Eggnog is one of those seasonal foods that tends to elicit a strong response — either you love it or you hate it. For those who love its creamy texture and hint of spice, there’s nothing like a nice big cup of it to get you in the holiday spirit.
When you’re pregnant, though, you’ll need to be a bit more careful about what kind of eggnog you pour into your signature snowman mug. Here’s a look at how to safely enjoy your favorite holiday beverage.
Prior to pregnancy, you may not have given a second thought to drinking eggnog. After all, it certainly looks just like a spicier version of milk. However, now that you’re growing a baby, you may be concerned about the potential risks of dipping into the bowl at a party or family get-together.
It’s smart to be aware of the possible pitfalls of drinking eggnog during pregnancy. First, this drink is often laced with alcohol — and if you’re not the one who made it, you may not know how much alcohol was added. (Also, no amount of alcohol is considered safe while pregnant.)
Meanwhile, even if going with a virgin option, many eggnog recipes call for raw or unpasteurized eggs. (Good for taste and texture, maybe — but bad for growing babies.)
Consuming alcohol is a definite no-no during pregnancy. According to the
Excess alcohol in your system can pass through the umbilical cord to your unborn baby, resulting in a spectrum of disabilities known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).
Symptoms of FASD can include low birth weight, abnormal facial features, speech and language delays, and a host of other issues you definitely wouldn’t wish upon your little one.
There’s good reason to be especially careful about Salmonella during pregnancy.
“Pregnant people are at a higher risk than usual of developing a foodborne illness because pregnancy affects their immune system’s ability to fight infection,” says Alyssa Pike, RD, manager of nutrition communications at the International Food Information Council (IFIC).
And according to the March of Dimes, salmonella infection during pregnancy can put you at greater risk of preterm delivery, miscarriage, or stillbirth.
If you’re hankering for a cup of thick and creamy eggnog during pregnancy, two rules apply. One, make sure any eggnog you consume is alcohol-free. (When in doubt, don’t drink it.)
Second, be sure to verify that purchased eggnog hasn’t been made with raw or unpasteurized eggs. This should be clearly marked on commercially prepared eggnog.
When making your own eggnog, do your homework on the eggs you’re using, too.
“Pasteurized eggs can be purchased at some grocery stores, but not at all,” says Tamika Sims, PhD, senior director of food technology communications at IFIC. “Egg cartons will be clearly marked as such, if they are. If you don’t see the ‘pasteurized’ label, don’t assume you’re in the clear.”
Don’t be shy about asking what went into the eggnog at a social gathering, either. No one can fault you for establishing the safety of the foods and beverages you consume while pregnant.
To guarantee the safety of homemade eggnog, use cooked, pasteurized eggs. Many recipes (like this one) take you through the important step of cooking egg yolks in a saucepan before adding other tasty ingredients like cream, sugar, and nutmeg.
To be on the safe side, use a food thermometer to be sure your egg mixture reaches 160°F (71°C) — the proper internal temperature for cooking eggs.
While others swig spiked eggnog, it’s good to know that you can celebrate with a number of alternative festive drinks.
For something steamy and satisfying, hot chocolate always does the trick. (Whipped cream and peppermint stick optional.)
Hot tea, whether black or green, can warm you from the inside out with health benefits galore. Alternatively, reach for a cozy cup of non-alcoholic apple cider garnished with cranberries or sliced oranges for a fruity twist.
For cooler sipping, try your hand at mixing up a mocktail. Get creative with ingredients like ginger ale, flavored seltzers, and juices from winter fruits like pomegranate, cranberry, or grapefruit. Garnish with twisted citrus rinds, maraschino cherries, or a dusting of nutmeg.
The fun of crafting something pretty and tasty may take away some of the sting of sticking with a virgin drink.
When you’re pregnant, it’s not just eggnog that’ll need to stay off your holiday table. In fact, all other alcoholic drinks will have to wait until you’re done breastfeeding. Say no to mixed drinks, hard liquor, beer, and wine (yes, even mulled wine).
Be careful before for overdoing it on eggnog lattes, too.
While these are generally heated to a safe temperature and alcohol-free, “pregnant women should be cautious of their daily caffeine intake,” says Pike. “The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) states that no more than 200 milligrams a day of caffeine is safe for pregnant women.”
Additionally, watch out for unpasteurized soft cheeses and deli meats that may appear in a holiday spread. When pregnant, you’re at an increased risk of contracting an infection called listeriosis from the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria these foods can carry.
If eggnog has historically been your holiday beverage of choice, you can feel free to keep up the annual tradition, as long as you know it doesn’t contain alcohol or raw, unpasteurized eggs.
There’s always next year to return to a spiked cup of holiday spirit. For now, a hearty (non-alcoholic) cheers to you and your growing baby!