The iconic road-trip snack, Slim Jims, is popular among many. But this salty snack blurs the line between cupboard snacks and deli meat. Can Slim Jims be made pregnancy safe?
Note: This article focuses on the original Slim Jim and its other branded products. For a complete look into other snacking meats, check out our article on jerky and dried meats.
Because they are not fully cooked, Slim Jim brand ‘meat stick’ products carry the same risk of foodborne illness as other dried meat and jerky products. It is best to avoid undercooked meats during pregnancy, which includes Slim Jims.
Even though they are similar to beef jerky, many women search for this brand in particular. I set out to find what (if anything) sets Slim Jim apart from other dried meats and how this affects safety throughout pregnancy.
Can Pregnant Women Eat Slim Jims?
Whether you reach for the traditional Slim Jim meat stick or are a fan of their jerky products, all of the Slim Jim branded snack meats have one thing in common- they are not fully cooked.
While there are some rumors that Slim Jims are in fact cooked during processing, I was not able to find any official report from the manufacturer stating what temperature they are heated to and an overwhelming majority of jerkies are not thoroughly cooked.
So if Slim Jim’s aren’t fully cooked, how come they are sold on store shelves? Jerky snacks such as Slim Jims are smoked and dried. Both of these processes are effective at stopping bacteria from growing but just are not as effective as cooking.
Smoked and dried Slim Jims are safe for the average healthy adult to eat and go through multiple steps to ensure food safety for the general public.
Toxoplasmosis, listeriosis, and salmonella are some of the most common (and serious) infections that can come from eating undercooked meats (source: American Pregnancy Association).
Even though they are safe for most folks because food poisoning during pregnancy can cause serious side effects, other snacks make a safer choice throughout pregnancy.
Across the globe, national health departments all agree- uncooked/smoked jerky products, including Slim Jims, should be avoided while pregnant (sources: NSW, NZ Food Safety, FDA). One caveat is that Slim Jims can still be safe if heated until steaming hot, just like deli meats and charcuterie (source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics).
Are Slim Jims Nutritious During Pregnancy?
The only thing downright ‘bad’ about Slim Jims is the fact they put you and your baby at higher risk of foodborne illness. If you were to make them pregnancy-safe by heating them until steaming hot, are there any nutrition concerns?
Similar to other jerky and dried meats, Slim Jims are high in sodium content. Even though they are smoked and dried, not salt-cured like some charcuterie, the high salt content does help to make bacterial growth less likely.
One original Slim Jim meat stick contains 430 milligrams of sodium (source: Slim Jim). Americans are recommended to consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium in a day, meaning a single Slim Jim is already 20% of the recommended daily limit (source: CDC).
Though they are a good source of protein, with 6 grams per serving, there are other (safer) ways to meet your daily protein goals. String cheese, yogurt and a glass of milk/soymilk all offer similar amounts of protein.
If you are craving Slim Jims, there is nothing wrong with satisfying your craving and enjoying a Slim Jim on occasion- just make sure to thoroughly heat the Slim Jim first!
Not much sets Slim Jims apart from other jerky, especially when it comes to their safety during pregnancy. It is nice to know that after heating until steaming hot, you can still dig in safely if a pregnancy craving strikes.