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Can You Eat Cheetos While Pregnant? [with 4 Yummy Alternatives]

written by Jen Brady  |  updated July 21, 2022

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Pregnancy + cravings go together like cheese + crackers (yum). But what happens when you’re craving something you know is kinda not great for you?

Here’s what you’ll learn today:

Disclaimer time: Although I studied holistic nutrition, I’m not a doctor or a biochemist. I research ingredients because we all need to look out for ourselves. My goal is to choose what I believe is “safer” based on what I discover. If you have any concerns about the products below or any others, please ask your doctor or midwife.

Can you eat Cheetos while pregnant?

Well of course you can eat Cheetos during pregnancy, but should you? Given the inclusion of unhealthy fats, MSG, and artificial flavors and colors, I’d choose an alternative crunchy cheesy snack to kick your pregnancy craving.

Can you eat Hot Cheetos while pregnant?

Hot Cheetos have even more artificial colors. Given the inclusion of unhealthy fats, MSG, and artificial flavors and colors, I’d choose an alternative spicy crunchy cheesy snack to kick your pregnancy craving.

can you eat cheetos during pregnancy question mark on package

Cheetos: Pros and Cons

Cheetos have an interesting flavor and texture that’s not found in nature. Perhaps that’s why people are drawn to them. That and Chester the cheetah.

PROS

+ Convenient, on-the-go snack available at most stores

CONS

Contains natural and artificial flavors.
Contains artificial coloring.
Contains MSG.
Probably contains GMOs.

Cheetos Ingredients Breakdown

Here’s why I would put the brakes on purchasing Cheetos during pregnancy:

Natural and Artificial Flavors

In 2018, the FDA banned six synthetic food flavorings: benzophenone, ethyl acrylate, eugenyl methyl ether, myrcene, pulegone, and pyridine. Why? Because these chemicals have been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals.1

I’m telling you this because these chemicals are typically listed as “artificial flavors” on food labels.

The research continues. I feel it’s only a matter of time before even more chemicals are banned due to their potential risks.

This is why I always try to steer clear of these flavorings, especially during pregnancy.

Natural flavors might be marginally better, but still:

“In reality, ‘natural flavors’ are a far cry from what consumers might expect, as they can contain both artificial and synthetic chemicals (often used as processing aids).”2

Artificial Coloring

I hate it when artificial coloring is added to food. I get it: it’s more appealing. But when I see it in an ingredient list, I’m completely turned off.

Here’s why: many of them have been banned in other countries and there are studies showing they may impact behavior in some children.3

Knowing this can potentially affect children in this way, I’m going to avoid it whenever possible while pregnant.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

MSG is a flavor enhancer that is found in many foods, including Cheetos. It’s added to processed foods to replicate the umami flavor. Umami is a taste sensation similar to savory.

Here’s why I limit MSG during pregnancy:

“…although MSG has proven its value as an enhancer of flavour, different studies have hinted at possible toxic effects related to this popular food-additive.”4

Most Likely contains GMOs

There’s not enough scientific evidence yet to know what harm ingesting genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can cause us, but we do know more than 40 nations are now required to label it on their packaging. And in some countries, GMOs are banned entirely.

We also know GMOs result in increased pesticide use that’s getting into our foods. And that’s bad for the environment, us, and our unborn babies. The world’s leading cancer experts stated that glyphosate, a common herbicide, is “probably carcinogenic to humans”.5

In the US the labeling of GMOs isn’t currently required. Here’s how to avoid them: if it’s certified organic, there won’t be any GMOs. You can also look for the “Non-GMO Project” certification found on many packages.

Frito-Lay (the maker of Cheetos) does make a few non-GMO snacks. These are slightly better choices than Cheetos.

4 Healthier Cheetos Alternatives

Here’s what I think: Cheetos are made with the cheapest ingredients available. In addition to what’s mentioned above, Cheetos also contains canola, corn and/or sunflower oil, enriched cornmeal, and whey protein concentrate. All of this isn’t great for you and baby. It’s an unhealthy snack.

So how can you kick that Cheetos craving? I’ve got 4 healthier suggestions:

1. Classic Cheese PeaTos

VEGETARIAN

PeaTos healthier Cheetos alternative during pregnancy

PeaTos markets itself as “junk food taste that’s plant-based.”

After looking at the label, that’s pretty accurate. Although not organic and a few other cons, these will probably be the closest flavor and texture to Cheetos.

PROS

+ Higher amount of protein and fiber than Cheetos.
+ No artificial colors or flavors.
+ No added MSG.
+ Non-GMO.

CONS

Contains natural flavors.
Contains cheap oil (sunflower and/or safflower).
Not organic.

Don’t go crazy with these: it’s still packaged food and far from perfect. But I’d choose these over Cheetos any day.


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2. HIPPEAS® Organic Nacho Vibes

VEGAN

Hippeas healthier Cheetos alternative during pregnancy

I’m impressed with HIPPEAS’ ingredients. Chickpeas provide you with a nice punch of protein and fiber.

But will it kick your Cheetos craving? Maybe. It’s worth a try.

PROS

+ No artificial colors or flavors.
+ No added MSG.
+ Non-GMO.
+ Certified organic.

CONS

Not as close as a flavor to Cheetos.

PREFER HOT CHEETOS? Try Sriracha Sunshine flavor (my son loves them).

Again, don’t go crazy with these. But the ingredients are some of the best you’ll find in the snack category.


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STOP

Are you overwhelmed trying to figure out what to eat during your pregnancy? Check out The Prenatal Nutrition Library.

3. Stove-Top Cheesy Popcorn

VEGAN

cheesy popcorn healthier cheetos snack during pregnancy
Photo by charlesdeluvio

If you’ve got a little time, consider a homemade snack.

You won’t be able to replicate Cheetos exactly, but you could satisfy both crunchy and cheesy cravings with this popcorn recipe.

PREGNANCY TIP: Don’t zap that popcorn. The microwave bags can contain PFAS, which can have adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Make your own stovetop popcorn almost as quickly as the crappy bag variety.

Use avocado oil because it’s healthier than most and has a high smoking point.

Save by buying organic popcorn kernels in bulk.

INGREDIENTS

3 Tbsp. of avocado oil
1/3 cup organic popcorn kernels
1 Tbsp. organic nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 tsp. sea salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat the oil in a 3-quart saucepan on medium heat.
  2. After it starts to get hot, put the kernels in and cover. Shake the pan around a while on the burner.
  3. Try to keep the lid slightly ajar to let the steam from the popcorn release. Once the popping slows down, take off the heat and dump into a bowl.
  4. Add salt and nutritional yeast flakes and toss while the popcorn is warm.

This makes enough for two people; store in an air-tight container and it’ll stay fresh for a few days.

PREFER HOT CHEETOS? Add some cayenne, chipotle, or chili powder (or all three) with the nutritional yeast flakes. I also like to drizzle a little hot sauce.

You can get the avocado oil, organic popcorn kernels, apple cider vinegar and nutritional yeast flakes on Amazon here.


4. Roasted Cheesy Chickpeas

VEGAN

These will take a little more effort than the popcorn, but are worth it for their protein-packed yumminess.

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups chickpeas (canned or pre-cooked if buying raw)
2 Tbsp. avocado oil
1 Tbsp. organic nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Rinse, drain and dry the chickpeas.
  3. Toss with oil, yeast flakes, salt and garlic powder.
  4. Spread on a baking pan (parchment paper optional).
  5. Bake for about 30 minutes or until crispy.

Store in an air-tight container at room temp and enjoy this snack for a few days.

MAKE IT SPICY: Add some cayenne, chipotle, or chili powder (or all three) with the nutritional yeast flakes. I also like to drizzle a little hot sauce.

You can get avocado oil, organic chickpeas, and nutritional yeast flakes on Amazon here.

How to Save Money on Pregnancy Snacks

how to save money healthy pregnancy snacks

1. Join TopCashBack. It’s free and the savings add up fast. Vitacost is on there and it’s often up to 6% cashback. It’s easy to redeem as well.

2. Use Honey. Forget trying to look up coupon codes. Use Honey and it’ll find the best usable codes when you go to checkout. I’ve saved hundreds.

3. Vitacost. No membership fee and there’s always a coupon code. Use TopCashBack and Honey with Vitacost, and your savings are huge.

Cheetos and Alternative Snacks Wrap-Up

Eating a healthy diet is essential for both you and your baby. I like to keep it simple and that always means simple ingredients.

I know choosing organic, more expensive snacks can be the opposite of saving money. I believe in putting your money where it matters most, and that’s definitely food, especially when you’re expecting. See the tips above to get the best deals.

I also believe most things in moderation will be OK. It takes some of the stress away. Less stress is good.

That’s all mamas, hope this helps! Congrats on taking one more easy step toward living a greener life for you and baby.

Peace love & baby kicks.

Care to share?

Sources

1. Erickson, Britt E. “FDA bans 7 synthetic food flavorings.” C&EN (Chemical and Engineering News), ACS, https://cen.acs.org/safety/consumer-safety/FDA-bans-7-synthetic-food/96/web/2018/10
2. Goodman, Matthew J. “The ‘Natural’ vs. ‘Natural Flavors’ Conflict in Food Labeling: A Regulatory Viewpoint.” PubMed, National Center for Biotechnology Information, 3 December 2018, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29140655/
3. Miller, Mark D.; Steinmaus, Craig; Golub, Mari S.; Castorina, Rosemary; Thilakartne, Ruwan; Bradman, Asa; Marty, Melanie A. “Potential impacts of synthetic food dyes on activity and attention in children: a review of the human and animal evidence.” PubMed Central, National Center for Biotechnology Information, 29 April 2022, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9052604/
4. Niaz, Kamal; Zaplatic, Elizabeta; Spoor, Jonathan. “Extensive use of monosodium glutamate: A threat to public health?” PubMed Central, National Center for Biotechnology Information, 19 March 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5938543/
5. “IARC Monograph on Glyphosate.” https://www.iarc.who.int/featured-news/media-centre-iarc-news-glyphosate/


Jen Brady author crunchy mama illustrationToday Parenting Team Contributor

About the Author

Jen Brady — Chief Green Mama
Mom of two. Wife of one. Holistic nutritional consultant. Amateur biohacker. Guide of the Green Yourself Pregnancy Challenge. Author of the Green Your Baby Registry Guide.

I'm wild about pregnancy and babies (in a sane way) and I need to steer you away from harsh chemicals and hormone disruptors. Stick with me to keep it lean and green.

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