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How Should Pregnant Women Eat Red Meat?

author image Sheri Kay
Sheri Kay has a master's degree in human nutrition. She's the co-author of two books and has been a nutrition and fitness writer since 2004.
How Should Pregnant Women Eat Red Meat?
A pregnant woman talks to her doctor

Red meats contain protein, zinc and iron, which are nutrients needed by pregnant women, but eating improperly prepared red meats may increase the risk of bacterial food-borne infections. Red meats include beef, pork and lamb products. If you're pregnant, speak to your doctor about eating red meat during your pregnancy.

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Red Meats

Red meats
Red meats

Red meats get their color from myoglobin, which is a protein that supplies muscle tissue with oxygen. It's similar to the hemoglobin in red blood cells, but myoglobin doesn't circulate in your blood, it stays in the muscle tissue. The meat from older animals contains more myoglobin so it's generally darker red than meat from young animals. Animals who are more physically active also produce darker red meats.

Steaks, Chops and Roasts

Grilled steak
Grilled steak

Steaks, chops and roasts can be broiled, grilled, pan-fried or roasted. The U.S. Food and Drug Administrations suggests cooking beef steaks and roasts, and lamb chops and roasts to at least an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit to reduce the risk of food-borne illness in pregnant women. All types of pork products need to be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a meat thermometer to measure the temperatures when you cook red meats.

Ground Beef and Processed Meats

Ground beef has more surface area that can be exposed to bacteria so it is at a greater risk of being contaminated than other cuts of meat, so the FDA suggests cooking ground beef to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a meat thermometer instead of relying on the color of cooked ground beef. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the color can be misleading because under certain conditions, cooked ground beef can still be pink in the middle, even when it is well-done.

Storing Red Meats

Meat thermometer and roast
Meat thermometer and roast

Raw red meats should be stored in the refrigerator at a temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and used within a few days of purchase. Be careful not to cross-contaminate raw red meat with fresh produce and ready-to-serve foods. Red meats can also be frozen for several months. Cooked red meat should be served promptly, or kept hot at a temperature above 140 degrees F. Leftovers can be kept safely in the refrigerator for several days.

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