The Most Dangerous TikTok Food Trends You Should Never Try
If you're on the food side of TikTok, your feed has been filled with tasty viral dishes like baked feta pasta, pesto eggs, and salmon rice bowls. But occasionally some dangerous food trends also make their way onto TikTok. Some present major food safety hazards or could be harmful to your health, while others make some far-reach bogus medical claims.
We consulted a food safety expert and registered dietitians about some of the most dangerous food trends that have made their way onto TikTok. From Nyquil chicken to "what I eat in a day" diaries, here are 10 risky food trends spotted on TikTok.
(Plus, be sure to skip the 8 Worst Fast-Food Burgers to Stay Away From Right Now.)
This alarming "sleepy chicken" trend resurfaced early in 2022 after first showing up on social media a few years ago, says Cara Harbstreet, MS, RD, LD, of Street Smart Nutrition. The idea is to brine or marinate raw chicken in NyQuil, an over-the-counter cold and flu medicine, before boiling or pan-frying.
"Simply put, this is absolutely not a safe way to consume either chicken or cold and flu medication," she says. Most of the videos show content creators using upwards of half a bottle of NyQuil, which is far greater than the recommended dose, Harbstreet points out. Also, most of the chicken appears very undercooked, especially after boiling times of as little as five minutes, Harbstreet says. This is a clear food safety concern, as the minimum safe internal temperature for chicken is 165 degrees Fahrenheit, she points out.
From a medical safety standpoint, it's hard to tell what the actual ingested amount of NyQuil would be if you were to ingest this chicken, but it very likely exceeds what the recommended dose is, she says.
Plus, boiling a medication increases its potency, says Rachel Fine, RDN and owner of To The Pointe Nutrition. Consumers should use medicine as directed on the label, she says.
Toaster Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
TikTok is filled with hacks on how to make things better and faster. So that's probably how the idea of sticking a cheese sandwich into a toaster to yield grilled, er, toasted cheese came about. However, a food safety rule of thumb is to always use equipment for its intended purpose, says Janilyn Hutchings, a Certified Professional in Food Safety (CP-FS) who works for StateFoodSafety as a food scientist. "Toasters aren't designed to act as panini presses, and trying to use one to make a grilled cheese sandwich can spark a kitchen fire," she says.
Washing raw chicken
If you love tuning into TikTok for recipes, you may have come across a tutorial that starts with a creator washing their chicken breasts. But this is actually a food safety no-no. "When you wash raw chicken—or any other type of raw meat—in your sink, pathogens on the chicken hitch a ride on the splashing water and spread to every surface nearby, including the sink and nearby counter space," Hutchings says. In other words, by washing raw chicken, you could potentially contaminate your sink, counter, and other surfaces (things like nearby utensils) with Salmonella or other bacteria, she explains.
While you could spend time cleaning and sanitizing your sink and countertop after rinsing chicken, it's much easier to prevent their contamination in the first place by not washing raw chicken.
"There is no good reason to wash raw meat," Hutchings says. "Washing does not eliminate any pathogens and increases the risk of getting a foodborne illness."
Nacho tables became the supersized version of nacho platters, with heaps of tortilla chips and toppings spread out on foil and covering an entire table beckoning communal grazing. Without plates or utensils, this is simply a cross-contamination event waiting to happen, says Hutchings.
"For it to be safe, every single person eating would have to wash their hands before touching the nacho table, every single time," she says. "All it would take for the entire table to become contaminated is one person forgetting to hand wash and handling the food on the table with unwashed hands."
There's also another consideration, Hutchings cautions: When you eat, your mouth produces more saliva, which sprays out when you chew or talk. A nacho table with no sneeze guard is more likely to get contaminated by the people milling around it.
'What I Eat in a Day' videos
The trend of content creators documenting what they eat in a day may not be concerning from a food safety standpoint, but it's still dangerous, Harbstreet says.
"The majority of these videos are highly curated and scripted to show a very idealized day of eating," she says. "The purpose for most creators who share them is to provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their life, but what isn't shown off-camera is the cost, time, and energy it takes to produce that day's worth of food."
The videos typically document very healthy, fresh, cooked from scratch—and there's nothing inherently wrong with any of this if that's a personal preference and within reach for you, she says.
"However, the issue lies in how it's framed as 'if you eat like me, you can look like me,'" says Harbstreet. "This contributes to orthorexic tendencies—the unhealthy obsession with healthy eating—and disordered eating behaviors."
A glut of energy drinks
Energy drinks often make cameos in influencers' TikTok videos (#SponCon!) While there's probably not much to worry about if you occasionally reach for an energy drink after a rough night's sleep, over-consuming them can lead to some unintended consequences, Harbstreet says.
Energy drinks can have 200 milligrams or more of caffeine (FWIW: the average cup of coffee has about 80 milligrams), she points out. The excess caffeine, Harbstreet explains, can result in heart palpitations, nausea and vomiting, shakiness, raised blood pressure, and in the most extreme cases, seizures or death.
But caffeine isn't the only ingredient of concern, she says, as the "proprietary" or "herbal" blends of some energy drinks include undisclosed vitamins, minerals, herbs, botanicals, amino acids, or other compounds.
"Since energy drinks fall into the supplement category, they aren't regulated with the oversight of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and energy drink brands don't have to disclose what's in these vaguely described blends or verify that the labels reflect what is actually in the can," Harbstreet says.
Drinking chlorophyll water
While adding chlorophyll drops into your water is likely safe, believing the claims that your green water can have curative powers takes the trend too far.
Chlorophyll water doesn't actually use the same chlorophyll compound found in plants; instead, it's chlorophyllin, Harbstreet explains. There are minor chemical differences between the molecules, but the supplemental chlorophyllin used for this trend is similar.
"While there are many health claims—everything from clearing your skin to 'detoxing your blood'—it's up for debate how effective it actually is," she says. "This trend is likely safe, given that you consume the recommended dose."
You may experience some minor GI discomfort, diarrhea, or dark stools, though. If you take a pass on pricey supplements, Harbstreet says. know that you can also get chlorophyll from dark green veggies like spinach, kale and collard greens, arugula, and broccoli.
Dry scooping pre-workout supplements
Pre-workout is a dietary supplement that is marketed towards gym enthusiasts, and you may see some fitness influencers in your feed "dry scooping" before they hit the gym.
"The dangers with the TikTok trend of dry scooping pre-workout are many," says Noah Quezada, a registered dietitian nutritionist and CEO of Noah's Nutrition.
"Not only could you choke on the supplement, but there is also the potential for toxicity if not taken in the correct amounts."
For example, caffeine can be dangerous in high doses and can cause heart problems, trouble breathing, and even death. The average amount of caffeine in pre-workout ranges from 100 milligrams to 400 milligrams, he says, and he points to research published in the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology that shows less than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day is not linked to any overt, adverse effects. "The bottom line is that you should be aware of the ingredients in your pre-workout supplement, and make sure to drink it with water," Quezeda says.
Squeezing lemon in coffee
Will squeezing a lemon in your coffee help expedite weight loss, as some on TikTok claim? Sorry, there's no evidence to support that theory, Quezeda says. But the Cleveland Clinic points out that doing so could cause heartburn and, over time, harm your tooth enamel.
As for the weight-loss potential, lemons do have some nutritional value. A wedge of lemon has about 6 percent of the daily value for vitamin C, Quezeda says. But, adding them to your coffee doesn't have much nutritional significance, he says. "While coffee does increase the number of calories we burn at rest, a cup of joe will not outweigh a healthy diet and daily physical activity."
Putting garlic in your nose
Some on TikTok have claimed that putting a clove of garlic in your nostril will clear out your sinuses. But this is a horrible idea, cautions Victoria Glass, M.D. with the Farr Institute.
"Only a physician should insert an object in your nose for medical purposes," she says. If you're looking to clear out your sinuses, she recommends a humidifier, nasal saline spray, or placing a warm towel in your face. Save your garlic for the next iteration of baked feta pasta.