Can You Eat Corn Dogs While Pregnant? [Plus Healthy Alternatives]

Cravings during pregnancy are real and potent. You might go for days craving nothing but corn dogs, only to find them disgusting the following week.

When you are craving those corn dogs, you may be concerned about whether or not to eat them. You are trying to grow a healthy human, after all. 

It is fine to give in to those cravings and have a corn dog or two when you are pregnant. They are safe to eat when fully cooked. However, they aren’t particularly healthy.

The preservatives in the hot dog and the fact that the whole thing is fried make it a tasty but overall unhealthy snack. For pregnant women is best to include a corn dog with a balanced meal with plenty of fresh fruits and veggies.

Continue reading for information on the safety aspects of eating corn dogs during pregnancy and some advice on balancing the desire to fill the craving with the need for healthy nutrition.

We also discuss the benefits of cooking methods for re-heating storebought corn dogs.

DISCLAIMER: While this information was prepared by a certified dietitian, it is NOT a medical advice. Please consult your own medical professional before altering your diet. The information is strictly for educational purposes.

Risks Of Eating Corn Dogs / Hot Dogs In Pregnancy

A corn dog is a hot dog dipped in a cornbread batter and deep-fried.

So when we look at how safe it is to eat a corn dog, we need to consider the ingredients & the final product as a whole. 

Hot dogs are a highly processed meat product. The USDA has clear guidelines about what ingredients can be included in a hot dog and how they can be prepared.

corndogs

While the ingredients are cooked in the manufacturing process, you should always keep hot dogs refrigerated or frozen and cook them completely before eating them.

You should also eat them while they are hot as food-borne bacteria can grow quickly at room temperatures.

1. Food-borne Illness From Listeria Monocytogenes

Hot dogs need to be cooked before they are eaten.

The FDA states that they should be brought to a steaming hot temperature before eating to reduce the risk of a listeriosis infection. This point holds true for any kind of deli meat or lunch meat.

Pregnant women are more likely to catch listeria and suffer from a worse infection than others.

Therefore, they should thoroughly heat all pre-cooked packaged meats before eating. 

Listeria is an unusual bacteria because it can grow at refrigerated temperatures, unlike other food-borne illnesses.

It is found in many ready-to-eat animal products, like meat, poultry, seafood, unpasteurized dairy products, and vegetables grown in contaminated soil. 

The FDA explains that an infection caused by this bacteria causes gastrointestinal problems, fevers, headache, dizziness, loss of balance, and confusion.

In extreme cases, it can lead to death. However, some people, even pregnant mothers, may be infected and not show any symptoms at all. 

A listeriosis infection is dangerous for an unborn baby. The FDA outlines the dangers starting with the possibility of miscarriage in the first trimester.

It can also cause premature labor, low birth weight, intellectual disability, paralysis, seizures, and blindness.

There may even be damage to an infant’s organs like the heart, lungs, and kidneys. 

While this all is frightening, you can prevent listeriosis by ensuring that your hot dogs, corn dogs, and other deli meats are cooked all the way through before you eat them. 

2. Health Risks From Sodium Nitrates

Hot dogs and other deli meats have sodium nitrates in them as a preservative. This ingredient helps maintain the color and taste of the food and protects against the growth of harmful bacteria like listeria.

Like many other ingredients, the answer to whether or not it is safe to eat foods with sodium nitrate preservatives is not clear-cut.

Scientists have conducted many studies to determine if there is a link between eating processed meats and developing cancer. Despite extensive testing, the answer remains unclear.

In 2005, Dr. Ute Nothlings and her colleagues found that eating high amounts of processed meat and red meats did have a connection to the increased likelihood of pancreatic cancer.

However, in 2012, Dr. Nothlings and another group of colleagues completed another similar study and found no significant relationship between eating meat and pancreatic cancer. 

The conclusion we should draw from this and other confusing and conflicting information is to eat in moderation. Ask your doctor if you have concerns about preservatives in foods.

3. Avoid Excess Sweeteners In The Cornbread Coating

It is absolutely safe to eat corn during pregnancy. In fact, it is a healthy addition to your diet.

Corn is high in fiber, folic acid, B complex vitamins, and antioxidants. As with all foods, you should eat corn in moderation as it could cause gas. 

However, cornbread is not just corn. It often contains sugar as a sweetener, and commercial varieties may have high fructose corn syrup.

Eating excessive amounts of sugar and other sweeteners can lead to uncontrolled blood glucose or weight gain. 

4. Fried Foods Add To The Risk Of Gestational Diabetes

Furthermore, the whole cornbread coating and the hot dog inside are deep-fried.

Pregnant women who eat fried foods more than once a week run a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes than those who don’t.

This doesn’t mean you should never eat a corn dog while you are pregnant, but you should keep it to one or two on occasion, not one or two at every meal. 

Nutritional Information About Corn Dogs

The exact nutritional information for each brand of corn dog will vary, but here are some approximate numbers from corn dogs that are fried from a fast-food restaurant. One corn dog has approximately

  • 230 calories (120 of these are from fat)
  • 12 g of total fat (20% DV)
  • 4 g of saturated fat (20% DV)
  • 0g of trans fat
  • 15 mg cholesterol
  • 480 mg sodium (20 % DV)
  • 23 total carbohydrates
  • 6 g protein (12% DV)
  • Negligable amounts of vitamins and minerals
Delicious Corndogs

In short, a corn dog should be a tasty, once-in-a-while treat; not a staple of your diet. It doesn’t provide any significant nutritional value.

Corn Dog Options

If you are concerned about what all is in the corn dogs you are craving, you might consider making them at home so you have more control over the ingredients.

You can choose the healthiest hot dogs from the store and make the cornbread coating yourself. 

Healthier Hot Dog Brands

While all hot dogs are highly processed foods, you can make some better choices about which ones you choose. For an all-beef hot dog, choose Organic Valley’s Uncured 100% beef hot dogs.

If you are looking for a lower fat option, try Hebrew National 97% fat-free beef franks. Applegate makes a good choice for a natural uncured turkey hot dog and an uncured beef and pork hot dog

For people who prefer vegetarian or vegan options, try Field Roast’s hardwood smoked Stadium dog or Upton’s Naturals Updog

Homemade Cornbread Coating

When you mix up your own cornbread coating you can control the amount and type of sugar that you include in the batter. Try this basic recipe for cornbread mix:

Combine 1 ½ cups of finely ground yellow cornmeal, 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, ¼ cup granulated sugar, 1 Tablespoon baking powder, and ¼ teaspoon salt.

In another bowl, combine 1 ¾ cups buttermilk, 1 large egg, 1 tablespoon of oil, and one tablespoon of honey. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well. 

You can substitute your favorite sweetener for the sugar in his recipe, or leave it out if you want less sweetness.

Making The Corn Dogs

Heat 3” of oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit in a deep pot like a dutch oven. Insert long wooden skewers into the hot dogs.

Pour batter into a tall cup that you can dip the hot dog into vertically. Dip the hot dog into the batter and swirl as you remove it. 

Lay it into the hot oil at an angle by holding onto the stick with tongs so you don’t burn yourself.

Once the batter starts to cook for about 10 seconds, you can let go and let the corn dog finish cooking in the oil for about 3-4 minutes. 

Only cook 2-3 at a time to keep the temperature high. Let them cool on a wire rack when they are finished cooking.

Substitutions for Healthier Homemade Corn Dogs

Alternatives for Healthier Homemade Corn Dogs

Vegetarian Hot DogsField Roast’s hardwood smoked Stadium dog or Upton’s Naturals Updog. 
Uncured Hot DogsContain no sodium nitrates
Low-Sugar Corn Dog BatterSubstitute sucralose or stevia for sugar in the cornmeal breading
Dairy-Free Corn Dog BatterSubstitute dairy-free milk and add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar

Best Choices For Store-Bought Frozen Corn Dogs

Health-wise, pre-made corn dogs are all about the same. However, a few stand out as being tastier and higher quality than others.

Be sure to heat corn dogs until the center is piping hot to ensure that any harmful bacteria have been killed. 

You can deep-fry store-bought corn dogs, but that adds additional fats.

If you are craving a corn dog, consider heating it in an air-fryer for a crispy coating or in the oven if you just want the taste.

1. Beef Corn Dogs

The State Fair 100% Beef Hot Dogs are a top choice for a store-bought corn dog. State Fair only makes corn dogs and has for over 50 years, so you can count on their tradition of excellence.

One good thing about these corn dogs is that you can heat them in the oven, the microwave, the air-fryer, or the deep-fryer.

Of course, deep-frying adds more fats, so you might want to try one of the other options during pregnancy. 

2. Vegetarian Corn Dogs

For those who prefer a vegetarian option, Morningstar Farms offers a tasty choice. These corn dogs have the same crunch, snap, and sweet and salty combination as a carnival meat-based corn dog.

And, like other brands of frozen corn dogs, you can microwave, bake, air-fry, or deep fry these vegetarian corn dogs.

Concluding Thoughts

When you are pregnant, it is natural to worry and want to do all the best things for you and your baby, including eating a healthy diet.

However, it is good to take care of yourself too. If you’ve got a mighty craving for corndogs, it is safe for you to have one or two. 

Making homemade corn dogs gives you a lot more control over the ingredients in the corndog and in the cooking process so you can tailor it to your nutritional needs.

You should not go overboard though, as too much of anything can be bad. If you have any concerns about your diet, health, and your baby’s health, you should discuss details with your doctor. 

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