Eating meat when pregnant: Is it a healthy choice?

Meat and poultry can contain parasites and bacteria like listeria, toxoplasma, and salmonella.

Once pregnant, the top priority is a healthy eating plan that delivers the right amount of required nutrients. Meat is a great source of protein and most of us know this. But is it safe to eat meat during pregnancy?

Precautions when pregnant

You need to store, prepare and cook your proteins properly to ensure the meat is safe to be consumed.

This means no raw or undercooked meat from pork, beef, poultry or fish is allowed.

Meat and poultry can contain parasites and bacteria like listeria, toxoplasma, and salmonella. These are the culprits of food poisoning, which is extremely dangerous especially to a pregnant woman.

The dangers of food poisoning

Listeria causes listeriosis and pregnant women in particular can get seriously ill if they eat food contaminated with listeria.

Listeriosis can also be passed to the unborn child, resulting in pregnancy loss, stillbirth, pre-term birth, low birth weight, meningitis and other fatal infections.

Toxoplasma, meanwhile, is a microscopic parasite that gives one toxoplasmosis. If a pregnant woman has this condition, she will be severely ill and may put her foetus at risk of stillbirth, birth effects, and long-term neurological damage.

Salmonella bacteria similarly is dangerous for moms-to-be. It leads to high fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, and dehydration. Other risks include premature labour and miscarriage.

A food thermometer is useful to check the doneness of meat before consumption. (rawpixel.com pic)

How to cook meat properly

Get a food thermometer. For beef, pork, veal, and lamb, cook the meat to 63 degrees Celsius. For poultry and all ground meats, cook till the meat reaches 74 degrees Celsius.

You can be sure that the meat is well-cooked if it does not look pink in the middle.

Is luncheon meat, cured or smoked meat safe for pregnant women?

Precooked and deli meats, hot dogs, bacon, dry sausages, refrigerated pâtés and meat spreads or smoked meat can contain bacteria.

These bacteria can keep growing even in the fridge but as a precaution, you can set the thermometer in your fridge lower to slow down the process. However, it’s good to skip these types of deli meats altogether during pregnancy.

If you still want to enjoy these, make sure you’ve steamed the meat to 74 degrees Celsius. Canned foods are safe, though.

How about grilled or blackened meat?

These meats are considered safe for pregnant women. However, these have been proven to raise the risks for certain types of cancer.

This is because when grilled or pan-fried over an open flame, animal proteins produce heterocyclic amines, a group of cancer-causing chemicals.

In addition, when meat juices drip into the fire, it produces polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are also cancer-causing.

How to produce grilled meat that is safer to consume

• Remove all traces of fat that can be seen before the process of grilling.

• Cook the meat in the microwave for some minutes to shorten the grilling time needed.

• Do not let the meat be exposed to an open flame.

• Maintain a moderate temperature when grilling.

• Turn the meat frequently while on the grill.

• Do not consume charred meat.

The Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.