Pregnancy cravings are believed to be caused by hormonal changes that occur in the body. Generally, the first trimester is when the majority of cravings occur, but it is not uncommon for those cravings to last for the duration of the pregnancy. Finding ways to deal with overwhelming food cravings can be challenging for the “mom-to-be”, however, with some effort a healthy nutritional balance can be achieved.
Make Healthy Food Choices
When attempting to satisfy your pregnancy cravings, always try to do so while choosing the healthiest food possible.
Remember the consequences of overeating. An occasional indulgence will not harm you or the baby. On the other hand, over-indulgence can lead to unnecessary weight gain which can increase health risks. Remember that moderation is the key.
Have healthy snacks available at all times. If you’re having a craving for something sweet, before you reach for a slice of cake or a piece of candy, try munching on a bowl full of berries instead. Berries are rich in natural sugars and are much healthier than sugary processed foods.
Decipher What Your Pregnancy Cravings are For
Not all cravings are bad for the body. There has been speculation that some pregnancy cravings are the body’s way of indicating a deficiency in nutrients. For example, while a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread may not be the healthiest sandwich choice, a craving for one may indicate a need for more protein in the diet, as peanut butter is high in protein.
Before giving into your craving, try to understand what nutrient your body may be lacking. Learn the important nutrients, such as protein, carbohydrates, iron, etc. so that you can isolate the healthy nutrients in the cravings you are experiencing.
- A sudden desire for a meal of chicken or beef may be an indication that the body is in need of more protein.
- Cravings for cheesy foods and milk products could be the body’s way of indicating there is a need for more calcium.
Try to incorporate the nutrient into your diet in a healthier way. Instead of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, make yourself a peanut butter, honey and banana smoothie.
Try to find creative ways to incorporate different foods into your diet. Replace unhealthy food cravings with healthier versions of similar foods.
Understand that hormones can alter the way things taste. Foods that may have never been on your favorite list may now be replacing your long time favorites. It is perfectly acceptable to indulge your new pregnancy cravings, as long as you do so in a healthy manner.
- If you are craving something salty, try reaching for a few salted nuts rather than reaching for that bag of potato chips.
- Replacing your craving for a glazed fruit-filled pastry with some fresh fruit is a healthy option that still allows you to get the sugar you desire without consuming all those extra calories.
- The key is to keep healthy choices in mind for these new cravings and to refrain from over indulging.
Focus on lower calorie foods that can be substituted for what you are craving at the moment. Perhaps that craving for ice-cream can be satisfied with a lower calorie helping of yogurt. Try adding a little extra cheese on your turkey sandwich before ordering the cheesy fries you are craving. This technique may not always eliminate your cravings for unhealthy foods, but chances are that at least some of the time, it will. There is also a good chance that you will fill up more on the healthy foods, and have less room for indulgences.
Eat a Well-Balanced Diet
The more balanced your diet, the less likely you will be to have food cravings because your body will be getting more of the diverse nutrients it needs. The more nutrients you give your body, the less it will scream for those middle-of-the-night cravings.
Choose fresh fruits and vegetables over frozen packaged choices. If you do opt for frozen produce, make sure that it’s been flash frozen to preserve more of its nutrients, and read the labels for any added ingredients to avoid.
Include dairy foods and lean protein as well as whole wheat products.
Keep it healthy, even if you do indulge. If nothing will do but that cheeseburger you’ve been craving, opt for a whole grain bun instead of white, and stick with nutritious toppings of lettuce, tomato and low-fat cheese. When your diet is balanced, a small portion of a not-so-healthy food won’t crowd out the nutrition your baby needs.
Refrain from indulging your unhealthy pregnancy cravings on a regular basis. Keep it at a minimum of once or twice a week to avoid over indulgence.
Work at finding healthy substitutes that you can tolerate. Try eating smaller portions of a healthy meal choice frequently throughout the day. By eating regularly, you may avoid a drop in blood sugar that can set off unhealthy food cravings. Nausea and an increased sense of smell can lead to food aversions and set off a routine of eating less than healthy meals.
Limit your caffeine intake. Caffeine should be consumed only in moderation, if at all. Hot or cold tea and coffee, soft drinks and energy drinks may contribute to low birth weight and increase the risk of miscarriage. It is recommended that a pregnant woman limit her caffeine intake to approximately 200 milligrams a day.
Pay attention to the portion sizes when you do indulge your cravings. Keep in mind that you are trying to maintain a healthy and nutritious diet to promote the health of your baby, as well as to preserve yours.
Do not allow yourself to use food as a way to increase your comfort level or use your pregnancy as a means of justifying your lack of healthy diet choices. Rather than turning to food in an attempt to make yourself feel better, try to indulge your other senses with things that you like to do.
- Try taking a walk or calling a friend to lift your mood and get your mind off of eating.
- Bake up a batch of healthy whole grain muffins full of nuts or cranberries.
- Read a book or glance through your favorite magazine.
- Use distraction to ward off cravings.
Avoid foods that are considered a health risk for pregnant woman. Learn which foods are potentially harmful during pregnancy and avoid them at all costs. Remember that all you ingest can cross the placenta and affect your baby. No matter how strong your cravings may be, stay away from known food dangers.
- Alcohol should always be avoided as it can prevent normal fetal development.
- Herbal teas have not been proven to be safe for pregnant woman. Scientific consensus is that some herbs should be avoided during pregnancy, as should unpasteurized juice, milk and any foods made from it.
- Undercooked or raw eggs should always be avoided during pregnancy, as meat and eggs can carry several types of harmful bacteria.
- Raw vegetable sprouts such as alfalfa, radish, clover and mung bean should be avoided due to the risk of salmonella and E.Coli infection.
Speak to your health care provider if you find yourself craving unusual food items such as corn starch, flour or another less than practical food substance.
- Occasionally, pregnant woman have cravings for more than just odd food items. Cases of women craving paper, ashes, paint chips, dirt and other peculiar items have been reported. This is a condition known as Pica, which can indicate an iron deficiency.
- Refrain from acting on such urges and seek help from your doctor. Eating odd things like this can lead to bowel blockage or cause a feeling of fullness which will interfere with proper nutrition for the baby.
- It is best to make routine visits to your doctor for the duration of your pregnancy. Regular visits allow your provider to stay alert to any potential hazards that you or your baby made be at risk for.