Pregnancy brings numerous rewards and a few challenges. By prioritising good eating habits well before you need to purchase maternity wear, you support your baby’s development and pave the way for a healthy and energy-filled pregnancy.
1. Unhealthy and Potentially Harmful Pregnancy Cravings
Some pregnancy cravings can be unique and even bizarre. Pickles and ice cream aside, women experiencing pica – a craving for something with no nutritional value – can crave non-foods such as dirt, burnt matches, stones, soap, or even chalk. More common are cravings for intensely salty, sweet, or fatty foods.
Many expectant mothers report a craving for very salty foods such as fries, potato chips, salted nuts, beefy jerky, cheese, fried chicken, and other fast foods. While the body needs salt, expectant mothers should not go overboard with salty foods and should watch their sodium intake. The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends no more than six grams of salt per day.
Cravings for chocolate bars, ice cream, or sugary drinks are common. High sugar foods tend to be refined and poor in nutrients. Too much sugar during pregnancy can lead to gestational diabetes, which heightens the risk of getting diabetes later in life and during future pregnancies. Try natural sweets foods such as banana, low-fat yoghurt with honey, or sprinkling date sugar on a fruit salad.
Processed meats such as sausages, salami, and deli meats often contain unhealthy chemicals such as nitrates and are very high in salt. If possible, avoid these preserved meats by trying a vegetarian version (available in most supermarkets).
Soft mould-ripened and blue-veined cheeses, such as brie and blue cheese, are also best avoided as they can contain harmful bacteria. Try soft processed cheeses such as feta, cottage cheese, mascarpone, mozzarella, or cream cheese, or any hard cheeses.
High Fat Foods
It’s not necessary to avoid all high-fat foods during pregnancy but a consistently high-fat pregnancy diet has been linked to obesity and/or liver disease in children.
2. Avoiding Cravings
Eat a Full Breakfast
Always eat a full and healthful breakfast that’s low in fat, sugar, and salt. Try fruit salads, whole grain toast with eggs, muesli and wholegrain cereals, or low-fat natural yoghurt with berries. Take time to savour each bite and never eat in a hurry.
Eat Highly Nutritious Foods
Emphasise natural, fresh, nutrient-dense foods. If you supply your body with the nutrients it needs, you’re less likely to give into cravings. Drink plenty of filtered water to stay hydrated.
Research suggests that many expectant mothers need more nutrients in their diet. Some of the vitamins and minerals that pregnant women don’t have enough of are:
- Essential fatty acids
Try and incorporate appropriate foods or take a supplement to make sure you get sufficient quantities of these vitamins and minerals.
Snack on Healthy Options
Whether you find yourself craving sweet or savoury foods, you can fight cravings easily by arming yourself with one of each before the common midnight or late-afternoon craving hits with full intensity.
- Unsalted nuts
- Your own trail mix
- Hot vegetable soup
- Unsweetened low-fat natural yoghurt with honey
- Low fat cheese
- Vegetable sticks
- A hard boiled egg
- Fruit salad
Being pregnant doesn’t mean you should give in to all food cravings. As you are eating for a growing baby, it’s actually another reason to eat more healthfully and stay disciplined. Stay active as is appropriate for your situation – swimming is a great activity for pregnancy and you will also have an excuse to pick out some fabulous maternity swimwear.
Moderation is the Key
Listen to your body but apply common sense and discipline. Unless you have a specific medication condition or your doctor or nutritionist has prescribed a special diet, there’s nothing wrong with giving to your cravings once in a while. If in doubt, always consult your doctor.