It can be difficult to figure out what you can and can’t eat when you are pregnant. The off-limits list seems to increase in size with every passing year. This ever-changing list can make your pregnancy journey a bit more difficult and confusing. Hot dogs are a simple and easy food to consume, but are they safe for expectant mothers?
The main issue with hotdogs is that they are processed foods. Processed foods are much more likely to carry listeria bacteria. This bacterium can cause a bacterial infection known as listeriosis. This probably sounds scary, and it can be. The average adult may have contracted listeria before and not even known because its symptoms strongly resemble those associated with the flu, and it goes away on its own.
How Listeria Can Affect a Pregnancy
As we mentioned, listeria isn’t a major threat to adults, but it can be for pregnant women. When pregnant, a woman is 20 times more likely than other adults to become infected by the bacteria. The consequences for this situation can be much more severe for mom and baby than the typical flu-like symptoms.
A woman can become infected with the bacteria at any time during her pregnancy. The symptoms usually don’t start occurring until 2 to even 30 days after the initial exposure. This delay can make it difficult to pinpoint a culprit.
The symptoms exhibited aren’t extremely uncommon from typical everyday symptoms that a pregnant woman may experience, but they have the potential to transfer to the nervous system and become deadly. A pregnant woman may initially experience headaches, muscle aches, diarrhea, and nausea. If the infection makes its way to the nervous system neck stiffness, convulsions, and confusion can occur. A doctor should be contacted ASAP if any of these occur.
Listeriosis is scary because it can cause miscarriages, still births, and birth defects. The chances of suffering from a severe infection are rather slim, but the chance is still there.
There are precautions that you can take to help lower risk and make hot dogs safer for you to consume.
Put Those Dogs in The Fire
The best way to get rid of bacteria is through heat, and you can rid hot dogs of bacteria by making sure that they reach a certain temperature when cooked. Cook your dogs until they reach at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. You can check the temperature by using a simple kitchen thermometer.
The Battle Doesn’t End There
Okay, so you figured out how to combat bacteria, but now you have a new enemy to conquer. Cooking hot dogs on the grill can cause certain chemicals to develop and make their way into your food. These chemicals develop as a result of fat dripping down into the grill and causing smoke and flames to occur. This process is essentially the burning of the fat in your hot dog.
Just like with bacteria, there are precautions you can take to help avoid chemicals.
Try choosing meat that is lower in fat, so there isn’t enough fat to drip down and burn. If you are concerned about this occurring, cook your dog in the microwave! If you choose to use the grill you also need to make sure that your hot dog isn’t too charred. The charred pieces on the meat also contain chemicals that are dangerous. The reason it is important to avoid the consumption of these minor chemicals is because they can transfer through the placenta and directly to your growing baby.
Look Out for Nitrates
Nitrates are a no-no when pregnant because they can consume carcinogenic nitrosamines in the body. The best way to avoid this altogether is to purchase hot dogs that are nitrate free. Many popular brands like Oscar Meyer and Ball Park offer nitrate free options.
Proceed with Caution
If you just can’t pass up that hot dog on the grill, don’t be afraid to eat it. Just make sure that you take the necessary precautions to try and keep you and your baby safe. Indulging sparingly shouldn’t be too much of a problem if you follow all the specific safety requirements. Don’t go eating hot dogs for every meal though! Food consumption during pregnancy needs to be both safe and nutritional.