Can You Eat Roast Beef When Pregnant?

Eating roast beef when pregnant is a common craving for many expecting mothers. Roast beef can be a tasty and nutritious choice during pregnancy when handled safely. However, there are some important precautions to take regarding lunch meats like roast beef. Keep reading to learn all you need to know about eating roast beef and other deli meats during pregnancy.

Overview of Eating Roast Beef While Pregnant

Roast beef is a type of processed meat that falls under the lunch meat or deli meat category. It is a popular sandwich filling and appetizer, valued for its delicious flavor. Other common deli meats include turkey, ham, bologna, salami, and pepperoni.

In moderation, roast beef can provide nutrients like protein, iron, B vitamins, and zinc, all of which are important during pregnancy. However, it also carries risks if not prepared properly.

The main concern with eating deli meats when pregnant is the risk of listeriosis, an infection caused by the Listeria bacteria. Pregnant women are about 10 times more likely to get listeriosis than other healthy adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates it is the third leading cause of death from food poisoning.

Listeria can easily be spread through foods like roast beef. When consumed, it can lead to fever, muscle aches, nausea, and diarrhea in the mother. It can also cause severe complications like miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm birth, and life-threatening infections in newborns.

For this reason, most doctors and health organizations caution against eating cold deli meats during pregnancy unless they are heated until steaming beforehand.

Below are some key guidelines regarding roast beef and other deli meats while pregnant:

  • Avoid eating cold lunch meats unless they are reheated to steaming hot, about 165°F. This includes roast beef, turkey, ham and others.

  • Lunch meats can still harbor Listeria even when refrigerated, so heating is vital.

  • Eating canned or shelf-stable luncheon meats is considered safe.

  • Take precautions like thoroughly cleaning utensils, plates, and counter tops used for raw meats.

  • Cooked roast beef from a restaurant or freshly sliced at a deli counter is lower risk, but reheating is still recommended.

With proper handling and cooking, enjoying roast beef and other favorite deli meats in moderation can still be safe during pregnancy. Keep reading for more details.

Deli Meat Safety Concerns During Pregnancy

As mentioned above, the main risk with deli meats is Listeria monocytogenes, the bacteria that causes listeriosis infections. Listeria can be found in many refrigerated, ready-to-eat foods like hot dogs, lunch meats, smoked seafood and soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk.

Pregnant women are at very high risk of getting sick from Listeria for a few key reasons:

  • Weakened Immune System – When pregnant, your immune system is naturally weaker to prevent rejecting the growing baby. This makes it harder for your body to fight infections.

  • Increased Blood Flow – More blood flows to the uterus during pregnancy, so infections can be pumped directly to the placenta and fetus.

  • The Placenta – Listeria is one of the only bacteria that can directly infect the placenta and cross the blood-placental barrier.

Eating foods contaminated with Listeria during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm labor, birth defects or a life-threatening infection in the newborn baby.

Symptoms of listeriosis include fever, headaches, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhea. However, many people show no symptoms at all, which allows it to easily pass to the developing baby.

Even when deli meats like roast beef are refrigerated properly at 40°F or below, Listeria can still grow slowly over time. One study found that the Listeria present in processed meats can increase by 1 log after 2-3 weeks of storage.

This makes it unsafe to eat pre-packaged luncheon meats straight from the fridge without further cooking. Reheating them until steaming hot (165°F) is necessary to ensure any bacteria present are killed.

Safely Eating Roast Beef While Pregnant

To minimize the chance of getting sick, here are some tips for safely eating roast beef and other deli meats during pregnancy:

  • Cook before eating – Heat all deli meats to 165°F or until steaming hot before eating. Use a skillet, microwave, or oven to reheat sliced meats.

  • Limit shelf life – Refrigerate deli meats for no more than 5 days after opening before throwing away. Frozen meats can be stored longer.

  • Buy canned – Opt for canned meats like roast beef or ham which are shelf-stable and don’t require refrigeration before opening.

  • Use freshly sliced – Deli roast beef freshly sliced at a butcher counter or restaurant has less time for bacteria to grow versus pre-packaged. However, heating it is still recommended.

  • ** Practice food safety** – Clean utensils and surfaces after handling raw meats. Separate other foods from raw meat juices which can spread bacteria. Cook all meat thoroughly.

  • Avoid cross-contamination – Prevent juices from raw meats like poultry, beef or sausage from touching other ingredients. Wash hands after handling.

By taking these precautions, roast beef can be a healthy and safe choice during pregnancy. Having it heated and in a hot sandwich or panini is a great option.

If you are ever uncertain about the safety of any deli meat, it is always best to play it safe and choose an alternative protein source instead.

Health Benefits of Roast Beef During Pregnancy

When prepared properly, roast beef can provide some beneficial nutrients for pregnant women. Here are some of the top nutrients found in a 3-ounce serving of roast beef:

  • Protein – 25 grams protein. Important for baby’s growth and development.

  • Iron – 3.5 mg iron (19% DV). Helps prevent anemia and aids in oxygen delivery.

  • Zinc – 4.5 mg zinc (41% DV). Plays a role in immune function, growth, and development.

  • Vitamin B12 – 2.1 mcg vitamin B12 (88% DV). Needed for red blood cell formation and nervous system health.

  • Niacin – 4.5 mg niacin (28% DV). Converts food into energy and promotes healthy skin.

  • Vitamin B6 – 0.5 mg vitamin B6 (29% DV). Supports immune function and red blood cell production.

In addition to these important nutrients, roast beef provides energy, some calcium, magnesium, potassium and selenium.

Eating roast beef in moderation can help supplement a healthy, balanced pregnancy diet. However, other meat choices like chicken, pork and fish also supply many of the same nutrients.

Health Risks of Eating Roast Beef While Pregnant

Aside from foodborne Listeria, there are some other potential health risks to consider regarding roast beef intake during pregnancy:

  • Sodium – Processed deli meats like roast beef contain added sodium, with over 800 mg per 3-ounce serving. Consuming high sodium foods can increase swelling and blood pressure.

  • Nitrates/Nitrites – These preservatives found in cured and processed meats may potentially be linked to complications like preterm birth and poor fetal growth when consumed in high amounts.

  • Saturated Fat – Roast beef contains about 4-5 grams of saturated fat per serving. Eating high amounts can increase inflammation and cholesterol levels.

  • Weight Gain – Deli meats can be high in calories, sodium and saturated fat. Overconsumption may lead to excessive weight gain during pregnancy.

  • Heavy Metals – Meats can contain small amounts of heavy metals that may accumulate in the body. Too much exposure is linked to health problems.

To reduce the risks, eat roast beef and other deli meats in moderation as part of a diet focused on whole foods. Avoid charred, overcooked or burnt meats as well.

Healthy Swaps for Roast Beef While Pregnant

If avoiding deli meats altogether, here are some healthy and safe alternatives to roast beef you can enjoy instead:

  • Cooked chicken or turkey breast
  • Canned tuna or salmon
  • Beans, lentils, tofu or tempeh
  • Peanut or almond butter
  • Hummus
  • Eggs
  • Greek yogurt
  • Cheese sticks or slices
  • Tofurkey or other vegan deli slices

Choose whole grain bread, rolls, or crackers and pile high with pregnancy-safe proteins and fresh veggies for a satisfying sandwich or snack.

Pre-cooking meats or buying them canned/pouched is the safest route when pregnant. This includes options like:

  • Canned chicken
  • Canned salmon or tuna
  • Pouched tuna, salmon or chicken
  • Pre-cooked shrimp
  • Rotisserie chicken breast

The Bottom Line

Craving roast beef while pregnant is very common. The good news is that you can safely satisfy a roast beef sandwich craving during pregnancy by taking proper precautions.

Be sure to heat all deli meats like roast beef to steaming hot before eating. Keep refrigerated meats no longer than 5 days and avoid cross-contamination from unsafe foods.

Whenever possible, opt for freshly sliced roast beef and choose whole food proteins like eggs, chicken breast and canned fish for everyday meals. This limits any risks of foodborne illness.

Speak with your doctor about any cravings or diet concerns during pregnancy. With some simple safety measures, eating roast beef in moderation can be safe for most healthy pregnant women.

Can I eat deli meat while pregnant?


Is it safe to eat roast beef while pregnant?

These meats can harbor bacteria, which can continue to grow even when refrigerated. Meats to avoid include: Deli meats (such as turkey, chicken, roast beef, ham, prosciutto, and bologna) Dry sausages (such as salami and pepperoni)

What kind of deli meat is safe to eat when pregnant?

“If you’re pregnant, you really shouldn’t have deli meat,” Schaffner says. The only way to ensure that sliced deli meat is safe to eat, he adds, is by heating it to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, to guarantee that any lingering surface bacteria is killed off.

Can you eat a roast dinner when pregnant?

All meat and poultry, including steaks, roast meat, sausages and burgers, should be cooked until there is no trace of pink or any blood. All types of pâté need to be avoided during pregnancy. This is because liver pâtés and other liver products provide too much vitamin A, which can harm your baby’s development.

Can you eat medium beef when pregnant?

Can you eat rare or medium steak while pregnant? It’s best to avoid raw or undercooked meat while you’re pregnant because it may make you ill, and could harm your baby. You may become infected with the toxoplasma parasite if you eat meat that is raw or pink and bloody in the middle .

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