One of the unsung joys of pregnancy is that food tastes so incredibly good, especially those tasty treats that you’re craving. Unfortunately, the love affair with food can be short-lived, because when you’re pregnant, your OB-GYN will give you what feels like a laundry list of foods that are okay to eat, and others that you should absolutely avoid. One of them might be the hot dog, a true summer staple. So, if you’re fiending for a frankfurter, is it safe to eat hot dogs during pregnancy? The answer is kind of complicated.
Are hot dogs healthy for you?
While there are other foods that aren’t healthy at all, nutritionally, there’s not a lot that you’re going to reap if you eat a hot dog. “Hot dogs are very nutrient-poor, meaning that it doesn't contribute much to mom or baby's health,” Heather Hanks, MS, a nutritionist, tells Romper. If you’re looking to up your protein intake, you might be better off with chicken or beef, but not a hot dog.
But is it safe to eat hot dogs during pregnancy?
You’re at a backyard BBQ full of all that grilled goodness that has you salivating. But (welp), you might want to remove that hot dog from your plate, because frankly (no pun intended) hot dogs really aren’t all that great for you — or your unborn baby. “Hot dogs, in general, should be avoided by most people (not just pregnant women) because they are processed meat and this can be highly inflammatory in the body,” says Hanks. “Hot dogs tend to contain refined sugar, excess amounts of sodium, and nitrates, which have been linked to cancer.”
And that’s not all. “Adding sugary toppings such as ketchup and eating them with buns made with white enriched flour will only contribute to the inflammatory factor,” says Hanks.
Here’s how hot dogs can affect your health during pregnancy
A salty dog wrapped in a deliciously doughy bun and covered in yummy condiments — what’s not to love? Well, a lot, according to the study, “Maternal Dietary Patterns Are Associated With Lower Levels Of Cardiometabolic Markers During Pregnancy.” Researchers found that a diet consisting of high intakes of foods like hamburgers, bacon, French fries and, you guessed it, hot dogs, “was negatively associated with maternal insulin… and triglycerides.” This connection between your diet and overall health, the study concluded, can affect many cardiometabolic markers (such as heart disease or diabetes) during pregnancy.
How are hot dogs linked to listeria?
Forget about inflammation – there’s a little thing called listeria that pregnant women should be very concerned about, particularly when it comes to eating a hot dog. “Hot dogs, similar to deli meat, aren't safe for pregnant women to eat because they may contain a harmful bacteria, called listeria,” Kara Hoerr, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist, tells Romper. Listeria is a bacteria that is commonly found in soil, water, and in some animals, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reports. It’s a very serious type of food poisoning, and sadly, pregnant women are 10 times more likely to get listeriosis than other adults. “While healthy adults who aren't pregnant may not have any symptoms if exposed to listeria, it can put the mom and baby at risk for miscarriage or stillbirth,” says Hoerr.
Here’s how you can safely eat a hot dog during pregnancy
If you’ve got a hankering for a hot dog that won’t wait, there are ways to make sure that you eat one safely. “If you can't pass up the opportunity to have a hot dog in the summer, make sure you cook it to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit for at least two minutes to kill off any listeria,” says Hoerr. “Use a thermometer to check the internal temperature before eating.” Sure, it might seem like a nuisance to be making sure that your hot dog is, well, hot, but doing this practice during pregnancy can keep both you and your baby safe.
What are some alternatives to eating hot dogs?
When you just want a wiener, you can look for other food options that might taste just as good, and be better for you, too. “Eating fresh meat (such as grass-fed beef or pasture-raised chicken) is a much better way to get your protein needs in,” says Hanks. “If you can, try to find an uncured brand of hot dogs from 100% grass-fed beef or organic turkey that does not contain refined sugars, nitrates, antibiotics, or hormones.” Grilled vegetables are another great alternative in a BBQ situation.
What happens if you eat uncooked or undercooked hot dogs during pregnancy?
Sometimes the siren song of a cold, uncooked hot dog can be too tempting to pass up. But before you take a big bite, just know that eating an uncooked or undercooked hot dog during pregnancy can have several health implications for you and your fetus, Sue-Ellen Anderson-Haynes, MS, RDN, CDCES, LDN, CPT, a registered and licensed dietitian nutritionist and Founder of 360Girls & Women, tells Romper. “In pregnancy, the immune system changes and thus becomes more vulnerable to illness, especially in the third trimester, caused by bacteria or parasites in foods such as listeria or toxoplasma gondii,” says Anderson-Haynes. Although listeria can cause flu-like symptoms such as vomiting, abdominal pain, headaches, and nausea, “if the infection reaches the nervous system, it can cause symptoms like convulsions, and disorientation, which increases the risk for miscarriage and premature birth,” she says.
As you cruise the aisles in the supermarket trying to decipher what you can and can’t consume, the good news is that having the occasional hot dog won’t hurt you during your pregnancy. Just make sure to find a better-quality dog, make sure that it’s heated properly, and try to make it a once-in-a-while treat. That way, you can safely have your hot dog — and eat it, too.
Martin, C., Siega-Riz, A., Sotres-Alvarez, D., Robinson, W., Daniels, J., Perrin, E., Stueve, A. (2016) Maternal Dietary Patterns Are Associated With Lower Levels Of Cardiometabolic Markers During Pregnancy, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26848932/
Heather Hanks, MS, a nutritionist
Kara Hoerr, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist
Sue-Ellen Anderson-Haynes, MS, RDN, CDCES, LDN, CPT, a registered and licensed dietitian nutritionist and Founder of 360Girls & Women
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