. Even bagged salad and veg labelled as 'pre-washed' needs to be rinsed to ensure it's free from listeria. Vegetable crudités are a good way to increase your fibre intake over Christmas, helping to avoid constipation; just make sure they are thoroughly cleaned first.


SAFE, as long as it's made with mayonnaise from a jar or made using British Lion stamped eggs.


SAFE but don't go mad! The sugar content, especially in milk and white chocolate, is high which raises not just your blood-sugar levels but your baby's too.

5 Christmas foods that are great in pregnancy

Here are Dr Rana's recommendations for the festive food to make a beeline for:
  • Brussels sprouts. Sprouts are a great Christmas superfood with lots of nutrients, including folic acid – particularly vital in the first 3 months of pregnancy, when there's rapid cell replication as your baby develops. Folic acid is one of the B vitamin family and is very important for helping your body to function at its best. If you can’t stand sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower are good alternatives as eating different-coloured veg offers a range of nutrients and phytonutrients. 
  • Red cabbage. From the same family as Brussels sprouts and kale, red cabbage is a good source of protective antioxidants that benefit your baby’s immune system and general development.
  • Satsumas. Snacking on satsumas is a great way to get a good boost of vitamin C. Among other benefits, vitamin C helps to strengthen the arteries and the walls of your veins, which are under a lot of pressure when you're pregnant.
  • Dried fruit. Figs, apricots and dates are good sources of fibre and iron, which is useful in pregnancy. Paired with nuts, they make a balanced snack that provides a slower release of sugar than chocolate does. 
  • Cranberries. Cranberries are a great source of antioxidants that help protect the body's cells. They can also help stop bacteria from adhering to the bladder walls, so are useful if you're prone to urinary tract infections (UTIs). When you're pregnant, your risk of contracting a UTI is slightly increased. To get a significant helping of the red berries, drink cranberry juice straight up or mixed in a mocktail.
  • Turkey. It's a great lean source of protein, the building block for growth, as well as vital amino acids, folate and vitamins B6 and B3, plus essential minerals including zinc, selenium and phosphorus that support immunity, bone health and energy production. 



SAFE, unless you are allergic to them or have been advised by your doctor or midwife to avoid them.¹ Friends or older relatives may remember previous guidelines suggesting pregnant women should steer clear of peanuts because of a risk of your baby developing a peanut allergy but more recent research on peanuts in pregnancy has led to this advice being scrapped.


SAFE. Walnuts are a great source of skin-softening omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids, which are essential for developing your baby's brain and nervous system.

Brazil nuts

SAFE. They are a good source of selenium, an essential nutrient which is hard to find in other foods.

About our expert, Dr Rana Conway

Dr Rana Conway is a research fellow in the Obesity group at the Research Department of Behavioural Science and Health at UCL. She is a Registered Nutritionist and has over 20 years’ experience in public health nutrition. She has previously worked at King’s College London, Imperial College and London South Bank University on a range of nutrition projects involving pregnancy and infant feeding, as well as researching iron absorption and dietary determinants of blood pressure. She has also written several books about nutrition for pregnancy and the early years.

Pics: Getty Images


1 Foods to avoid in pregnancy NHS Online
2 Salmonella: Mother to Baby factsheet. Brentford. Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS). Published online July 1 2020.
3. Cooking your food - How to cook your food to prevent food poisoning Food Standards Agency. Last updated August 2023
4 Drinking alcohol while pregnant NHS Online
5. Food safety and pregnancy. NHS University Hospitals Sussex
6 Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland issue updated advice to higher risk consumers on ready-to-eat cold-smoked and cured fish following publication of a risk assessment Food Standards Agency. July 2023


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Gabrielle NathanContributor

Gabrielle Nathan has been a journalist for 20 years, writing lifestyle features for publications including Red, Women’s Health, Wildflower and Condé Nast Traveller. She has been writing about parenting since 2012, the year she became a mum.