Lasagna is a popular dish, enjoyed by people all over the world. It traditionally consists of layers of flat pasta sheets, meat or vegetable ragu, bechamel sauce, and cheese, and baked in an oven. As it contains several ingredients, usually cooked separately and then assembled, you may wonder if all the ingredients are safe or healthy to eat while pregnant.
Risks involved with lasagna for pregnant women
There are some safety concerns with eating lasagna during pregnancy, but it is a relatively low-risk dish.
Lasagna food safety concerns for pregnant women
Some foods may harbor harmful bacteria, such as listeria or salmonella, which carry risks for expectant mothers and their unborn babies. By following some basic food safety principles for cooking and storage, you may avoid any risk of foodborne illnesses entirely.
Commonly used ingredients in lasagna and their associated risks during pregnancy:
Often made with raw eggs, which carry salmonella risk, but are easily destroyed during the cooking process.
Ground meat carries a higher risk of bacteria than whole meat, as the grinding process could introduce contaminants. However, once it is cooked, harmful bacteria are destroyed.
Vegetables carry a relatively low risk of harmful bacteria vs animal products
This sauce is cooked and preserved in a sterilization process which destroys all bacteria. If you make your own passata, just ensure that it is cooked to temperatures above 160 – 165F (70 – 75 degrees Celsius).
This sauce is often made with milk or cream, but all developed countries legally require that dairy is pasteurized, a heat treatment process through which harmful bacteria are destroyed.
Ricotta is a soft cheese, which is occasionally associated with harmful bacteria, but, as with other dairy products, just check that it is made from pasteurized milk. Cheese in cooked dishes does not retain bacteria.
Hard cheese such as cheddar or parmesan:
Aged, hard cheeses carry a very low risk of harmful bacteria, but are also made from pasteurized milk and therefore safe.
You would be happy to hear that the cooking process kills most, if not all, harmful bacteria. The FDA recommends that you ensure the internal temperature of the lasagne reaches 160 – 165F (70 – 75 degrees Celsius) to ensure that all harmful bacteria are destroyed. Lasagna is usually cooked at 375F (180 degrees celsius) in an oven, therefore cooking destroys all bacteria, and eating these ingredients in cooked dishes is safe.
Homemade vs ready-made vs restaurant
Cooking lasagna at home may require more effort and energy, but you have greater control over the quality of the ingredients in your meal. You can make sure that you only use safe, whole ingredients and avoid anything that may be harmful to you or your unborn baby.
Frozen lasagnas are convenient, and save a lot of time. Luckily, the food handling and storage regulations in developed countries are very stringent, and it is very unlikely that you will purchase contaminated food as long as you ensure that you only purchase food from reputable producers or vendors.
For a night out, you may choose lasagna for the main meal at a restaurant. Make sure you only eat at reputable restaurants, but if you are unsure, you are allowed to request to see the food safety certification.
Avoid buffets, often there is inadequate control over food temperatures and food may be kept at temperatures where bacteria can grow. You can read more about the Australian food standards temperature and time rules here.
Safe storage and reheating
Storing leftovers safely is as important as cooking safely. You can store lasagne in the fridge below 40 F (4 degrees celsius). When reheating, ensure that you again heat it to 160 – 165F (70 – 75 degrees Celsius) to ensure anything harmful is destroyed.
Other pregnancy-related concerns:
Lasagna is very calorie-dense, and high in fat, this may trigger nausea and vomiting (morning sickness), especially during the first trimester. Opt for low-fat varieties like vegetable or chicken lasagna to help curb this.
Benefits from eating lasagna for pregnant women
Lasagna and cooked cheeses are safe to eat during pregnancy, but it also provides a convenient and healthy meal for pregnant women who may not have the energy for cooking extensive meals.
Pregnancy weight gain
Weight gain is normal during pregnancy. If you choose to eat lasagne during pregnancy, the high-calorie content may aid in weight gain. If your doctor or other health professional has warned that you are overweight or obese and should limit weight gain, opt for low fat and lower calorie options, like vegetable lasagna.
Convenience of a complete meal
During pregnancy, you may not feel very energetic or up to cooking complicated meals. This is normal, your body is growing a human being! Ready-made lasagna may therefore be a very convenient option to eat. It is rich in carbohydrates, protein, and fats, all three necessary macronutrients, and also a selection of micronutrients like vitamin B and calcium.
When eating lasagna during pregnancy, ensuring that you get a complete meal with all the essential nutrients is as easy as adding some steamed vegetables, or even just getting a vegetable lasagna. This way, you get all the required nutrients to ensure health for both you and your unborn child!
In conclusion, lasagna is a low risk, moderate benefit food to eat during pregnancy
Lasagna carries a relatively low risk of foodborne illness, therefore, it is a dish you can safely eat during pregnancy. To eat lasagna also has moderate health benefits for expectant mothers, as a dish that is widely available ready-made, it is convenient and contains several essential nutrients. If you would like more information on what foods are suitable for pregnant women or want some delicious recipes, please take a look at our app, Pregnancy Diet: Food & Recipes.
- Can I eat lasagna pregnant?
Lasagna is safe to eat while pregnant, the cooking temperature of 375F (180 degrees celsius) is high enough to ensure that bacteria that can cause illness are destroyed.
- Can I eat lasagna with ricotta during pregnancy?
In most developed countries, all dairy products (like ricotta cheese) are legally required to be produced from pasteurized milk. Pasteurization is a heat treatment process through which harmful bacteria are destroyed. Therefore, lasagna with ricotta is safe to eat while pregnant.
- Is bechamel sauce safe in pregnancy?
Bechamel is often dairy-based, but as most developed countries have strict rules about the pasteurization of dairy products, it is not unsafe to eat during pregnancy as long as it is pasteurized.
- Can I eat frozen lasagna when pregnant?
Lasagna is usually cooked at 375F (180 degrees celsius) in an oven, and the minimum internal temperature for destroying harmful bacteria is 160 – 165F (70 – 75 degrees Celsius), therefore, there should be no food safety concerns. But you should still ensure you only purchase frozen foods from reputable vendors that follow safe food storage principles.