Can You Eat Hot Dogs While Pregnant?

The list of what to do and what not to do when pregnant is a long one. Much of the safety issues revolve around what you subject your body to or put in your body, like beauty treatments, intense exercise, and food.

Some food and drink precautions are well known. For example, it's widely known that you should not consume alcohol, or illegal drugs during pregnancy (via American College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians). It's also harmful to smoke and even be around people who are smoking when you're carrying a baby. Yet food can get a little tricky. Some say you can absolutely eat a type of food and then others say steer clear of that treat. 

Though initially, you may have very little or no appetite at all due to nausea and vomiting from morning sickness, as you ease into the second trimester, you'll likely encounter intense cravings (via Healthline). Along with sweet and sour snacks and meals, salty foods with strong flavors are one of the hallmarks of pregnancy cravings. Naturally, hot dogs are a popular food that is often craved, especially during pregnancy.

Hot dogs may contain listeria

According to the Food and Drug Administration, although most hot dogs are pre-cooked before they are packaged, they may contain listeria monocytogenes. This can happen even after being packaged, due to contamination in the food-processing plant.

Listeria is a food-borne bacterial infection that infects about 1,600 people and kills over 200 people each year (via CDC). The first signs include flu-like symptoms, muscle aches, fatigue, and fever. Furthermore, listeria has the potential to cause miscarriages, stillbirth, and an infection in the newborn when contracted during pregnancy.

Besides listeria, most hot dogs contain nitrates, which are preservatives that are thought to cause cancer when consumed long-term. For this reason and others, refraining from eating packaged meat is one thing that many healthy people do.

Pregnancy is a time of lowered immunity so it's wise to be extra cautious when considering any food that might pose a risk. 

How to eat a hot dog safely during pregnancy

If you still can't get the thought of a juicy hot dog out of your mind, there are ways to make it safer to consume. The first thing is to cook it yourself. When you purchase hot dogs from street vendors or at events, you never really know how well it's been cooked. In order to kill listeria, a hot dog must reach a temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit and stay at that temperature for at least two minutes (via babyMed).

In addition, there are nitrate-free hot dogs available and they should be your first pick. Since hot dogs have a high amount of sodium, you can search for low salt options like turkey dogs or even veggie dogs. According to The Daily Meal, you should look out for hot dogs with less than 400 milligrams of sodium. You can also seek out organic hot dogs. They are the healthiest options since they don't have antibiotics, hormones, or nitrates.