Yes, you can eat deli meat during pregnancy, but it’s important to take precautions to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Deli meat, also known as cold cuts or lunch meat, can be a source of listeria, a type of bacteria that can cause severe illness or even miscarriage. However, with proper handling and preparation, you can enjoy deli meat safely during pregnancy.
In this article, we’ll discuss the risks associated with deli meat consumption during pregnancy and the precautions you can take to reduce those risks.
What Are the Risks of Eating Deli Meat During Pregnancy?
As mentioned, deli meat can be a source of listeria, which is a type of bacteria that can cause a serious illness called listeriosis. Listeriosis can cause flu-like symptoms, such as fever and muscle aches, as well as gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea and diarrhea. In severe cases, it can cause meningitis or blood infections, which can be life-threatening for both the mother and the baby.
Pregnant women are at an increased risk of listeriosis because their immune system is suppressed, making them more susceptible to infections. Additionally, listeria can cross the placenta and infect the developing fetus, which can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, or severe illness in the newborn.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 1,600 people in the United States get listeriosis each year, and pregnant women are about 10 times more likely than the general population to get infected.
What Precautions Can You Take to Reduce the Risk of Listeriosis?
Here are some precautions you can take to reduce the risk of listeriosis when eating deli meat during pregnancy:
- Cook the meat: Cooking deli meat to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) can kill any listeria that may be present. You can do this by heating the meat in the microwave or on the stovetop until it’s steaming hot.
- Avoid certain types of deli meat: Some types of deli meat are more likely to be contaminated with listeria than others. You should avoid eating hot dogs, pâté, and meat spreads during pregnancy, as they are more likely to be contaminated with listeria.
- Buy high-quality deli meat: Buy deli meat from a reputable source, such as a grocery store or deli that follows proper food safety practices. Look for meat that is fresh, well-sealed, and kept at the proper temperature.
- Store the meat properly: Store deli meat in the refrigerator at 40°F (4°C) or below and consume it within 3-5 days of opening the package. If you don’t plan on eating the meat right away, you can freeze it for up to 2 months.
- Wash your hands: Wash your hands before and after handling deli meat to reduce the risk of contamination. Use soap and warm water and scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
- Clean cutting boards and utensils: Use separate cutting boards and utensils for deli meat to avoid cross-contamination with other foods. Wash them with hot, soapy water after each use.
- Be cautious when eating out: When eating at a restaurant, choose menu items that are well-cooked and avoid cold deli meat sandwiches or salads. If you do order a deli meat sandwich, ask the server if the meat has been cooked or heated before being served.
Are There Any Benefits to Eating Deli Meat During Pregnancy?
While there are some risks associated with deli meat consumption during pregnancy, there are also some potential benefits. Deli meat is a good source of protein, which is important for fetal growth and development. It also contains other important nutrients, such as iron and zinc, which are essential for the development of the baby’s brain, nervous system, and immune system.
Protein is essential for the development of the baby’s muscles, bones, and organs. It also plays a role in the production of hormones, enzymes, and other important chemicals in the body. Pregnant women need more protein than non-pregnant women, and deli meat can be a convenient and tasty way to get the protein they need.
Iron is important for the development of the baby’s red blood cells and the prevention of anemia in the mother. Zinc is important for the development of the baby’s brain, nervous system, and immune system. Both of these nutrients are found in deli meat, making it a good food choice during pregnancy.
Additionally, some types of deli meat, such as turkey and chicken, are lower in fat and calories than other types of meat, such as beef and pork. This can be beneficial for pregnant women who are concerned about maintaining a healthy weight during pregnancy.
It’s important to note that while deli meat can be a good source of protein, iron, and zinc during pregnancy, there are other sources of these nutrients that may be safer and more beneficial. For example, lean meats, fish, beans, nuts, and seeds are all good sources of protein, and leafy greens, beans, and fortified cereals are good sources of iron. Pregnant women should strive for a balanced and varied diet that includes a variety of nutrient-rich foods.
In conclusion, deli meat can be safely consumed during pregnancy if certain precautions are taken to reduce the risk of listeria. It can be a good source of protein, iron, and zinc, but there are other sources of these nutrients that may be safer and more beneficial. Pregnant women should consult with their healthcare provider to determine the best dietary plan for their individual needs.