Can Pregnant Women Eat Cheetos?
Everyone knows about the unusual things that many women crave while pregnant. (If you read our last article, you know ranch dressing is one craving.) Whether it be pickles and peanut butter or eating two gallons of ice cream a day, it’s fun to laugh about when it’s not happening to you. But now you’re pregnant, and you’re starting to miss eating certain foods that you could once consume without any worry. It may even be foods you never cared to eat before you were pregnant! One of these bizarre food cravings may be Cheetos. We’re here to answer the question you are asking: can pregnant women eat Flamin’ Hot Cheetos? To start off with, let’s look at why you may be having this desire for spicy food.
Why Do I Crave Cheetos?
Pregnancy cravings can be caused by a number of things, although there is no definite science behind it all. Food cravings typically begin during the first trimester and peak in the second trimester. However, they can happen anytime during pregnancy, and there is no scientific evidence to confirm exactly why. (2)
Despite this, many researchers have tried. So why Cheetos? A 2014 study found that women may crave spicy food because they often feel hot, and spicy foods stimulate them to sweat and cool down. (5) However, this is just one of many theories, so look through the other options before you jump to conclusions about why you have a Hot Cheeto obsession.
These are the main reasons that many researchers speculate a pregnant woman experiences odd food desires:
There are many hormonal changes that happen during pregnancy. These changes affect your senses of taste and smell, and in turn, your preferences or food aversions as well. (5)
Another likely explanation is that food cravings may be linked to the same changes in hormones that make a pregnant woman feel nauseous early in pregnancy. (5)
If you crave a certain food, it may indicate that you have a deficiency of certain nutrients in your body. (1)
For instance, if you don’t have enough sodium in your body, you may crave Cheetos, to help with the deficiency. (1)
However, this theory is not completely proven. So do not assume every craving is satisfying a biological need. In fact, studies show that many women who report strange cravings tend to gain more weight than is considered healthy during pregnancy. This means that these cravings may be driven by something other than biochemical needs. (3)
One of the biggest reasons women experience pregnancy cravings is mental or cultural causes. (3)
Think of when you were a kid, and your mother wouldn’t let you eat a cookie before bed. You may not have even wanted the cookie that bad, but now because you know you can’t have it, it becomes all you think about.
Similarly, a strong desire for pickles, potato chips or Hot Cheetos may start out as a simple thought. Overtime, however, it can grow into an obsession that is hard to resist simply because you know you can’t have it. (3)
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Are Cheetos Safe to Eat While I’m Pregnant?
Now that we know why you may be craving Cheetos right now, let’s look into if they are safe for you to eat or not. And, spoiler, you can stop holding your breath; the science shows that Cheetos, even Hot Cheetos, are OK to eat – in moderation.
What Are Cheetos Made Of?
Cheetos, like many processed foods, do contain some natural ingredients. Most Cheetos are made of around 30% natural ingredients, such as citric acid. (1) The rest, however, are synthetic food additives which enhance flavor and make the food last longer. (1) These additives may be unhealthy for your baby, and for you as well. Let’s look deeper into exactly what Cheetos contain.
In 2018, the FDA banned six synthetic food flavorings because the chemicals have been shown to cause cancer in lab animals. Oftentimes, these chemicals are listed as “artificial flavors” on food labels. (4)
Many artificial coloring additives have been banned in other countries. And there are studies that show they may impact behavior in children. For those reasons, they may be harmful to you and your unborn child during pregnancy. (4)
MSG is a flavor enhancer found in many foods, including Cheetos. What it does is replicate the umami flavor, which is basically a taste sensation similar to savory. Although it is valuable as a flavor enhancer, studies have shown that there are possible toxic effects related to it. (4)
What Are the Effects of Pregnant Women Eating Cheetos?
Despite the questionable contents of Cheetos listed above, you shouldn’t worry too much. The health of your unborn baby will not be hurt after a few handfuls of chips. Many healthcare providers agree that Cheetos/spicy foods are not the best meal options while pregnant. (1) But, good news, they are alright in moderation. (1)
However, there are some side effects that can come from eating your normal diet that are enhanced by pregnancy. Here are a few of the health issues you may need to consider before grabbing that next bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos:
During the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, spicy foods are more likely to cause heartburn. The baby growing in you creates an increasing pressure on your abdomen, causing lower pressure on the esophageal sphincter. (That’s the area where your esophagus joins your stomach.) This makes acid reflux more common during this time. (5)
Worsen Morning Sickness
During the first trimester, hot foods can worsen morning sickness. Eating spicy snacks can trigger the release of stomach acid, making nausea and vomiting worse. (5) Since you and other pregnant women probably already experience all-day nausea, you might want to skip the spice.
Spicy foods often cause stomach irritations and digestive issues. When you’re pregnant, the main concern with diarrhea is the possibility of dehydration. For this reason, if you are going to eat spicy foods you should increase your intake of fluids. Also, if you’ve never craved hot food before, it is best to start with milder types and consume less to build a tolerance before working up. (5)
Thirsty after all the Spice?
Read our article on healthy drink options!
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Alternative Options to Cheetos and How to Deal with Cravings
Now you know pregnant women can eat Hot Cheetos while carrying an unborn baby, by doing so in moderation. But perhaps you want to stop the cravings or avoid any negative side effects from eating Cheetos or any other odd junk food combinations. Read on for better healthy food alternatives to eat.
First off, the main way to prevent pregnancy cravings is to make sure you eat well-balanced meals throughout the day. (2) Also, if regulating a healthy diet is difficult to manage on your own, make sure you have a lot of emotional support. Whether that be from a partner, a friend, or a parent, having someone to encourage you can keep you mentally on track with your food goals.
Another good option which has been mentioned before is eating whatever you’re craving but in moderation. If you have it set up in your mind that you’re never allowed to eat a certain type of food, it makes it very difficult to control yourself once you do have it. (3) This prevents one thing leading to another when you allow yourself some indulgence.
Lastly, here is a list of some alternative food options that are scientifically proven to be healthiest for you and your unborn child! (6)
- Salad greens
- Sweet potato
- Lean meat
- Meat substitutes like tofu
- Peanut butter
- Brown rice
- Whole-wheat pasta
- Citrus fruits
- Dried fruits
Limited to 6 teaspoons a day…
Source: Family Health Centers of San Diego (6)
To recap, pregnant women can eat Cheetos, but they may experience heartburn, morning sickness and/or diarrhea. Eat in moderation and listen to your body. Now that you know what may be causing your strange craving for Cheetos and how to help it, hopefully, your mind is a bit more at ease. Being a new mom and trying to take care of the growing baby inside you can be confusing and stressful at times, but you’ve got this!
- Yarnell, K. (2022, March 9). Can you eat hot cheetos while pregnant? Wholesomealive.com -a blog about Healthy Living. Retrieved June 24, 2022, from https://wholesomealive.com/can-you-eat-hot-cheetos-while-pregnant/
- Dragon, N. (2017, October 27). Why pregnancy can make you have weird cravings. intermountainhealthcare.org. Retrieved June 24, 2022, from https://intermountainhealthcare.org/blogs/topics/intermountain-moms/2016/10/why-pregnancy-can-make-you-have-weird-cravings/
- Greenwood, V. (2020, July 15). The surprising reason why pregnant women get cravings. BBC Future. Retrieved June 24, 2022, from https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200715-the-surprising-reason-why-pregnant-women-get-cravings
- Brady, J. (2022, May 18). Can you eat Cheetos while pregnant? [with 4 yummy alternatives]. Green Baby Deals. Retrieved June 24, 2022, from https://greenbabydeals.com/can-you-eat-cheetos-while-pregnant/
- Macapagal, J. (2021, June 10). Can you eat hot cheetos while pregnant? Spicy Foods explained. Birthing For Life. Retrieved June 24, 2022, from https://birthingforlife.com/can-you-eat-hot-cheetos-while-pregnant/
- Family Health Centers of San Diego. (2022, March 9). An essential guide on what to eat during pregnancy. Family Health Centers of San Diego. Retrieved June 24, 2022, from https://www.fhcsd.org/prenatal-care/what-to-eat-during-pregnancy/