Pregnancy can be a tough time for moms-to-be. There are many things you have to be careful with now that you’re growing a new human inside you, and what you eat is one of the most important ones. Making sure that your little one has the best possible start in life means that you need to be on the ball when it comes to your own health and lifestyle.
Even though the concept of “eating for two” has been debunked, you still may find yourself craving various unexpected foods. Your body is generally pretty good at telling you what it needs. So if your stomach is calling for steak, who are you to argue?
That being said, it’s natural to worry about diseases that can put your baby at risk. So, if you’re pregnant, how should your steak be cooked to ensure the safety of your unborn child?
Raw and Undercooked Meat Is Dangerous
The better you cook any meal, the more likely it is that any harmful microbes will be killed. Meat from any animal has the potential to harbor dangerous microorganisms hidden away in the flesh. Let’s take a look at the dangers you need to look out for.
Listeria is one of the more serious risks to you and your baby. Although it’s quite rare, you are ten times more likely to contract it when you are pregnant.
This bacterial infection can result in stillbirth, miscarriage, and preterm labor. It isn’t just found in meat like steak or poultry, as it can also potentially breed in eggs and milk. It may appear in any food that has come into contact with human or animal feces.
Toxoplasmosis is another rare but potentially dangerous infection. It is caused by a parasite that is most often found in raw and uncooked meat, unpasteurized goat milk, untreated water, soil, and cat feces.
This is normally a fairly harmless infection that doesn’t tend to harm those with a healthy immune system. However, if it is transferred to your unborn child, it can result in what is called congenital toxoplasmosis. This can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, or neurological and neurocognitive deficits in your baby.
How to Cook Your Steak
In terms of eating steak, the first thing you should know is that you need to avoid eating rare cooked steak. All the meat you eat needs to be cooked thoroughly, until steaming hot.
The Center for Disease Control recommends that you the minimum safe temperature to cook your steak to is 145°F, and that you should leave it to rest for another 3 minutes after cooking. This is because the meat holds the heat in for some time after you stop cooking, and this waiting period helps ensure that any harmful microorganisms have been killed.
It’s a good idea to invest in a food thermometer if you don’t already have one, so you can be sure that you’re getting your food hot enough to be safe. You need to make sure to insert it into the thickest part of the steak, and be careful not to touch any bone, gristle, or fat. If you check the temperature a few minutes before you think your steak will be done cooking, you can avoid overcooking it.
Cooking your steak until it’s at least medium is a good idea, although medium-well is an even safer bet. Make absolutely sure that there is no pinkness left in the meat, and that the juices don’t contain any blood. Another way to ensure that there’s nothing harmful lurking in the steak is to freeze the meat for at least 24 hours at below -4°F, as this also kills off parasites and bacteria.
Cooking your steak thoroughly isn’t the only thing you need to do to reduce the risks to you and your baby. Cross-contamination is a real danger, so you need to make sure to wash all your utensils and surfaces thoroughly after preparing raw meat, or bacteria and parasites can breed there. You should also wash and dry your hands after handling any raw meat to avoid spreading the microorganisms yourself.
In fact, any undercooked meat can be a danger to you and your little one, so make sure you’re cooking everything thoroughly. Otherwise, you can be at risk of contracting Salmonella, E. coli, Campylobacter, as well as Listeria and Toxoplasmosis as previously mentioned. All of these can put your pregnancy at a serious risk.
There’s also a number of foods you should avoid along with undercooked meat. A number of fish species are high in mercury, which can interfere with the development of your baby’s brain and nervous system. King mackerel, bigeye tuna, swordfish, tilefish, marlin, and shark should all be on the avoid list, along with uncooked shellfish like clams and oysters.
Reheat Precooked Meat
Another thing you should be careful with is precooked meats. Foods such as hot dogs, cold cuts, lunch meat, premade sandwiches, and meat spreads can all contain Listeria. If it’s possible, you should reheat them until they are 165°F or steaming hot. For things like meat spreads, pate, and fruit juice, check the label to ensure that they are pasteurized to reduce the risks of infection.
You should also not eat undercooked or raw sprouts, such as mung beans, alfalfa, radish, or clover, as they can also contain Salmonella and E. coli. Make sure to cook them thoroughly first, and they should be safe.
Better Safe Than Sorry
It’s important to be careful with what you eat when you’re expecting. So let’s go over the main points once again.
If you’re pregnant, how should your steak be cooked? At least medium, though medium-well is safer. You need to be sure there are no traces of pinkness or blood left in the meat. Do all you can to reduce your chances of contracting an infection from harmful bacteria and parasites that can be present in the meat. Be sure to wash everything thoroughly, including your hands, and cook your food to the minimum safe temperature.