What Do I Do?
You’ve probably heard that when you become pregnant you suddenly become hungry for pickles and ice cream – a combination of sweet and salty foods that would typically not be associated as being appetizing together. It is not necessarily that you now love the thought of these foods being paired together, but a combination of hormonal, physical, and emotional changes that might make you crave even unhealthy foods during pregnancy. Some women also experience food aversion, where foods you previously enjoyed eating now become nauseating at the thought of them. If you’re pregnant and concerned about your cravings, take stock of what might be missing from your diet and take steps to improve those eating habits.
Why Do I Have Cravings During Pregnancy?
There are several theories as to why women experience cravings during pregnancy, and there is probably some truth to most of them. The first real reason why you might be craving a certain food is that your hormones are surging. This surge in hormones then causes changes in the way you perceive smells and experience taste. So while you might think you are craving ice cream, you might actually be craving either something cold, smooth, or sweet, and ice cream just seems to fit the need at the time.
There is also an emotional component to cravings. Maybe you’re a sweet binger when you are stressed, and your pregnancy is a cause of stress for you. Perhaps you and your partner are just so excited about the pregnancy that you want to experience all aspects of it – including stereotypical runs at midnight for ice cream.
Some researchers also believe there is truth to the idea that women crave foods that provide nutrients that they are lacking. For example, if you are craving chocolate milk, it might be that your body actually needs more calcium. There are sometimes, however, when dangerous cravings called pica can overwhelm a pregnant mother.
What is Pica?
Pica is basically a condition where you eat non-nutritious and often realistically inedible foods. It is believed that it is a combination of emotional and physical factors that might make women eat such things as dirt, crayons, wood chips, and more. This is an extremely dangerous condition – if you find yourself with these types of cravings, talk with your doctor immediately.
What to Eat During Pregnancy – and Avoid Those Unhealthy Cravings
One of the most important things you should discuss with your doctor is what to eat while you’re expecting. Everything you consume affects your unborn baby – some positively and some negatively. In general, make sure your foods come from a variety of the food groups, are low in fat and sodium, are as fresh as possible, and add as many positive health benefits to your pregnancy as possible.
On average, women of a healthy pre-pregnancy weight should gain between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy. Gaining more weight than this can cause your baby to be born heavier and make labor and delivery more difficult, it puts extra strain on your body, sets up your baby for possible health complications after birth, and makes feeling energized at home with your newborn even more difficult.
If you are experiencing unhealthy cravings and aren’t sure what to eat during pregnancy, try these methods for substituting foods and activities for unhealthy cravings.
- Use portion control. Have smaller meals eaten from smaller plates.
- When you crave something such as ice cream, try to figure out if there is an actual ingredient that might be causing the craving and focus on getting that from a healthier source.
- Allow yourself a special treat once a week (as long as it is an edible food that doesn’t include alcohol).
- Try baked foods instead of fried.
- Flavor your own carbonated water with natural fruits instead of filling up on sodas.
- Substitute frozen yogurt for ice cream.
The foods you put into your body during pregnancy have many effects and consequences. Work with your healthcare provider to maintain a healthy weight that is full of nutritious foods, and if you really want to give into that craving for ice cream at midnight, make sure you start the day with an exercise routine.
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