It is my experience with almost two healthy pregnancies under my belt (belt? my yoga pants just laughed so hard at my word choice they almost peed) that the eating part is weird and tricky. More weird and tricky than the cliches about cravings and morning sickness. For me it goes something like:
First trimester: Eating anything feels like taking one for the team. Nausea and a general feeling of unwellness gifts me the palette of a finicky eight year old boy. Plain noodles, plain nachos, hot dogs (more on those later), boxed mac ‘n cheese are the “foods” least likely of being tasted more than once if you know what I mean.
Second trimester: Although I could still pass for just chubby, baby and baby growing anatomy take over usual stomach capacity. While nausea has subsided, a normal sized meal may or may not stay down while my recovered enthusiasm for eating meets my smushed digestive system and I learn it the hard way a couple of times before I wise up.
Third trimester: Getting the hang of the more frequent, smaller meals mandated by the physical realities of baby growing. I look in the mirror. Perhaps it isn’t instant back fat so much as some vital organs seeking refuge from the exercises of our unborn ninja? Perhaps. Anyway, staggering activities like eating and drinking is a good call. This cramps my style when it comes to my favorites – spicy Thai and Mexican food. A few bites and water chasers in and I’m spent. Boo.
Some moms have it worse, some better, but each of us are faced with the reality that our choices – even beyond cutting off booze and hot tubs are not just for ourselves. Food choices are especially key because we make them each day, as opposed to deciding to get our roots touched up at the salon a couple of times or not (sidebar: of all the Haterade I can pour on the symptoms and side effects of pregnancy, on the positive side, my hair looks freaking fantastic. Anyone else have this experience?).
Luckily I’ve found through each weird stage of pregnancy, when it comes to eating, I’ve got a friend in beef. Here are the top five reasons why for as long as I’m knocked up dot com, beef is my BFF, just behind bra band extenders and those little pieces of crushed ice the refrigerator door shoots out that I love to crunch on all day. Rancher finds this temporary habit super charming. Not so much.
1. Beef is an A-bomb of nutrients
We call beef “nature’s multivitamin” because it is an “excellent or good” source of ten essential nutrients. Topping this list are some of the most helpful nutrients for moms trying to grow babies – protein, zinc, iron, and B vitamins to name a few. This one-pager on nutrition during pregnancy distills the mission well: “To meet the increased demand for nutrients during pregnancy, simply eat a little more, and a lot smarter.”
One 3 ounce serving of lean beef provides almost half the daily recommendation for protein, with less than 10 grams of fat and only 150 calories. So kicking the daily recommended 6 ounces of protein up to, say 8 ounces, which wouldn’t be hard to do with beef, definitely helps you get a lot more benefit from a little more food. Whether you’re a new preggo dreading food, or loving great food, but wanting to keep room for other essential functions like moving and breathing after your meal, beef is a smart choice.
2. Not all Iron is created equal
In pregnancy, the dietary recommendation of iron intake for the average woman jumps from 18 to 27 mg, corollary with that whole double in blood volume thing that has always blown my mind. Iron is a key nutrient to help oxygen get carried through those red blood cells, energy production, and immune function. Meat contains heme iron, which is the type of iron that is most readily absorbed by the body, and beef is the top source among meats in total amount and availability. Meat actually helps the body absorb iron from nonheme sources, as do vitamin C-rich foods. Other foods that contain iron such as spinach, beans, and grains can unfortunately block absorption, so how you design your plate can make a difference in how much iron you’re actually getting. Solution: steak salads on the regular.
3. Protein is fuel
While my three stages of pregnancy eating has taught me the true value of smaller, more frequent meals, it doesn’t mean I relish frequent swings between mean hunger pangs and having to find something good to eat. Some research and my experience has shown me that working in protein throughout the day (as opposed to eating one protein-heavy meal like just at dinner time) feels more satisfying than a lot of carb centric meals and snacks. In the war against hangry, protein rich foods like beef are the secret weapon.
4. Because growing and raising babies is freaking exhausting!
Oh, you’re eight plus months along carrying around an excess 30 l-bs and another 30 of toddler? Can’t sleep for more than an hour straight without needing to pee or roll over? That’s nice. Mommy-ranchy-worky stuff never sleeps either. When I eat, I eat to give myself every advantage possible. Ain’t nobody got time for naps.
5. Beef is safe
Pregnant ladies are a jumpy breed without hazards like rattle snakes slithering around. And the flavor of the day health studies don’t help. Of which who knows how many “[Insert food or activity] will harm your baby beyond repair or make them a super strong genius baby” headlines were posted or shared in the time it took me to write this post. I’ve even seen under less provocative headlines, the blanket recommendation to avoid all “meat” during pregnancy because it isn’t safe. This one, dear internet, gets my head shaking and eyes rolling.
Reality is, food safety is always a health concern, baby on board, on the brain, or not even on the horizon. This is where facts and science are super helpful. This foodsafety.org list is a great basic guideline for foods to avoid or be particularly cautious with in terms of how they can impact your mini co-pilot. When it comes to meat, let me introduce you to Mom at the Meat Counter, Janell Yancey, Ph. D. Her list of tips on safe eating during pregnancy come from her personal experience as a mom, and her in-depth scientific knowledge of meat, everything from nutritive value to food borne bacteria.
Like me, Janell gets a jones for a hot dog now and then. Also like me, she’s inclined to microwave the dog to near explosion because we know that applying heat to foods is what kills potential bacteria. Cooking is that crucial step in food safety that makes all the difference. Eat a hamburger, just cook it to at least 160 degrees internal temperature confirmed with a meat thermometer. Eat zinc, iron and protein-packed steak, seared at 350 degrees or higher to your desired doneness, knowing any food risk factors come from the surface of the cut.
When it comes to food safety, staying brushed up on proper handling, preparation, cooking, and storage is your best strategy. While it isn’t the stuff that sexy web article headlines are made of, you might be interested to know that the beef supply chain continues to invest and work to make products safer with great success, especially in the area of E. coli, so the final step in that safety chain is handling and cooking properly at home.
If I’ve got a point here, it’s that when I read alarming lists of foods I’m supposed to take out of my diet to be “safe”, the first thing I do is reason what I am losing in order to do so, and I’m not really willing to give up the benefits of beef I’ve listed above. And when it all gets too complicated and scary for this pregnant lady, it is nice to remember that a healthy pregnancy is probably as simple as eating steak and avoiding Kid Rock concerts (yet to find a study that suggests avoiding the LOLs).