Can I Eat Kraft Mac and Cheese While Pregnant?

Eating well-balanced meals is important during pregnancy, but cravings and comfort foods are hard to resist. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is a popular, affordable, and easy-to-make comfort food that many pregnant women wonder if they can enjoy in moderation. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about the safety, nutrition, and risks of eating Kraft Mac and Cheese while pregnant.

Key Takeaways: Eating Kraft Mac and Cheese During Pregnancy

  • Kraft Mac and Cheese is generally safe to eat in moderation during pregnancy for most women when prepared properly.
  • It is important to evaluate the nutritional value of Kraft Mac and Cheese and be aware it is high in calories, fat, and sodium without many essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Potential risks like foodborne illnesses from unsafe handling and high blood pressure from excess sodium make moderation and food safety practices important.
  • Homemade mac and cheese or whole grain and protein-enriched store varieties are more nutritious options women may want to substitute.
  • Each pregnancy is unique, so discuss cravings, diet, and weight gain goals with your doctor and modify intake accordingly.

Is It Safe to Eat Kraft Macaroni and Cheese During Pregnancy?

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is generally considered safe to eat during pregnancy. It contains common ingredients found in many other packaged and homemade foods that pregnant women safely consume.

However, as with any packaged convenience food, there are some safety considerations to be aware of when handling, preparing, and consuming Kraft Mac and Cheese while pregnant:

Use Proper Food Safety and Cooking Practices

As with any food, proper handling, cooking, and storage of Kraft Mac and Cheese is important during pregnancy to reduce risks of foodborne illnesses like salmonella or E. coli. Always follow package cooking instructions, check internal temperature with a food thermometer, and refrigerate promptly after preparing.

Avoid Raw Eggs, Undercooked Ingredients

Some homemade macaroni and cheese recipes call for raw or undercooked eggs. Raw and undercooked eggs carry a small risk of salmonella infection which can be harmful during pregnancy. When making mac and cheese at home, use pasteurized eggs or cook the eggs thoroughly. Kraft Mac and Cheese does not contain raw eggs.

Evaluate Sodium Content

Kraft Mac and Cheese is high in sodium, containing about 800-900mg per serving which is 35-40% of the recommended daily intake. Consuming high sodium foods can increase swelling and blood pressure complications. Those with hypertension or preeclampsia may need to limit intake.

Allergies and Intolerances

Mac and cheese contains milk, wheat and soy ingredients. Those with food allergies or intolerances like lactose intolerance should modify their diet accordingly. Consult your doctor about allergen risks.

As long as you handle and cook it properly, avoid excessive daily intake, and don’t have complications affected by sodium, eating moderate amounts of Kraft Mac and Cheese during pregnancy is considered low risk by most medical experts.

Nutritional Value of Kraft Mac and Cheese

Understanding the nutritional value of Kraft Mac and Cheese can help pregnant women make informed decisions about including it in a healthy pregnancy diet.

Here is the nutritional information for a 1 cup serving of prepared Kraft Mac and Cheese:

  • Calories: 220
  • Total Fat: 9g
  • Sodium: 880mg
  • Carbs: 26g
  • Protein: 8g

Macronutrients

Kraft Mac and Cheese is high in calories, carbohydrates, and fat compared to the amount of protein. It lacks fiber. The fat content is mostly from milk and cheese. The high refined carb and sodium content and lack of fiber and protein makes it not very nutrient dense.

Micronutrients

Compared to whole food options like whole grain pasta and real cheese, Kraft Mac and Cheese lacks many essential vitamins and minerals. It provides some calcium and vitamin A, but otherwise contains minimal vitamin C, iron, or other vitamins.

Added Preservatives

Boxed mac and cheese contains added preservatives like powdered whey, milk protein concentrate, and food starch to maintain shelf stability. These food additives are considered safe, but less processed options have fewer additives.

While Kraft Mac and Cheese can provide some calories and dairy nutrients like calcium, its lack of essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein along with high sodium, refined carbs, and fat content make it a nutritionally poor meal choice.

Potential Risks of Eating Kraft Mac and Cheese While Pregnant

In addition to the general safety considerations mentioned previously, there are some potential health risks to be aware of when eating a lot of Kraft Mac and Cheese during pregnancy:

Weight Gain and Obesity

Kraft Mac and Cheese is high in calories and fat but low in nutrients. Eating it frequently can contribute excess calories and lead to excess weight gain during pregnancy which increases risks of complications.

Gestational Diabetes

The refined carbs and lack of fiber in Kraft Mac and Cheese cause a spike in blood sugar when eaten. Eating high glycemic foods regularly can increase risk of developing gestational diabetes in susceptible women.

High Blood Pressure

The high sodium content (880mg per serving) may exacerbate pregnancy-related high blood pressure like preeclampsia and lead to swelling in some women. Those with hypertension should limit intake.

Heartburn

Common pregnancy discomforts like acid reflux may worsen when eating fatty, creamy foods like mac and cheese for some women.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Relying on low nutrient foods like Kraft Mac and Cheese can make it hard to meet increased vitamin and mineral needs during pregnancy. Taking prenatal vitamins helps offset deficiencies.

Foodborne Illness

Eating any food that is improperly handled, cooked, or stored can cause foodborne illness during pregnancy from bacteria like E. coli or salmonella. Follow all food safety practices.

While the risks are generally low, eating Kraft Mac and Cheese in moderation as part of an overall balanced diet is recommended for minimizing potential complications. Discuss any concerns with your prenatal care provider.

Healthier Alternatives to Kraft Mac and Cheese

Pregnant women looking to indulge their cravings for mac and cheese in a more nutritious way can consider these healthier homemade and store-bought alternatives:

Homemade Baked Mac and Cheese

Making baked mac and cheese at home allows you to control the ingredients. Use whole grain or lentil pasta, real cheese, and low-fat milk for more nutrients. Add vegetables like broccoli or spinach to increase vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Annie’s Mac and Cheese

Annie’s organic mac and cheese products available in grocery stores contain no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. Options like the Shells & White Cheddar are lower in fat and sodium than Kraft. Read labels for nutrition facts.

Amy’s Rice Pasta Mac and Cheese

Amy’s makes several organic, vegan and gluten-free rice pasta mac and cheese flavors that are made with digestible cheese alternatives and are lower in fat, sodium and calories.

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Roasting cauliflower florets and blending into a cheesy sauce over pasta boosts nutrition with added veggies. You control the ingredients to be healthier.

Whole Grain Pasta with Beans or Veggies

Make your own quick stove-top mac and cheese with whole grain pasta, low-fat milk, real cheese and add protein-rich beans, broccoli, peas or other veggies. Use reduced sodium seasonings.

With some simple ingredient swaps and recipe adjustments, you can still satisfy cravings for cheesy pasta in pregnancy that provides way more nutritional value than Kraft Mac and Cheese.

Guidelines for Eating Kraft Mac and Cheese While Pregnant

If you choose to eat Kraft Mac and Cheese occasionally during pregnancy, following these guidelines can help minimize risks:

  • Eat in Moderation – Stick to 1 cup serving sizes a few times a week maximum as part of a balanced diet. Don’t eat it daily.
  • Increase Protein – Balance mac and cheese with side proteins like chicken, fish, beans, or nuts to help fill you up.
  • Watch Sodium Intake – Limit other high sodium foods on days you eat it to reduce risks of excess sodium consumption.
  • Stay Active – Continue regular pregnancy-safe workouts to help burn extra calories and balance fluid retention.
  • Manage Weight Gain – Monitor your weight gain and calorie intake and adjust your diet if exceeding recommendations.
  • Take Prenatals – Take a complete vitamin supplement to help fill any nutritional gaps in your diet.
  • Drink Extra Water – Stay well hydrated since sodium can cause bloating and swelling.

Using moderation, paying attention to your overall diet, and discussing any concerns with your doctor can help minimize risks if you occasionally indulge in cravings for Kraft Mac and Cheese during pregnancy.

Frequently Asked Questions About Eating Kraft Mac and Cheese While Pregnant

Can I eat Kraft Mac and Cheese everyday if pregnant?

Eating Kraft Mac and Cheese everyday is not recommended during pregnancy. While it is okay for an occasional treat, eating it regularly provides too many empty calories, sodium, preservatives and not enough essential vitamins and minerals. Rotate a variety of healthier meals and save mac and cheese for a once a week treat.

Why is Kraft Mac and Cheese bad when pregnant?

Kraft Mac and Cheese is not the most nutritious choice during pregnancy because of its high calorie, fat, carb and sodium content and lack of protein, fiber and vitamins. Eating it frequently can contribute to excessive weight gain and nutritional deficiencies. But occasional moderate servings are okay for most women when handling it safely.

What are the healthiest boxed mac and cheese brands?

Some healthier boxed mac and cheese brands include Annie’s, Amy’s, and Cheddar Explosion. They contain less artificial ingredients, sodium, fat and more protein and fiber than Kraft. Read nutrition labels and ingredients lists when comparing brands. Homemade baked mac and cheese using whole grain pasta and lots of veggies is also a good option.

Can Mac and Cheese cause gestational diabetes?

It is unlikely Kraft Mac and Cheese alone directly causes gestational diabetes unless eaten in large excess. However, frequently eating refined high glycemic carb sources like mac and cheese may contribute to increased risk of developing gestational diabetes in women already susceptible. Limit sweets and simple carbs from any source and follow your doctor’s diet advice.

Is homemade mac and cheese healthier than boxed?

Yes, homemade mac and cheese made with whole grain pasta, low-fat dairy, and added vegetables is much healthier and more nutrient-dense than boxed varieties. You can control the ingredients to reduce calories, fat, sodium and increase fiber, protein and nutrients. But don’t use raw eggs in the recipe. Follow good food safety practices.

The Bottom Line on Eating Kraft Mac and Cheese During Pregnancy

Cravings for comforting foods like Kraft Mac and Cheese are common during pregnancy. Occasionally enjoying it in moderation when prepared properly is generally safe for most healthy women. But relying on it too frequently can have negative effects on nutrition and health.

Aim to balance intake of high calorie, low nutrient foods like Kraft Mac and Cheese with more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy and healthy fats in your overall pregnancy diet. Consider modifying recipes or swapping in more nutritious store-bought alternatives to help satisfy cravings in a healthier way.

Discuss any diet concerns with your doctor and follow their recommendations for foods to limit or avoid for your individual health needs and pregnancy risks. Sticking to safe food handling practices, managing weight gain, staying active, and taking prenatals is also important when eating comfort foods like Kraft Mac and Cheese in moderation during pregnancy.