Last Updated on August 18, 2020
Lobster is one of those foods that pregnant women ask me about a lot. It’s confusing because it’s not clear-cut depending on the way the lobster is served, from bisque to rolls or cooked in sauces that you’ll also have to check.
I decided to put together clear information on whether pregnant women can eat lobster, including many popular dishes it appears in.
Can pregnant women eat lobster? If lobster is fully cooked and you’re reasonably confident about its source, then you can eat lobster if you’re pregnant. However, this depends on how the lobster is served. Some common dishes, recipes, and methods of serving lobster may not be as safe to eat in pregnancy.
Here, I’ll define dishes to be cautious with and how to tell if a lobster is cooked thoroughly, whether in or out of its shell. It’s also important that you find out where the lobster is from and which ingredients may be ‘mixed in’ with your lobster dish as some of them may not be safe for pregnant women to eat.
When Lobster is Safe to Eat in Pregnancy
Below are examples of lobster dishes that usually mean the lobster is fully cooked and therefore safe to eat if you’re pregnant.
Boiled lobster is one of the most traditional ways of serving it, freshly boiled lobster is perfectly safe to eat in pregnancy. It’s also safe to eat cold, again, if fully cooked.
Grilled (or barbecued) lobster is common as a BBQ staple, this is also safe for pregnant women to eat if the lobster is fully cooked through.
Lobster rolls, subs or sandwiches are popular in many coastal towns. Since this is usually boiled lobster in a bun, it’s safe to eat lobster rolls when pregnant.
However, check if the mayonnaise is made with pasteurized eggs. Commercial mayonnaise usually is, whereas homemade usually isn’t. You might be interested in this guide to mayonnaise in pregnancy that I also put together for pregnant women.
Lobster salad (hot or cold) is OK for pregnant women to eat if the same caution is exercised with the mayonnaise.
Double-check the pasteurization of any dressings that use eggs or egg yolk, too.
Lobster Mac and Cheese
It’s usually safe for pregnant women to eat lobster mac and cheese if the cheese used is a hard cheese. Traditionally, recipes call for hard cheese such as Gruyere, cheddar or similar, which are all safe, but check the ingredients first.
If you’re making it at home, hard cheeses are usually fine. If in doubt, you can check my ultimate list of cheeses you can eat in pregnancy.
Which Lobster Dishes Are Unsafe For Pregnant Women?
Some lobster is unsafe for pregnant women to eat, not necessarily because of the lobster itself, but the way the lobster is cooked and served, and what it’s cooked or dressed with. Some examples of potentially unsafe lobster dishes are below.
In all cases, raw or undercooked lobster must never be eaten when pregnant, as it can contain Vibrio parahaemolyticus, a bacteria that can cause severe food poisoning (source: Journal of Food Safety).
Be cautious if you’ve ordered lobster bisque in pregnancy, as it is often thickened with raw egg yolk and usually contains heavy cream, both of which can be unsafe if not pasteurized.
Check the ingredients beforehand. If making it yourself, use an alternative thickener (if you need to) and make sure the cream is pasteurized.
Lobster Thermidor shares similarities with Bisque in that it often contains egg yolk and/or cream, which should both be pasteurized.
The cheese topping is traditionally Gruyere, which is safe to eat if you’re pregnant, but double-check if you’ve not made it yourself.
Lobster ravioli or other types of creamy lobster pasta are both likely to have other ingredients mixed in to form the filling, such as cream cheese or egg.
Double-check which ingredients have been used in the ravioli. Avoid any made with soft cheeses, and ensure any egg used as a binding agent is pasteurized.
How To Tell if a Lobster is Cooked Properly
- If the lobster is served whole or still with its tail or claws, these should be completely red all the way around.
- The meat/flesh, whether still in or out of the shell, should be a solid creamy white color throughout with no translucent areas.
- Some chefs say that if you can easily pull out an antennae from a whole lobster, it’s cooked. This isn’t a fail-safe method, though.
- To be 100% sure (and if you’re cooking the lobster yourself), the internal temperature should be 140F. You’ll need a reliable food thermometer to check this (my recommended ones are here).
Check where the Lobster was Sourced
Unless you caught the lobster yourself or bought the lobster directly from your trusted local fisherman or fishmonger, it’s wise to check where the lobster has come from. This is because some Fishing Advisories may affect the water quality of where the lobster has been living.
- North American (“Maine”) lobsters – the ones with the claws – are heavily regulated in the USA and are usually safe to purchase from fishmongers, stores, frozen, fresh or otherwise.
- Spiny (also known as “Rock”) Lobsters – the ones without claws – are regulated if they come from the Caribbean or California. Exercise more caution if they have been imported from elsewhere, as the fisheries standards tend to be poorly managed.
- If you’ve only ordered a lobster tail, ask which type of lobster it is as the tails look very similar.
- Try to buy live lobsters if cooking them yourself. Freshness is key. If a lobster is already dead, the meat will spoil quickly and could cause food poisoning.
- Exercise common sense. Old-looking lobster meat from a roadside stand out in the sun isn’t a wise choice, whether you’re pregnant or not!
Can Pregnant Women Eat At Red Lobster Restaurants?
Just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy eating out as you would normally do. I’ve taken a look at several restaurant menus and tried to make recommendations on what pregnant women can enjoy eating.
At Red Lobster, there are many good options for pregnant women. I reached out to their Guest Relations team and clarified some information on their ingredients. A general guide to their menu is as follows
Dishes Pregnant Women Can Eat at Red Lobster:
- You can eat almost all of their seafood options if they’re fully cooked. Shrimp, cod, flounder, salmon, catfish, tilapia, Walleye and sole are all fine, as are the steamed/boiled crab or clam dishes.
- Try to order dishes that are steamed or grilled, rather than fried or deep fried, to cut down on eating too much saturated and trans-fat.
- If you’re ordering lobster, choose the Caribbean (“Rock Lobster”) tail rather than a Maine one as they have slightly less mercury, on average. Go easy on the butter, since it adds additional fat and calories.
- Pregnant women should try to eat more nutrient-dense food, so fill up with steamed or boiled veggies if you can, and choose a baked potato instead of fried options.
- Yes, I know the Cheddar Bay biscuits are delicious and yes, you can eat them when you’re pregnant! Again, use common sense – everything in moderation when it comes to fatty or fried foods.
- Red lobster confirmed that their desserts are made with pasteurized ingredients and should be fine for pregnant women to eat, however, always check current information in the restaurant as suppliers and ingredients can change.
Dishes Pregnant Women Should Avoid at Red Lobster:
- Salads (including Caesar) – pre-prepared salads can pose an increased risk of listeria, so are best avoided. Red Lobster confirmed to me that their Caesar dressing contains raw egg, which is unsafe if unpasteurized. There’s a separate guide to Caesar salad during pregnancy here.
- Bisques and chowders – they’re often made with cream, milk and/or eggs and these can also be unsafe if not pasteurized.
- Steaks – these must be well-done with no trace of pink in the middle, to eliminate the risk of Toxoplasmosis, which is dangerous in pregnancy. If you want a complete pregnancy guide to steak, there’s one here.
As many people don’t enjoy steaks well-done, you might be better off ordering fish instead. Red Lobster is a seafood restaurant, after all…
Is Lobster High In Mercury?
The average lobster has low to moderate levels of mercury. The FDA considers 0.1ppm (parts per million) of mercury to be a low level. Spiny lobsters average around 0.09ppm and the North American lobster averages 0.1ppm (Source: FDA).
Bear in mind that if you’re only eating claws or pieces instead of a whole lobster, for example, then the mercury level will be reduced.
Is Lobster Safe in the First, Second or Third Trimester?
You can eat lobster at any stage of pregnancy when following the guidelines above.
Lobster contains zinc, phosphorus, copper, vitamin B12, magnesium, selenium, iron, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids in small amounts, all of which are beneficial in pregnancy (source: NutritionData).
How Much Lobster Can I Eat When Pregnant?
Despite having many nutrients and being a good source of protein, lobster contains high levels of dietary cholesterol.
However, dietary cholesterol is not the type of cholesterol to cause heart disease (source: Nutrients Journal) and lobster can, therefore, be eaten daily in moderation during pregnancy, unless your doctor has asked you to limit your consumption.
If you have to choose between a Spiny or North American lobster, choose the Spiny lobster as it has slightly less cholesterol and more omega-3 fatty acids, on average.
Overall, lobster can be eaten safely during pregnancy, after a couple of easy checks on where it’s from, and how it’s cooked.
|This article has been reviewed and approved for publication in line with our editorial policy.|