• Tuesday, August 13, 2013

    The Mom at the Meat Counter is Expecting

    As some of you may know, our family is expecting a new addition! Vallie will have a baby sister, due in mid-November. Everyone at our house is very excited about the new arrival, especially the big sister.
    Vallie drew this picture of our family
    after we told her the big news.

    This is my second pregnancy. My first was pretty typical, I guess. I had some morning sickness for the first few months. I gained some weight. I fretted about everything. What to eat, what to drink, what medicine to take, what products to use. They painted the hallway in my office and the ladies I work with made me leave the building.

    You know, when you are pregnant, that’s when you first realize the world of moms. All the great advice and experience that other moms are willing to share with you. It’s great to have friends and family that want to help and to know that they all want the best for you and your baby. But, just like everything else, you get a lot of conflicting information.

    So, in true mom fashion, I thought I would share what I am doing, more specifically, what foods I avoid or take extra precautions with, to take care of my little Pumpkin (That’s what we call the baby. We called Vallie Pecan).

    I am a meat scientist. I am not a Medical Doctor, and I want to say first that you should always talk with your doctor about diet and take your questions to him or her. Also, foodsafety.gov has a great check list of foods to avoid during pregnancy that would be good to check out.

    Deli meats – Deli meats, like ham and bologna, and hotdogs are cooked and ready to eat from the store. But they are kept at refrigerated temperatures and typically not heated again before you eat them. Deli meats are dangerous because of Listeria, a bacteria that is particularly harmful to pregnant women and has been shown to cause miscarriages, still birth, and pre-term labor. Pregnant women are 10 times more likely to become infected with Listeria than the general population.

    Unlike most bacteria, Listeria can grow in cold temperatures, like those we store deli meats at in the refrigerator. Meat companies use lots of interventions to eliminate Listeria, but even if they keep it out, Listeria can be introduced to the package when it’s opened and handled in the fridge. 

    What can be done? Completely eliminating deli meats and hotdogs may not be a problem for some women, but I have a Subway across the street from my office and I LOVE hotdogs, and sometimes it’s just impossible to avoid. If I must eat deli meats, I heat them up in some way. Either I stick them in the microwave until they steam or I boil them. Hotdogs are great on the grill or boiled, but they can be microwaved, too. When I eat at Subway, I have my sandwich toasted. Even though I don’t really want it that way, the toaster gets the meat really hot and steaming.

    Some sushi I tried in Hawaii. I don't think this
    had any raw fish in it.
    FishI am normally not a big fish eater. I only recently tried sushi and sashimi. However, from now until November, I will stay away from raw fish. Raw fish could contain several  types of parasites and bacteria that would cause very serious problems in a pregnant woman.

    As far as cooked fish goes, those from the top of the food chain like Shark, Mackerel, and Swordfish, I avoid completely. Those fish species potentially have high levels of mercury that could cause birth defects.  I limit my intake of any type of fish to two meals a week or less and only one meal of albacore or ‘white’ tuna.  Tuna may also contain mercury. Other fish may contain low levels of mercury or other toxins that can hurt your baby.

    I know that fish can be a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, but I take a DHA vitamin supplement to help with brain and eye health in my baby.

    Everything else

    I love chicken salad and egg salad sandwiches, but I only eat them when they are made fresh. I wouldn’t buy them in a store or a restaurant, or eat them after a day in the fridge. They could potentially contain Listeria. (Ham and tuna salad would fall in this category, too.)

    A comment on this post reminded me that the grilled chicken found on salads in restaurants may also have been cooked in advance and served cold. Unless its cooked in the restaurant right before you eat it or its reheated, I would stay away from it. Just ask your waiter about it.
    Raw eggs and the potential Salmonella that they may carry can be especially dangerous for pregnant women, so I make sure to cook my eggs thoroughly and I don’t eat raw cookie dough or lick the spoon when baking a cake or cookies. Some people make ice cream with raw eggs, and it’s not that time of year, but eggnog is sometimes made with raw eggs. You can buy pasteurized eggs at the store for your homemade ice cream or eggnog.

    *9-4-13 Amendment* I just learned this weekend that Caesar salad may contain raw egg yolk, especially if it is prepared at a restaurant. So, last night at Carrabba's, I asked the waitress if there were raw eggs in my salad. She said that they were pasteurized! Store bought Caesar salad and dressings would be prepared with pasteurized eggs.*

    Some soft cheeses such as Brie or Feta may contain Listeria or E. coli if they are not prepared with pasteurized milk. You can check labels to make sure cheeses are made with pasteurized milk.

     I usually don’t drink unpasteurized milk or juice anyway, but especially now. That means no raw milk.

    Raw sprouts are not typically something I eat, but they have been linked with outbreaks of E. coli and Salmonella, so I will stay away from them completely for right now.

    Not food, but important

    Cat poop may contain a dangerous parasite that causes Toxoplasmosis, which can cause problems with pregnancy even abortion.  So, let someone else clean out the litter box and stay away from stray cats. Be sure to wash your hands after petting your cats.

    Vallie recently adopted a turtle (Princess). Turtles can carry Salmonella, so I make sure to wash my hands thoroughly after touching Princess or anything inside her habitat. Be careful of any reptiles or amphibians.

    We have cattle and spend lots of time at fairs and shows. Even healthy animals can carry bacteria that can make you sick, so I’m sure to wash my hands when we come inside from the barns. If you go to the fair or a petting zoo, be sure to wash your hands after you or your kids touch any of the animals.


    In the mean time, I have been eating a lot more protein lately. Seems I am just not satisfied without it. So my diet contains lots of egg and cheese sandwiches, lean beef steaks, hamburgers, and chicken.  Any type of food borne illness can be devastating for a pregnant woman and her baby. So, I’m extra careful to cook my hamburgers to 160° F, my poultry to 165°F, cook my eggs thoroughly and use a meat thermometer. I keep all the food safety rules (Clean, Cook, Chill and Separate) in mind when I’m working in the kitchen.


    There are so many questions when you’re pregnant. I hope this post answers more questions than it generates, but if you have one, please let me know!