One of the difficulties faced by expectant mothers is the need to eat a special kind of food which may or may not be healthy. This is known as FOOD CRAVINGS.
Food cravings during pregnancy 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 cope with overwhelming food cravings can be challenging for the mom-to-be, however, with some effort a healthy nutritional balance can be achieved.
Method One of Two:
Learning What Your Cravings Are Really For
√ Understand that some cravings are the body’s way of indicating a deficiency in nutrients:
Learn the important nutrients, such as protein, carbohydrates, iron, etc. so that you can isolate the healthy nutrients in the cravings you are experiencing. Try to recognize what nutrient your body may be lacking, before giving into your craving.
• 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.
• Cravings for cheesy foods and milk products could be the body’s way of indicating there is a need for more calcium.
• A sudden desire for a meal of chicken or beef may be an indication that the body is in need of more protein.
√ 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.
• 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.
This technique may not always eliminate your cravings for unhealthy foods, but chances are that at least some of the time, it will. There’s also a good chance that you’ll fill up more on the healthy foods, and have less room for indulgences.
√ Remember to eat everything in moderation:
If you have a craving for something like cheesecake (or another sweet, for instance) that cannot be replaced by a healthier alternative, it is okay to have it once in a while.
A good rule of thumb is that having your treat of choice (for instance, that delicious piece of cheesecake) once a week is okay. What we are trying to avoid is having it in excess, such as every day.
Method Two of Two:
Coping With Food Cravings During Pregnancy
√ Don’t let food cravings get in the way of a well-balanced diet:
During pregnancy, obtaining the proper nutrients in your diet is key, not just for your own health but for the health of the growing baby inside of you. While indulging your food cravings in moderation from time to time is okay, don’t let it come at the expense of an overall healthy diet.
Healthy recommendations for pregnancy are (serving breakdown) a diet comprised of 20% protein, 30% fat, and 50% carbohydrates.
To break it down based on the food pyramid, an example of a healthy diet during pregnancy would look as follows: 6-11 servings of grains, 3-5 servings of vegetables, 2-4 servings of fruit, 3-4 servings of dairy, and 2-3 servings of meats, beans, or nuts. Note that whole grains (and non-refined sources of carbohydrates) are a better choice, especially when it comes to keeping your blood sugars in a healthy range.
√ Have healthy snacks available at all times:
This way, if you are having a craving, before you reach for a slice of cake or a piece of candy, you can see if you can satisfy your hunger with one of your pre-made healthier snacks.
√ Be aware of your weight gain and the impact food cravings may have on this:
In today’s society, with rising rates of overweight and obese women, excessive weight gain during pregnancy can be a concern. If weight gain is a concern for you, avoid cravings for desserts and high-fat foods (such as processed foods) or high-calorie foods (such as excessive carbohydrates).
On average, you need to consume only 300 more calories per day during pregnancy than you did prior to pregnancy. Although you are “eating for two,” the second is a very small baby so the calorie requirements during pregnancy are not much different than prior to pregnancy.
The average woman should gain between 20 to 35lbs during pregnancy. However, it depends on your weight prior to pregnancy, so speak to your doctor if you want specific recommendations for your own weight gain during pregnancy.
Know which cravings are okay and which are dangerous. Although most cravings during pregnancy are okay in moderation, some women actually get cravings for non-food items such as dirt, clay, or laundry starch, among others. This condition (of cravings for non-food items) is called “pica.”
While incompletely understood, it is hypothesized that pica may be due to low iron or other nutrient deficiencies (shortages of vitamins or minerals) in the body.
If you experience cravings for non-food items on any consistent basis, it is best to see your doctor for further advice.
Craving during pregnancy is normal but not paying attention to the amount taken is detrimental to health. Know which cravings are healthy and those that are dangerous. Take the healthy ones with moderation and stay away from those that are satisfying but unhealthy, not because of you alone but because of the innocent child in you.
Stay healthy always.