Can You Have Beef Jerky When Pregnant? Tips for Enjoying Safely

Beef jerky is a popular high-protein snack that many women wonder if they can still enjoy during pregnancy. This savory dried meat can be a tasty way to get nutrients, but is it safe? There are some risks to consider, but also ways to eat beef jerky safely while pregnant.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about having beef jerky when pregnant.

Overview of Beef Jerky

First, let’s review what exactly beef jerky is. This snack is made by taking lean cuts of beef, like flank steak or sirloin, and slicing them into long, thin strips. The meat strips are then seasoned and left to dry, which removes moisture and preserves them.

The drying and curing process allows beef jerky to have a long shelf life without refrigeration. It also concentrates the protein and nutrients in the meat. Beef jerky can be seasoned in many flavors, such as teriyaki, smoked, sweet and spicy, or original.

Beef jerky has become a popular snack due to its convenience, taste, and nutritional benefits. It’s high in protein, vitamins, and minerals. Jerky is also low carb and can be easily taken on-the-go.

Risks of Eating Beef Jerky While Pregnant

While beef jerky offers useful nutrients and energy, there are some potential risks associated with eating it during pregnancy. Here are the main concerns:

  • Foodborne Illness – Improperly dried, handled, or stored beef jerky can potentially contain harmful bacteria like salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, and E. coli. Pregnant women are especially susceptible to foodborne illnesses.

  • High Sodium – Most beef jerky contains very high levels of sodium, upwards of 600-800 mg per ounce. Too much sodium can contribute to high blood pressure and swelling during pregnancy.

  • Nitrates/Nitrites – Many beef jerky products contain preservatives like sodium nitrite to retain color and extend shelf life. There are mixed opinions on whether nitrates/nitrites are safe during pregnancy.

  • Harsh Seasonings – Heavily spiced jerkies with ingredients like black pepper may cause heartburn issues, which are common during pregnancy.

So while not completely off limits, beef jerky does require some caution and consideration for pregnant women. Next we’ll go over how to make smart choices.

Tips for Safely Eating Beef Jerky While Pregnant

If you want to enjoy beef jerky without worries during pregnancy, here are some tips to eat it safely:

  • Choose Carefully – Select reputable brands that use quality inspection and handling procedures to reduce bacteria risk. Check labels and avoid jerkies with excessive sodium (over 350mg per serving).

  • Read the Label – Look for low or no nitrate/nitrite jerkies to limit preservatives. Also check the ingredients list and avoid very spicy seasonings.

  • Eat in Moderation – Limit intake to about 1-2 ounces of beef jerky per day as part of a balanced diet. Be mindful of sodium consumption from other foods too.

  • Proper Storage – Once opened, store beef jerky in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Follow expiration dates and discard expired jerkies.

  • Cook Thoroughly – If making homemade beef jerky, ensure the meat is cooked to 160°F internally before drying to kill any bacteria present.

  • Ask Your Doctor – Discuss any concerns about eating beef jerky with your obstetrician or healthcare provider during pregnancy.

Following these precautions will allow you to safely snack on beef jerky without excess worry while pregnant. Moderation and making wise choices is key.

Healthy Beef Jerky Options for Pregnancy

To make it easier to identify smart beef jerky picks during pregnancy, here are some of the healthiest options to look for:

  • Low Sodium Jerky – Varieties with no more than 480mg sodium per serving are ideal. Look for brands like Lorissa’s Kitchen low sodium jerky.

  • Natural and Organic – Choosing organic jerky helps avoid GMOs, hormones, antibiotics, and potentially harmful preservatives like nitrites.

  • Alternative Flavors – Skip black pepper flavors which may aggravate heartburn. Instead go for tangy citrus or sweet flavors.

  • Grass-Fed – Grass-fed beef is higher in certain nutrients like omega-3s and CLAs. Brands like Primal Strips offer grass-fed jerky.

  • Lean Meats – Select jerky made from lean beef cuts like flank steak or sirloin to limit fat intake. Turkey or bison jerky are also great options.

  • Low or No Nitrites – Search for brands that use natural preservatives like celery powder instead of sodium nitrite. This eliminates nitrite concerns.

Looking at sodium content, ingredients, meats used, and flavor can help identify the healthiest and safest beef jerky to eat during pregnancy.

Other Protein-Rich Snacks to Enjoy

In addition to beef jerky, here are some other protein-packed snacks that are safe and recommended during pregnancy:

  • Greek yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Protein bars
  • Edamame
  • Nut butter
  • Hummus and veggies
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Turkey slices
  • Beans
  • Nuts and seeds

Aim for about 25-35 grams of protein from clean sources spread throughout the day while pregnant. Vary your options to get a wide range of nutrients.

FAQs About Beef Jerky and Pregnancy

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about eating beef jerky during pregnancy:

Is beef jerky cooked?

Yes, beef jerky is fully cooked during the dehydration process, usually around 140-170°F internally to dry and preserve the meat. However, some bacteria can survive this if present beforehand.

Can expired beef jerky hurt me when pregnant?

Yes, eating expired beef jerky while pregnant poses a safety risk as bacteria like salmonella can start growing after the use-by date passes. Always check dates and discard old jerky.

What about homemade beef jerky?

Homemade jerky may be risky since ensuring adequate dehydration and cooking temperature control at home can be difficult. Commercially prepared jerky is safer.

Is teriyaki beef jerky OK during pregnancy?

Yes, teriyaki can be a healthy flavor choice, just watch the sodium content as teriyaki often contains a lot of salt. Limit intake and choose low sodium varieties.

Can gas station beef jerky be eaten when pregnant?

Gas station jerky is not recommended. The source and storage conditions are uncertain. Itʼs safer to buy jerky from reputable brands in sealed packaging.

The Takeaway on Beef Jerky During Pregnancy

Can you have beef jerky when pregnant? In most cases, yes – eating beef jerky during pregnancy is OK in moderation and with the proper precautions. Choosing reputable brands, limiting intake, and following storage guidelines allows you to safely enjoy jerky. Just be mindful of sodium, nitrites, and bacteria risk from improper handling or storage. Look for healthy low sodium options and always check with your doctor. With some care taken, beef jerky can still be part of a healthy pregnancy diet.

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Is it safe to eat beef jerky while pregnant?

There are plenty of nutritious and delicious foods that you can eat during pregnancy. Beef jerky is just one option that you have. If you find that you are craving beef jerky, go ahead and enjoy it in moderation. Just be sure to choose a product that is high quality and free of harmful bacteria, like Prevail Jerky.

Is dried beef good for pregnancy?

Since jerky is dried and not cooked, you should refrain from eating it while your immune system is in a more compromised state during pregnancy. Doing so will help you avoid the risk of developing a bacterial infection that could be harmful to you or your baby. Instead, choose other salty, savory snacks.

Is it safe to eat beef jerky?

Beef jerky is best consumed in moderation. Jerky is high in sodium and is a processed food. Those diagnosed with conditions such as hypertension or heart disease or who require a low-sodium diet should avoid excess consumption of beef jerky as a snack.

Is game meat safe during pregnancy?

You should not eat game meat, such as hare, partridge or pheasant due to the presence of lead. You should also not eat raw or rare meat as this can cause food poisoning. Always make sure any meat you eat is well cooked and steaming hot all the way through.

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