Pregnancy is a weird time for everybody. No other moment in your life will people offer you so much unsolicited advice.
Most books recommend a very strict health-conscious diet in order to “give your baby” the “right nutrients” and to crave the “right foods.”
No matter where you’re from and how you grew up, it’s likely that you’ve heard your fair share of old wives’ tales related to pregnancy.
What are debunked pregnancy diet and food restrictions?
There are often a bunch of food restrictions and recommendations attached with a pregnancy. Most, if not a lot of them, however, are superstitions.
So what is a fact, and what is fiction?
Most of the time, these hard and fast rules are set based on a grain of truth that ended up running amok.
Some common pregnancy myths that have been debunked include:
- Pregnant women need to eat for two – which means twice as much food
- Spicy food can induce pregnancy
- Pregnant women shouldn’t drink coffee, fish, smoked salmon, or hot dogs
So there you have it!
You can definitely eat a hot dog when pregnant. But there’s a reason this myth has persisted for so long, so it will be helpful to go through exactly why this has been debunked.
It is worth noting unpasteurized milk, raw meat, raw fish, raw egg, and lunch meat should still be avoided. In general, any uncooked meats should be avoided as they may contain harmful bacteria.
How did the hot dog pregnancy myth begin?
So where did this short-hand rule come from?
It isn’t really helpful to write certain foods off completely without knowing why. There was definitely some truth in the myth that pregnant women should avoid hot dogs all together. In the 1990’s, it was recommended women take caution when consuming hot dogs, at least in its raw form. This was because around that time, the CDC discovered an outbreak of listeria infections linked to eating deli meat and hot dogs.
What is listeria infection?
Listeria (otherwise known as listeriosis or) is a foodborne illness, and is a serious concern for those experiencing pregnancy. A majority of the time, this can result in common symptoms of food poisoning including fever, vomiting, and diarrhea that go away after a few days.
Pregnant women are ten times more likely to get listeria from improperly cooked or handled food contaminated with the bacterium listeria monocytogenes
It can then pass to newborns while a person is pregnant, and can sometimes result in miscarriages, infection, stillbirths, or preterm labor.
What about nitrite and sodium nitrate?
Around the same time, there was concern that certain additives like nitrite and nitrates may be unhealthy for those experiencing pregnancy in the same way caffeine can be harmful. This has mainly been addressed, and unless you are eating a large amount of hot dogs, you do not have to worry.
This is why you may have heard others give the general recommendation for pregnant women to avoid deli meat and hot dogs all together. The same thing goes for fish. Only some fish, like swordfish, should be avoided because they contain high levels of mercury.
However, take into consideration that most other accessible seafood like fish, tuna, and salmon are often low mercury and are in fact, very healthy protein sources.
How are hot dogs made?
In addition to everything that fed into the pregancy myth, hot dogs have always had a bad reputation of being made of “mystery meat” and weird end cuts. But hot dogs contain good quality meat!
Rules and regulations surrounding meat in the U.S. (and generally, most Westernized and “first world” countries) are very strict. Just check out this video on “how hot dogs are really made”.
Hot dogs are often smoked too. The seasonings and spices they come in will vary by supplier and brand. Some of the most popular seasonings include fennel and other ingredients, and it’s common to find ones with more adventurous ingredients like jalapeno or mango. And nowadays, it’s really easy to find quality hot dogs for a really affordable price point.
Overall, hot dogs follow just as strict rules as their non-sausage shaped counterparts. They are subject to USDA regulations and inspections, and even have inspectors on site for quality control. More often than not, these days, choices for your hot dogs are just better. The ingredients are better, by and large, for their price point, and there’s more variety. They really can be a delicious and economical choice, with the right condiments.
When preparing them, we recommend grilled onions! They’re better than any ketchup or mustard you can find at a grocery store.
Always remember to cook your pork
Take into consideration that listeria can be killed by high heat cooking. Just like how you can cook tuna and salmon to avoid food sickness, you can do the same to hot dogs. Hot dogs and deli meat come pre-cooked. But listeria may get into precooked foods like deli meat and hot dogs after cooking sometimes through slicing and preparing the casing. Cross-contamination from equipment slicing the meat is rare nowadays. And really, more often than not preparation is a larger factor than the hot dog itself.
A microwaved hot dog or hot dogs cooked to an internal temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit (so that it is steaming hot) will ensure safe eating for expecting moms!
Urban legends are legends for a reason
It’s been almost three decades since the CDC made their recommendations from these findings. Most recently, medical news has reported that you’re more likely to trace listeria bacteria to the consumers of dairy products like soft cheese and ice cream. You are also more likely to find listeria in certain produce like celery, seed and bean sprouts, and cantaloupe melon.
You may be the type of person who wants to be very considerate of what you eat when you are expecting. Or you may just want to enjoy what you like most, as long as it is not harmful to your baby.
But if you do find that you’re the type to enjoy a hot dog here and there, any serious concerns you might have with hot dogs can be laid to rest. As long as you are cooking hot dogs at the right temperature and handling them the same way you handle raw meat, you should not have any major issues.