Frozen treats are popular with pregnant women, and are something many women crave, especially on a hot day. You might have wondered if there are any alternatives to ice cream that are safe to eat in pregnancy. In this article, I’m tackling two of the most popular – frozen yogurt and frozen custard.
Can I eat Frozen Yogurt or Frozen Custard if I’m pregnant? Store-bought, commercially-made frozen yogurt & frozen custard are usually safe in pregnancy as they’re often made with pasteurized ingredients (including the egg). However, soft-serve versions may not be safe for pregnant women to consume.
I’m addressing both frozen yogurt and custard here as they share similar caveats to look for if you want to eat them whilst pregnant. I also cover popular brands and stores, to check whether the ingredients are pasteurized and whether they’re safe for pregnant women.
Pregnancy-Safe Store-Bought Frozen Yoghurt and Custard
In this instance, ‘store-bought’ means commercially manufactured products from a supermarket or grocery store, and not a store or shop that sells fresh or soft-serve products from a machine, which is addressed later in the article.
Commercially made frozen yogurt and custard – the kind you buy a pint of to take home – usually contains pasteurized ingredients (including the dairy in the yogurt and egg in the custard). Therefore, it is normally safe for pregnant women to consume. I checked with several big-brand names including the following:
- Bulla Frozen Yogurt or Custard – Bulla is a well-known Australian brand who pasteurizes all their dairy, as they have to by Australian law. Therefore any of their dairy products, including their frozen ranges of yogurts and custards, are safe for pregnant women to consume.
- Ben & Jerry’s – Ben & Jerry’s have frozen yogurt ranges in most countries, including the USA and UK. They only use pasteurized dairy and therefore their frozen yogurt – the type sold in stores to take home – is usually safe in pregnancy.
- Yasso Frozen Yogurt – Yasso’s frozen yogurt range is usually found in the freezer section of many supermarkets. They also use pasteurized dairy, so their products are safe for pregnant women to eat.
- Edy’s/Dreyer’s – This is the same brand known by two different names depending on where you are in the USA. Whichever name is on the label, their frozen yogurt products use pasteurized dairy and are therefore suitable for pregnant women.
- Kemp’s – As with other big commercial brands, their frozen yogurt range uses pasteurized milk and cream and is therefore OK to eat if you’re pregnant.
- Other brands – check the label or ask the manufacturer, but the likelihood is that the milk and cream in the frozen yogurt is usually pasteurized, particularly in the USA. The same goes for frozen yogurt, but you also need to check that the eggs are pasteurized as well.
Why Soft-Serve Frozen Yogurt or Frozen Custard May Not Always Be Safe in Pregnancy
When you go to a shop selling cones or tubs of ‘freshly prepared’ frozen yogurt or frozen custard designed to eat there and then, it’s usually dispensed from a machine. These soft-serve machines hold the pre-mixed ingredients at a low temperature, just above freezing.
It’s a common myth that the ingredients in frozen yogurt or custard (milk, cream or eggs, for example) should be the sole point of focus for pregnant women, as they have to check – as per usual – that they are pasteurized.
Many commercial pre-mixes, whether liquid or powder, usually contain pasteurized dairy ingredients and are often ultra heat-treated before being introduced to the machine. I checked with several well-known chains (Andy’s Frozen Custard, Culver’s Frozen Custard, Rita’s Frozen Custard, and Sweetfrog, Pinkberry and Yogurtland) who all confirmed that their ingredients were all pasteurized and safe for pregnant women to consume. The potential problem is therefore not usually the ingredients, it’s the machine itself.
Listeria, a bacteria that can be very harmful in pregnancy, thrives in places that are cool, dark and moist. A soft-serve machine is a perfect place for Listeria to grow, but only if the machine isn’t cleaned adequately. This is where the decision lies with pregnant women because the chances of eating contaminated frozen yogurt or custard are only increased if the retailer hasn’t cleaned and sterilized their machine(s) properly.
Many of the most popular frozen yogurt and custard stores – including the ones named above – are large chains and/or franchises, so they will have strict protocols on how the employees should sterilize and clean the machines, but this, of course, depends on the local outlet following through.
As with many aspects of food checking in pregnancy, it’s best to exercise common sense. If the place you’re about to buy a cone from looks unclean or there is evidence of poor sanitation practices then don’t eat frozen yogurt or custard from there. Many food hygiene ratings or restaurant health inspections are available online from your local or state health department.
In the USA, you can check with the state health department or, more recently, the online directory Yelp is putting restaurant inspection ratings on some restaurant listings. However, this isn’t in every state. In the UK, Food Hygiene Ratings are available from the Food Standards Agency. Check these and see if the place you’re eating at has had any previous violations linked to cleanliness.
If you want to eliminate any risk of Listeria entirely, then it’s best to avoid soft-serve frozen yogurt or custard, and perhaps buy it from a store instead, from a freezer, in a tub manufactured commercially. It’s worth pointing out that outbreaks of Listeriosis as a result of ‘dirty’ machines are very rare, but they do happen.
Another tip is that you shouldn’t top it with pre-cut fruit – pre-prepared fruit carries a greater risk of listeria as it may not have been thoroughly washed beforehand.
Is Frozen Yogurt or Custard Better for Pregnant Women than Ice Cream?
Most people know that ice cream isn’t exactly good for you, and therefore it should be eaten sparingly in pregnancy. Frozen Custard has almost identical ingredients to ice cream – technically speaking it’s really just ice cream with extra egg yolk, so frozen custard isn’t that much better for you other than being slightly higher in protein. However, many people also think that frozen yogurt is a much better or ‘healthier’ option than ice cream.
To some extent, frozen yogurt is no more or less healthy than ice cream. It’s usually lower in fat, but all this means is that it’s on a par with low-fat versions of ice cream, as it usually contains just as much sugar. Another factor is that very often frozen yogurt comes with the same selection of toppings that people enjoy on ice cream. If you’re adding sprinkles, sauces and so on then it’s not going to make that frozen yogurt any healthier!
Yogurt in its unfrozen form can contain Probiotic cultures that are ‘good’ for your gut and digestive system. However, there’s no evidence that the same benefits can be had from frozen yogurt as the freezing temperature usually kills any beneficial ‘live’ cultures.
Overall, as with ice cream, frozen custard and frozen yogurt should be enjoyed in moderation in pregnancy. It’s a welcome cool treat on a hot day, but that’s all it should be – a treat – as the benefits of a little extra calcium and protein from the dairy are far outweighed by the high fat and sugar content in both frozen yogurt and frozen custard.