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Is it Safe to Satisfy Your Hot Dog Cravings?

By Jaclyn Stewart 12/02/2012 7:47 AM

You're going to crave a lot of very strange foods during your pregnancy. Hormonal changes might make you want to taste things you've never cared for, and even the slightest smell of your favorite dish will make you feel voracious. Many women notice that they especially love foods that are either very salty or very sweet, depending on their mood. Since hot dogs fall perfectly into the salty category, you might find yourself buying them as a quick fix for your cravings. However, you need to be careful about eating them because they could contain a harmful bacteria that you should avoid during your pregnancy.

Hot dogs are one of the many human inventions that are simply irresistible to most. While they are completely unhealthy and provide little nutritional value relative to normal meat, they are delicious, cheap and easy to make. Like deli meats, hot dogs might contain a dangerous bacteria called listeria. Studies show that listeria often causes miscarriages when consumed by pregnant women. Luckily, you can kill any listeria on your hot dogs by heating them sufficiently, but many women choose not to take the risk. Hot dogs also contain a potentially harmful preservative called nitrates. Research shows that nitrates can cause cancer when consumed, and their effects on a fetus are still unknown. However, since cancer is so serious, there's a good chance nitrates are bad for an unborn baby. These two ingredients in the common hot dog are both potentially dangerous, so eating the, can be risky during your pregnancy.

Of course, there are women who go through their entire pregnancy eating two hot dogs per day with no negative outcome. However, if you're looking to err on the side of caution, avoiding hot dogs altogether is a good way to do it. Aside from their potentially risky bacteria and preservatives, hot dogs are unhealthy in general, so it might be difficult to maintain a healthy weight and nutrition by eating too many of them. They are deliciously salty and tempting, but they essentially provide empty calories. Even turkey dogs would make for a better choice if you're looking for the hot dog experience, but a food with less sodium and more vitamins would be a better choice overall. Cravings can be hard to ignore, but it's especially important that you do ignore them when you're craving foods that could harm you and your baby.

Source: KA Jackson et al: Pregnancy-Associated Listeriosis. Epidemiology and Infection Volume 138 Issue 10 pp. 1503-1509 October 2010