Why do pregnant women get food cravings? And should we give in to every pregnancy craving that we have? Here’s what mums-to-be need to know.
Hankering for cheese toasties? Discovered a newfound love for red velvet cake? Or maybe you just want guava on everything! During pregnancy, many women experience food cravings for specific foods, usually sweet than savoury. These pregnancy cravings may have an underlying meaning to them beyond quirky changes in taste!
According to Medical News Today, pregnancy craving might happen because of an imbalance between serotonin and leptin, hormones responsible for reward and happiness.
Although scientists still haven’t found out the exact mechanics behind food cravings, nutritionists widely believe they indicate what our bodies are lacking.
Let’s say you’re craving for some chips in the middle of the night. This might mean you need more energy or calories.
Or if you really want to eat deep-fried chicken, your body might not have enough essential fatty acids.
While this makes sense in a general context, there’s a lot going on while you’re pregnant. The cravings may have slightly different implications.
The Meaning Behind Your Pregnancy Craving
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Food cravings during pregnancy are really common. Studies reported that 84 per cent of women worldwide claimed to experience some sort of pregnancy craving. But is it any different from normal?
When it comes to explaining why food cravings during pregnancy happen, there are two schools of thought.
The first is similar to the above; the body suffers from a dietary deficiency and is trying to tell you what it needs.
If you’re suddenly craving salty foods like French fries, this might mean you have low sodium levels in your blood. Find yourself reaching for a tub of ice cream? You may have low blood sugar.
As logical and functional as this sounds, Professor Judith Brown of the University of Minnesota hasn’t found any concrete evidence linking a pregnancy craving to nutritional requirements.
Weird Pregnancy Cravings
But how do you explain the weird cravings you get, like a sudden desire to eat wax or a handful of soil?
This phenomenon of wanting to eat non-foods is known as pica. It’s generally believed to be related to an iron deficiency.
For less extreme cravings, nutritionists have suggested hormonal fluctuations that cause changes in smell and taste.
According to studies show, high hormone levels present during pregnancy can alter both a woman’s sense of taste and smell. So certain foods and their odours may seem more enticing. This might explain weird combinations you suddenly want, like ice cream with pickles. Or you might even be in the mood for coffee when you normally don’t drink coffee!
Meanwhile, just the smell of some food is enough to make a pregnant woman throw up – this causes food aversion in pregnancy.
Does Your Pregnancy Craving Tell You About Your Baby’s Gender?
Type “pregnancy craving” on your web browser and you’ll most likely come across an article about “food cravings when pregnant with a boy,” or “food cravings when pregnant with a girl.”
Some seasoned parents say that pregnancy cravings also have something to do with their child’s gender. Craving for something sweet means you’re having a girl, while if you like salty food, you probably are getting a son.
However, just like the height of a pregnant woman’s stomach has nothing to do with the sex of the baby, the belief that the food you crave can give you an idea if you’re having a boy or a girl is merely a myth.
As mentioned earlier, your pregnancy craving can give you a sign of what nutrients your body needs, but it does not, in any way, predict gender. The only surefire way to find out your baby’s gender is through an ultrasound.
What You Can Do About Your Pregnancy Cravings
While the jury is still out on why food cravings happen or are as strong as they are, take heart! There are steps you can take to minimise the impact of these impulses.
The best way to overcome food cravings is to stay ahead of the curve!
1. Eat a balanced diet.
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You have been told you’re eating for two, but this does not mean you have to overeat. It’s important you’re not just eating enough, but eating the right stuff.
Having a balanced diet means getting enough protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Don’t forget about getting enough nutrients and vitamins to promote healthy growth for your little one!
2. Remember to eat at regular intervals.
Mum-to-be, your body is undergoing a lot of physical change. All the aches, pains, and constant feelings of wanting to puke can make you feel like you don’t have an appetite.
To limit food cravings, eat at regular intervals instead of waiting for hunger pangs as your cue. You can split your meal times up so you eat up to six small meals each day.
3. Keep healthy snacks on hand.
If you’re used to snacking, swap out junk food with healthier alternatives. Stock up on fruits and nuts so you can grab them nearby when you’re feeling peckish.
Also, remember to stop buying unhealthy food! If it’s not at home, you can’t be tempted to eat it!
4. Stay active.
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Doing exercise is a great way to starve off hunger pangs. It helps to control your hormone levels while providing a healthy distraction!
It might feel uncomfortable, but you can still exercise safely! Try swimming to keep your fitness levels up.
5. Pay attention to these cravings.
Rather than fight against every pregnancy craving, you can still treat yourself with healthy alternatives. If you feel the need for ice cream, choose low-fat yoghurt instead. It still satisfies the sweet tooth and gives your body the sugar it’s yearning for.
Nutritionists worldwide think food cravings might be your body’s way of telling you it needs more of certain nutrients. It can feel a bit disorienting at first but take steps to stay ahead, mummy-to-be, and you’ll be just fine!
Some women feel deprived and depressed when they aren’t allowed to eat certain foods, so as long as it will not harm your baby, go ahead, mum. Give in to your pregnancy craving from time to time. Just make sure to take everything in moderation and fill yourself up with nutritious foods.
If you are craving food that is deemed unsafe for pregnant women such as sushi, soda or canned food, it wouldn’t hurt to ask your doctor about it.
Beat food cravings by planning ahead. To know which foods are safe and not safe to eat while pregnant, check out our Food & Nutrition tool on our theAsianparent app, which you can download for free.
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Updates by Camille Eusebio
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