Are you craving salty snacks more often now that you’re pregnant? If so, you’re not alone. Chips, especially the salt and vinegar variety are commonly craved food.
Have you ever wondered if it’s safe to eat salt and vinegar chips pregnant? This article unpacks the risks and benefits to help you make the best choice for you and your baby.
Salt and vinegar chip nutrition
Salt vs. Sodium
These two words are often used interchangeably but they don’t technically mean the same thing. Salt is what most people are familiar with. It’s the thing you add to food.
Sodium on the other hand is a mineral that makes up salt. Salt may also be referred to as sodium chloride because it’s made up of about 60% sodium and 40% chloride.
Salt is added to foods for flavor, increased shelf life, and preservation. However, too much could be related to health concerns during your pregnancy.
We discuss salt and amounts that are safe during pregnancy in the next section.
Salt & Vinegar vs. Regular chips
You might think that because of the name, salt and vinegar chips are much higher in salt than other chips. The truth is, they aren’t.
Comparing three varieties of Lay’s chips, there isn’t much difference. A serving size of 1oz or about 15 chips, their Classic chips have 170 mg of sodium. The same serving size of their Salt & Vinegar variety has 220 mg, and their Dill Pickle chips have 210mg. All within 50mg of each other.
The biggest difference is with their Lightly Salted variety, which is “made with 50% less sodium than [the] original recipe” and contains only 65 mg for 15 chips.
The bottom line is that most chips, regardless of their flavor, have similar amounts of sodium.
Before getting pregnant you may have heard stories about strange pregnancy cravings. Now that you’re pregnant, you might have experienced some of them yourself.
Different theories exist as to why pregnant women crave certain foods, including fluctuating hormones, and potential nutrient deficiencies.
Weird cravings are often one of the first signs of pregnancy. In the first trimester, there is a spike in the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which are linked to the nausea and vomiting related to morning sickness.
For women who struggle with an upset stomach and morning sickness with excess vomiting, dehydration could be a concern. It’s theorized that you may crave salt if you’re dehydrated as your body’s way of fixing a nutrient imbalance.
Another theory is that as women move into their second trimester and adapt to their fluctuating hormones, they crave foods they were not able to eat during their first weeks of pregnancy. Essentially making up for a few weeks of poor appetite and not feeling well, salty snacks are a common craving.
There isn’t solid research to explain why certain foods are craved more than others, however, the combination of salt, vinegar and acid seems to be a common enough craving. That’s likely why salt and vinegar chips are so popular among pregnant women.
Reasons not to eat salt and vinegar chips while pregnant
While there is nothing inherently bad or risky about enjoying the occasional chip during pregnancy, they aren’t the healthiest food. During your pregnancy, you want to optimize your diet for the health of your baby.
A vital mineral for health and plays a role in many functions in our body, however, most people consume too much.
According to the U.S Dietary Reference Intakes, pregnant women should consume between 1,500mg and 2,300mg of sodium per day. To put this into perspective, 1 teaspoon of table salt provides 2,325mg of sodium, which is more than the recommendations, and most Americans consume about 3,400mg per day.
Over time, too much sodium in your diet may lead to high blood pressure, heart and kidney disease. Consuming too much salt during your pregnancy may cause upset stomach, puffiness, and increase your risk of pre-eclampsia, a complication caused by high blood pressure and swelling from fluid retention.
Chips are higher in fat because they are cooked with oil. Many chips these days are cooked with vegetable oils such as canola, corn or sunflower oils. These oils are high in omega 6 fatty acids.
It is recommended that these oils be consumed in limited amounts. A diet high in omega 6 fatty acids may lead to chronic inflammation which may contribute to certain chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
A diet high in these fats may also be harmful to your unborn baby. Research done in rats, shows that when pregnant rats consumed a diet with very high omega 6 fatty acids, negative impacts were seen including “altered concentrations of inflammatory proteins” in the liver. These changes may lead to complications during pregnancy or development concerns with the baby.
Vegetable oils are highly refined, therefore not as nutritious as other oils (like olive or flaxseed). They are also prone to oxidation when exposed to high heat, like the cooking process to make chips. Oxidation can produce harmful by-products that are unhealthy for you and your baby.
Healthier alternatives to chips
The next time you find yourself reaching for that bag of chips, try some of these healthy snack ideas focusing on whole foods instead. They’re sure to satisfy your craving for something salty and crunchy.
Packed with protein, healthy fats and fibre, nuts are the perfect food to snack on if you feel hungry and crave something salty.
All nuts are okay to eat during pregnancy, but walnuts are higher in omega 3 fats which may benefit the heart and brain development of your baby.
Ideally, you want to eat unsalted nuts, but if those aren’t salty enough for you, try half salted and half unsalted.
If it’s the crunch of chips you crave, then dried chickpeas will hit the spot. Chickpeas are an excellent source of plant-based protein, fibre, iron and folic acid, all of which are important for the growth and development of a healthy baby.
They are naturally low in fat, however, depending on the brand, they can be quite high in sodium. Search for ones that are lower in salt, or make them at home.
Fruit & Vegetables
Apple slices and peanut butter, or raw vegetables with hummus are both much healthier things to snack on during your pregnancy. Great sources of fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and low in fat, sodium and calories they are foods you should say yes to and include in your diet regularly. Be sure to thoroughly wash your fresh fruit and vegetables first.
Crackers & Cheese
This food pairing is the perfect combination of salty and crunchy, but a healthier option.
Crackers can be a good source of fibre and whole grains but look for low sodium varieties because some can be higher in salt.
Cheese provides protein and calcium. Hard cheeses are fine to eat during pregnancy. Safe options include cheddar, Swiss, parmesan, or gruyere. Cheeses to avoid until the baby is born are blue or mould-ripened cheeses, unpasteurized or soft cheeses, which can cause food poisoning.
Salt and vinegar chips, as with other chip flavours, are better to be avoided while pregnant. Due to their high salt and fat content, as well as the possible inflammatory properties of the types of oils used, healthier snack foods should be prioritized. Even post-birth, they are a food that should be consumed in moderation.
If you have high blood pressure, swelling or other conditions, it is best to get the advice of your doctor before you decide to add a bag of chips to your diet regularly.
Find answers to all your pregnancy questions with the Pregnancy Diet: Food & Recipes app. Packed with pregnancy safe and easy to make recipes, as well as an index of foods that you should and should not eat while pregnant, all written and reviewed by certified nutritionists.
- Can I eat salt and vinegar chips while pregnant?
Healthier foods should be prioritized. Store-bought chips are heavily processed, high in unhealthy fat and salt, and not recommended to eat during your pregnancy.
- Why am I craving salt and vinegar chips during my pregnancy?
The research is still sparse in this area. Some theories suggest fluctuating hormones or possible nutrient deficiencies are to blame.
- What are healthier alternatives to chips during pregnancy?
Look for foods that are good sources of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. Some ideas are nuts, dried chickpeas, and beans, fruit and vegetables, or crackers with hard cheese.
- What are the risks of eating too much salt while pregnant?
High amounts of salt may lead to high blood pressure, swelling, and possible pre-eclampsia, all of which can be bad for your baby. Talk to your doctor to get more information about the amount you should be eating.
- Can I eat chips while pregnant?
Chips are high in unhealthy fats and salt, and healthier foods should be prioritized during pregnancy. Try making them at home as a healthier option.