In the USA alone over 120 million of us enjoy beef jerky or meat snacks.
So there’s probably a high chance you’re wondering if you can still eat this delicious snack during your pregnancy.
Although it’s safe to eat cooked meat while pregnant, it’s best to avoid beef jerky because the drying process used to prepare the snack may not kill off all harmful bacteria.
This could be a serious issue for pregnant women, because their immune system is compromised during their pregnancy.
But what about other types of jerky? Are they safe?
And if beef jerky is off the menu, are there any viable alternatives to satisfy your cravings?
Let’s take a look.
Can Pregnant Women Eat Beef Jerky?
Eating beef jerky while pregnant does carry some risk.
During pregnancy, experts such as the USDA advise that you only eat meat that has been thoroughly cooked at a temperature above 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
This guidance is in place to ensure any harmful bacteria such as salmonella and toxoplasma are killed before we eat the meat.
Many of us have had food poisoning in the past and have made a fast and full recovery.
But the key thing here is that these illnesses are more dangerous for pregnant women compared to the rest of the population.
This is because in some cases they could cause premature birth, miscarriage and stillbirth.
Now as you may probably know, jerky it not made by cooking meat, but by drying it instead.
This drying process involves preparing the meat using a low temperature (well below the 160 degrees mentioned above) and is done over a long period of time (often overnight).
So meats that have been dried rather than cooked, such as jerky, are therefore more likely to contain harmful bacteria.
The immune system of a healthy adult will usually be able to fight off this bacteria without any major issues, but – and again this is the key piece of information – when you are pregnant your immune system will be compromised and therefore less strong than usual.
So for these reasons it’s best to avoid eating beef jerky while you are pregnant.
Can You Eat Chomps or Slim Jims While Pregnant?
Clearly many other pregnant women have wondered whether Chomps are safe to eat during pregnancy, because Chomps have addressed this question on their website.
The brand states that Chomps are cooked using a “low and slow cooking process”, which as we’ve stated above is not sufficient to guarantee all bacteria is killed.
So to be on the safe side, it’s best not to eat Chomps when pregnant.
This advice also applies to other brands of meat jerky like Slim Jims and Jack Link’s too.
Can You Eat Deer Jerky While Pregnant?
If eating beef jerky while pregnant may not be safe, you may be wondering about other types of meat such as deer jerky.
Unfortunately the advice is the same – it’s best not to eat any type of meat jerky when pregnant because the drying process uses a low heat which may not kill all bacteria.
So if possible you should also avoid eating turkey, pork or deer jerky (as well as all other meat jerky) during your pregnancy.
Beef Jerky Alternatives For Pregnant Women
If you’re a big fan of beef jerky or have a particularly strong craving for the snack, you’re probably disappointed to learn that it’s a food that’s best avoided while pregnant.
So let’s take a look at a few alternatives that may cater to your pregnancy cravings:
Vegetarian / Plant Based Jerky
One of the best ways to replace beef jerky during your 9 months of pregnancy is by eating plant based jerky.
While some brands are of course better than others, the benefit of these products is that they aim to deliver a similar texture and flavour compared to beef jerky, but by using vegetarian ingredients like coconut and soy protein.
Another great way to satisfy that jerky craving is by eating a delicious steak.
If you go for this option, you should ensure the steak is thoroughly cooked (ideally well-done), seasoned with lots of pepper, and cut into thin strips to really recreate that beef jerky experience.
While the texture of olives is clearly different to jerky, they are a similarly moreish, salty and savory snack.
As an added bonus they also contain a lot of good (monosaturated) fats.
It may sound weird, but the salty, umami flavor of seaweed is quite similar to jerky.
Seaweed is also packed with lots of vitamins and minerals (zinc, calcium, magnesium), so it’s definitely one of the better snacks out there.
Because a classic trail mix has a number of ingredients, it does a good job at replicating the flavor and texture of jerky.
When you bite into the dried fruits you get a similar bite compared to beef jerky, and the nuts can give you that salt you may be desperately craving.