Are Nachos + Nacho Cheese Safe When Pregnant?

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Written by Gina Wagg BA, Dip.

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Nachos are a fun and delicious option to liven up meal time, but are they safe to consume when pregnant? And what about other products, like nacho salads from restaurants or canned nacho cheese?

Nachos from restaurants and other take-out nooks are safe to eat while pregnant, but make sure they’re served piping hot.

As for other nacho-inspired products, some research shows nacho salads carry a higher risk of listeria contamination and other foodborne illnesses, so avoid these products to lower the risk of illness.

Some nacho cheeses from jars or bottles are safe to consume, but leftovers should be stored properly.

Read on to learn more about how to enjoy your favorite snack safely during your pregnancy!

Can I Eat Nachos When Pregnant?

Nachos are a popular craving among pregnant women. They’re spicy, salty, and crunchy, not to mention a popular option at most restaurants.

Cravings and aversions are perfectly a normal part of pregnancy. So what do they mean? Scientists aren’t totally sure, but they might mean you are lacking nutrients that can be found in the food item you can’t stop thinking about.

For example, if you are craving nachos for that cheesy and salty flavor, you might be lacking sodium. Or maybe you are low in protein and calcium, which can be found in cheese. Or it could also be that your hormones are simply going wild!

Nachos typically have four main ingredients: chips, some sort of protein, fresh vegetables, and of course, nacho cheese. Let us take a look at them one by one.

nachos chips with cheese

Chips

Chips are processed food, and therefore contain sodium and saturated fat.

Sodium is an important nutrient during pregnancy. It has been proven that an adequate amount of sodium in your diet can aid with the regulation of plasma volume for supporting your growing baby. However, excessive intake can lead to hypertension and water retention, which can cause bloating and edema (source: Cambridge).

Saturated fat also has its pros and cons. It can be beneficial as it helps your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins, but excessive amounts can lead to heart problems (source: Harvard).

Protein

Chicken, beef, pork, turkey, and tofu can be used to make nachos. These are all great options as long as the handling process is sanitary. Protein sources should be cooked completely to avoid food-borne illnesses.

One concern here is whether or not the restaurant you choose for nachos has kept these ingredients at proper temperatures during storage. According to the CDC, leftover cooked meats should be kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit after 2 hours of initial cooking to avoid food spoilage (source: CDC).

Make sure you also follow these recommendations at home to lower the risk of contamination.

Vegetables

In restaurants, vegetables are sometimes served together with chips and cheese. Consumption of raw vegetables during pregnancy can pose the risk of toxoplasma gondii contamination, which can cause the disease known as toxoplasmosis.

Toxoplasma gondii can be transmitted through uncooked meat, cat feces, and even unwashed vegetables. While it can go undetected by average people, it can be very dangerous to your unborn baby (source: Colorado State University).

To learn more about how to wash your produce during pregnancy, read this article here.

Cheese

We’ll discuss nacho cheese in more detail below.

Can I Eat Nacho Cheese During Pregnancy? Is It Safe?

Cheese in general should be carefully consumed when you are pregnant since the risk of listeria contamination is possible (source: APA).

Listeria outbreaks have happened many times before, and some of them were even linked to nacho salads that were served in restaurants (source: NIH). 

nacho cheese in a small white bowl and nacho chips

Restaurants in the U.S. use pasteurized milk and cheddar cheese for their nacho cheese sauce as this is more stable and not easily spoiled, which allows them to keep it in stock for a longer period of time.

While pasteurized cheese is much safer than unpasteurized, storage conditions can still be an issue. Cheese should not exceed 30 degrees Celsius while in storage (source: Food Protection). 

Some ready-made nacho cheese options are pasteurized thus lowering the risk of foodborne illnesses such as listeria. However, it is still best to reheat these products until they are boiling hot before consuming them to eliminate any chances of contamination.

Here are some examples of nacho cheese that is safe during pregnancy:

El Mexicano Nacho Cheese Sauce

Rosarita Nacho Cheese Sauce

Chef-mate Que Bueno Nacho Cheese Sauce and Queso

Campbell’s Fiesta Nacho Cheese

Although these cheeses are deemed safe according to government regulations, the safest nacho cheese is the one you make yourself, since this allows you to control the ingredients and cooking process.

Here’s how to make a simple nacho cheese sauce at home:

1. Make a roux by melting butter and adding a tablespoon of flour.

2. Whisk this until combined and add some pasteurized milk.

3. Add your favorite hard or semi-soft cheese such as cheddar, mozzarella, American cheese, or even Swiss cheese.

4. Make sure your sauce reaches boiling to ensure safety.

Being pregnant doesn’t mean giving up the foods you love. It just means thinking more about your body and making healthy adjustments that can help keep you and your baby safe. We hope this article helps you satisfy your nacho cravings safely!