Finding Balance in Your Pregnancy Diet

A craving for potato chips might be a sign that you need more calories, especially if your diet is low in fatty foods. Other cravings can be learned behaviors that are associated with certain contexts, like eating popcorn while watching late-night movies.

Often, these are for foods high in salt or sugar. But how can you know whether it’s a craving or real hunger?

Nutrient Deficiencies

There are times when cravings can be a warning sign of a nutritional deficiency. When a pregnant woman craves nonfood items, such as dirt, laundry detergent, ice, corn starch or clay, it is referred to as pica and can indicate that she needs more iron in her diet, which can lead to anemia. If this happens, it is important to contact a healthcare practitioner.

In general, most experts agree that indulging in pregnancy cravings in moderation is a good idea because it can help make sure the pregnant woman has enough protein, healthy fats and quality carbs to support both her and her baby’s growth and development. However, they also stress that the women should try to incorporate some of the recommended nutrients into their meals and snacks as well.

For example, some experts note that pregnant women often have a craving for cereal, which is fine because it provides a lot of folic acid and vitamins, as well as a variety of healthy carbohydrates. Other experts recommend choosing low sugar cereals, or ones with whole grains, as they can provide fiber and nutrients that the mother needs.

Other cravings can be a result of increased blood volume, which increases the need for sodium and salty foods, such as chips, pretzels or pickles. Those cravings should be satisfied with more healthy options, such as vegetables or nuts.

Another thing that can cause a craving for an item is the smell or texture of a food, such as meat. Many pregnant women have this reaction because their bodies are trying to protect the fetus from potential harmful bacteria. This is why it is best to stick with a vegetarian diet during the first trimester of a pregnancy, since most women will experience this type of craving.

It’s also worth noting that a person may crave the opposite of what she actually wants to eat, such as chili cheese fries when she really wants a salad with fruit and veggies. These types of cravings are more psychological than physiological, so if they are occurring frequently, it may be helpful to talk to a professional.

Environmental Stimuli

While a craving for sweet foods is the most common pregnancy craving, Fiuza notes that women can crave other foods too, including savory items and cold or chilled food. She says it’s fine to indulge in these cravings, as long as they are part of a healthy diet.

Nonfood cravings, like soil, ice, clay and toothpaste (pica) are less common, but can still occur. These cravings should be evaluated by a health care professional as they can indicate a nutritional deficiency or may be associated with other serious issues.

Some people also have aversions to particular foods during certain parts of their pregnancies. Aversions tend to start around the same time as cravings do, and can involve any food group. Some aversions are specific, such as meat and eggs, while others are more general, such as a dislike of a certain smell or flavor. Aversions can last longer than cravings, or go in and out throughout the course of a pregnancy.

Research has shown that food cravings can alter dietary intake and lead to excessive weight gain. It’s important to talk to your health care provider about how much weight you should gain, as this varies for everyone and is dependent on factors such as prepregnancy weight and body mass index. In addition, it’s important to be mindful of portion sizes. Indulging in excessively large portions of sugary or fatty foods can quickly lead to excess weight gain, which isn’t good for either mom or baby. In addition, some studies have shown that cravings can be influenced by nonfood environmental stimuli such as the availability of a particular food, advertising or social media messaging.

True Hunger

The most common pregnancy cravings are for sweet, fatty or salty foods. While these are often not the healthiest options, they are usually harmless and can be eaten in small amounts as part of a healthy diet. If you are craving for coffee and drinks, you should know the best starbucks drinks for pregnant women.

If your cravings are for non-food items, such as dirt, laundry starch, crayons or ground up clay pots, see a doctor right away because these can indicate a nutritional deficiency such as iron. This is called pica, and may also indicate an emotional or cultural component.

Hormonal changes in pregnancy, particularly the increase in estrogen and progesterone, are known to cause food cravings. These hormones can influence a woman’s taste and smell, which in turn can affect her appetite. In some cases, this can lead to a desire for foods that she did not like before getting pregnant. For example, a woman who didn’t normally like pickles may now crave them, which is often a result of the increased sourness caused by the rising levels of progesterone.

Some experts believe that a woman’s cravings are based on the nutrients found in certain foods. For example, a craving for fruit might suggest that the body is low in vitamin C, while a craving for dairy may indicate a deficiency of calcium. But this theory has not been scientifically proven. Instead, most nutritionists agree that it is more likely that a craving for a particular food reflects a desire for the emotion or texture associated with that food.

Pregnancy cravings can be difficult to manage, especially if you are not satisfied when eating more nutritious foods. Having frequent, small meals, such as a bowl of cereal with milk and bananas, can help control some unhealthy cravings. Another option is to snack on low-calorie, high-protein foods such as a handful of nuts or yogurt with berries.

Most experts say that it is okay to indulge in some of your pregnancy cravings, but don’t let them take over your diet. High-calorie foods can add unwanted pounds and raise your risk for gestational diabetes and high blood pressure levels. If your cravings for junk food are difficult to resist, try replacing them with healthier alternatives such as whole grains or a grilled cheese sandwich made with low-fat mayo instead of processed meats and slathered with peanut butter.

Emotional Eating

Pregnancy can be one of the most intense bodily transformations that a woman experiences. As a result, many women find themselves craving foods that they normally would not eat. In most cases, a healthy pregnancy diet is safe to satisfy these cravings as long as you avoid anything that could pose a risk of harm to you or your baby.

It is important to separate true hunger from emotional eating in order to determine whether or not you should give in to your cravings. If you are simply hungry, then choose a healthy food to snack on. If you are feeling emotionally upset or stressed, try to identify the cause of your emotion and then use other coping methods, such as exercise or talking with a friend.

Food cravings usually fall into one of four categories: sweet, spicy, salty or protein-rich. Despite folklore that claims that longing for sugary desserts predicts a girl and salty or protein-packed foods predict a boy, there is no evidence that food cravings are related to a baby’s biological sex. Cravings tend to begin in the first trimester and peak during the second trimester, but they can occur throughout pregnancy.

It’s also possible to have aversions to certain foods during a portion of a pregnancy, but this can often change as the pregnancy progresses. For instance, if you are a vegetarian but suddenly crave meat, it may be a sign that you have an iron deficiency. In this case, a healthy pregnancy diet that includes plenty of leafy greens and nuts will likely satisfy the craving.

Weird food combinations are common in pregnant women, including pickles wrapped in cheese and eggplant on pizza. These are not necessarily a sign of an nutritional deficiency but more likely a result of cultural norms and media messaging.

Some women experience a condition called pica, which involves craving nonfood items such as laundry starch or crayons. This may be a sign of iron or zinc deficiency and can be treated by taking supplements of these nutrients. However, it is important to seek medical attention if you are craving nonfood substances as this can be dangerous for both mother and baby.

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