Getting Enough Protein and Iron But Not Too Much Fat During Pregnancy: Bring on the Bison Burgers

BurgerPrior to conceiving my daughter, I sometimes worried about the amount of protein in my diet. I knew that pregnancy would be an especially taxing time on my small body, so I would need plenty of protein in my diet to keep myself and my developing baby healthy. In addition to my need for an adequate amount of protein in my diet, I also worried about developing anemia while pregnant. I knew that I would need to include as many high protein and high iron foods in my diet as possible.

Although I have never officially been diagnosed as anemic, my nurse practitioner once tested me for low iron levels because I bruise so easily and so frequently. Even now, I am always finding new bruises all over my body, usually on my thighs and hips from bumping into the corner of my bed or my bathroom counter. Fortunately for me, my past bruising ended up being the result of my being a small woman in a big world. (Yes, my nurse practitioner diagnosed me as small!) However, anemia continued to be a health problem that I was extremely conscious of, especially after I was diagnosed with low iron levels during pregnancy by my midwife.

The simplest solution to my concerns about adequate protein and iron intake was to make sure that I was eating a diet full of high protein foods. So, which foods high in protein and iron were a must for me before, during, and after pregnancy?

First, I must admit that I love red meat. When my husband and I go out for a casual dinner with our daughter, we sometimes like to stop at our favorite local burger joint for cheeseburgers. I usually end up ordering either a junior cheeseburger with cheddar cheese, ketchup, and pickles or a junior cheeseburger with Thousand Island dressing. Sometimes I will get more creative, adding toppings like honey mustard and pineapple to my burger. This little burger joint uses only certified Angus Beef ground chuck with no added binders, fillers, or extenders. (The fries are also made fresh, never frozen, complete with potato skins, another high iron food.) Hamburgers are a great addition to a high protein diet as well as to a high iron diet because beef is both high in protein and high in iron. According to the Self Nutrition Data website, an ounce of 75% lean ground beef contains four grams of protein and 0.5 milligrams of iron (3%) with only 82 calories.

However, even though red meat is high in protein and iron, beef is also rather high in fat. Although I am careful about not eating too much animal fat in general, I knew that I would need to be especially careful about my fat intake during pregnancy. Developing babies need a certain amount of fat for proper growth and development. Furthermore, as a breastfeeding mother, I would also need a little extra fat in my diet to ensure the quality and quantity of my breast milk. However, excess fat consumption can lead to serious health problems for both mothers and babies. Thus, to limit the fat but not the good nutrients in my diet, I decided to add less common but healthier alternatives to certain foods to my diet.

Lean beef is both high in protein and high in iron but, at seven grams per ounce, is rather high in fat. Buffalo or bison meat is a healthier alternative to a traditional burger that provides more essential nutrients like protein and iron per calorie than beef. According to the Self Nutrition Data website, one ounce of bison contains five grams of protein and 0.7 grams milligrams of iron (4%) but only four grams of fat and 62 calories. Bison burgers are definitely a good choice for an expectant mother who is worried about getting enough protein and iron but not too much fat.

Which foods did you eat to ensure that you ate enough protein and iron but not too much fat during pregnancy?


Beef, ground, 75% lean meat / 25% fat, raw [hamburger]:
Game meat, bison, ground, raw [buffalo]:

Image Credits


Heather Johnson

Heather Johnson is a mother, wife, writer, librarian, and linguist. She earned a BA in English studies with a minor in creative writing from Illinois State University in May 2007, an MS in library and information science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in May 2009, and an MS in English studies with an emphasis in linguistics at Illinois State University in December 2011.

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