Can Pregnant Women Eat Cream Cheese or Cheese Spread?

The guidelines on which cheeses pregnant women can often be blurry. Cream cheeses like Philadelphia and cheese spreads are soft in texture, so does that mean that they are one of the ‘no-go’ soft cheeses? I decided to write up a definitive answer, including common brands.

Cream Cheese and Cream Spreads are usually safe for pregnant women to eat, despite their soft texture. This is because they are not strictly ‘soft cheese’, but processed cheese products that are commonly made with pasteurized milk.

However, sometimes it’s hard to tell which brands are pasteurized and therefore safe for pregnant women.

There’s also a difference between commercial cheese spreads and those made at home or in restaurants. I’ve tried to spell out the differences in this article, with examples.

Cream Cheese or Spread vs. Soft Cheese for Pregnant Women

Pregnant women are advised to avoid “soft cheese” (source: APA). This leads to confusion when it comes to cream cheese, or cheese spread because they’re a) a cheese, and b) soft, right? Well yes, but that’s not what the advice is really meant to convey.

“Soft cheese” doesn’t just mean that the cheese is soft. It usually means that the cheese is mold-ripened with unpasteurized milk. These are sometimes called ‘soft-ripened’ cheeses.

Common “soft cheeses” are brie, Camembert, Gorgonzola, and so on. These are the ones pregnant women should avoid. Not necessarily because they are soft, but because of the way they are made.

Soft cheeses have a higher water content and lower acidity, meaning that bacteria such as listeria grows more easily in them (source: Center for Food Safety).

The advice is meant to be helpful in that MOST cheeses made in this way are soft, so you know to avoid them without doing too much research, just by knowing their texture.

cream cheese

The problem is that cream cheese and cheese spreads are soft, so pregnant women presume they can’t have them. This isn’t true – cream cheese and cheese spread, if made with pasteurized milk, can be eaten safely in pregnancy.

If you eat a lot of cheese, you might want to check out our ultimate pregnancy guide to dozens of cheeses – including which to avoid.

Brand Guide to Pasteurized Cream Cheese and Cheese Spreads

Rather than picking through every aisle in the supermarket, it’d be nice if you could be told WHICH cheese spreads are known to be made with pasteurized milk, so you can enjoy them safely in pregnancy.

I’ve tried to do just that below, listing the most popular brands. It’s always a good idea to check the label, though, as recipes and manufacturers can change:

Brand Name Pasteurized or Not?
Philadelphia Cream Cheese (Also called “Philly”)
(All Products)
Yes, all Philadelphia Cheese products use pasteurized milk.

However, exercise caution
with the smoked salmon
spread as it may not be
suitable for pregnant women (see note below)
Dairylea Cheese (All products)Yes, everything in the Dairylea range uses pasteurized milk.
Kraft Cheese Spread (including
Old English Cheddar)
Yes, the Kraft range of cream cheese is
pasteurized and often uses
Philadelphia products (listed
above)
Laughing Cow (All Products)Yes, all Laughing Cow cream cheese products use pasteurized milk
President Authentic Spreadable
Pub Cheese
Also called “Port Wine” cheese,
President’s version is made
with pasteurized milk
Merkt’s Cheese Spreads Yes, all made with pasteurized milk
Kaukauna Spreadable CheeseYes, all made with pasteurized milk
Any type of commercially-made Neufchâtel All commercial neufchâtel (usually found next to the cream cheese in stores) will be made with pasteurized milk.

However, traditional Neufchâtel (from France) is not safe in pregnancy, but it’s extremely uncommon unless bought from a specialist cheesemonger.

Is Cream Cheese Frosting (Icing) Safe in Pregnancy?

cream cheese frosting

It’s natural to wonder if you can eat cream cheese frosting (or icing) when you’re pregnant because it contains the word cheese.

The good news is that cream cheese frosting is usually fine for pregnant women, so long as it’s made with cream cheese that has in turn been made from pasteurized milk.

If you’re baking at home, use the table above to choose which cream cheese brand to use in your recipe.

Commercial, ready-made cream cheese frosting is often also safe to eat in pregnancy, but not for the reasons you may think.

Many of them contain no cream and no cheese! Just oil, sugar, and other ingredients. I looked at a few brands:

  • Betty Crocker Rich & Creamy Frosting – no cream or cheese
  • Pillsbury Creme Cheese – no cream or cheese
  • Duncan Hines Creamy Home-Style – no cream or cheese

All the above would be considered safe to eat due to the absence of cream or cheese, but subsequently, the frosting has little or no nutritional value.

It’s fine if you have a craving or are offered a cupcake, but try to limit the amount of processed, sugary food in pregnancy.

Can Pregnant Women Eat Pimento Cheese?

Pimento cheese isn’t the same as many spreadable cheeses and may need extra investigation depending on where and how it’s made. Commercially-made pimento cheese (for example, the version made by Kraft) is made from pasteurized milk, so is therefore safe for pregnant women.

However, pimento cheese made at home or in restaurants may not be safe for pregnant women as it usually contains mayonnaise.

If the mayonnaise is made with unpasteurized raw egg, then it’s unsuitable for pregnant women to eat due to the risk of Salmonella. If you’re making it yourself, used mayo with pasteurized eggs and if you’re eating out, ask about the ingredients used in its preparation.

For more on mayonnaise, you might like to read this guide to eating mayonnaise in pregnancy, too.

Is Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese safe for Pregnant Women?

Cream cheese on its own has been covered pretty thoroughly here, but a question mark remains over some food items that cream cheese is often served with, most commonly smoked salmon (or lox) in sandwiches, bagels or as a flavored spread or schmear.

The cream cheese itself should be benchmarked against the information in this article, so you should find out if it’s pasteurized or not. Smoked salmon, however, is a whole different question.

Its safety in pregnancy depends on how the salmon has been cured, whether it’s hot or cold smoked, and how it’s prepared. I wrote a whole article on this here, going through all the possible factors to consider when eating cream cheese with smoked salmon.

Nutritional Considerations for Eating Cream Cheese whilst Pregnant

Although it’s a common craved item, cream cheese isn’t particularly nutritious for your or your baby. The majority of the fat in cream cheese is saturated, and it doesn’t have many vitamins and minerals.

Some spreadable flavors add sugar too (such as honey nut or brown butter), which isn’t a good combination.

Cream cheese does contain small amounts of calcium and provides some protein, though not enough to warrant eating it much during pregnancy.

Try to eat cream cheese sparingly, and choose one of the following flavors over others if you want to eat it during pregnancy:

  • Lower fat or ‘light’ versions (however, sometimes these have more sugar, so check the label)
  • Plain flavors rather than sweetened nuts/honey or chocolate/strawberry
  • Whipped cream cheese is usually better than a block, simply because they contain more air and go further when you’re spreading them
  • Try to spread any cream cheese more thinly than you usually would
  • Get creative with how you can eat the cream cheese. Instead of a bagel, you could spread chive flavor on celery, for example.

As with everything fatty or sweet, there’s no need to deny yourself, but try to limit cream cheese in your diet during pregnancy where possible.

Cream Cheese in Cheesecakes when Pregnant

If you’re specifically looking for information related to cheesecakes (often made with cream cheese), then I wrote this article on whether cheesecakes are safe to eat in pregnancy, too.

This article has been reviewed and approved for publication in line with our editorial policy.

Gina Waggott, Medically Reviewed by Janet Gordon RD, MBDA

Gina is the owner and founder of Pregnancy Food Checker. She holds a Certification on Nutrition and Lifestyle during Pregnancy from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and a Diploma in Human Nutrition. Articles are medically reviewed by Janet Gordon RD, MBDA, a Registered Dietitian specializing in maternal health, including diabetes and obesity in pregnancy.

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