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The best tips for controlling pregnancy cravings

Sweet, sour, salty or, better yet, the three of them combined. Food cravings during pregnancy are very common. Many mums-to-be struggle to control their appetite and not give in to their strong cravings in the weeks and months before the birth.

While most pregnant women don’t develop quite as exotic eating habits as often portrayed in films or TV series, it’s very common to feel hungry more often and have more appetite during pregnancy. When do pregnancy cravings start? What are the most common pregnancy cravings? How to control food cravings in pregnancy?

What causes pregnancy cravings?

Experiencing food cravings in pregnancy is totally normal for mums-to-be. But why is it that chocolate, crisps and other snacks suddenly become so tempting in pregnancy although they are absolutely not part of a healthy pregnancy diet?

Pregnancy cravings are often a result of low blood sugar levels. During pregnancy, the body produces more insulin than usual. The hormone is responsible for breaking down sugar and making it available to the body.

If there is an excess of insulin, the available sugar is broken down faster than usual. As a result, the body demands a higher sugar intake, hence the cravings.

Other reasons for cravings during pregnancy

Too much insulin is, however, only one possible explanation for food cravings during pregnancy. In fact, there is still no real consensus in science as to where pregnancy cravings come from.

Some scientists say that food cravings in pregnancy are due to hormonal changes that take place in the body during pregnancy. Others think that cravings are an indicator for a lack of certain nutrients in the body.

Recent studies further suggest that pregnancy cravings could be associated with certain changes in the mothers’s brain. Increased dopamine sensitivity in the brain's reward centre could be the reason why intense feelings of happiness are released when eating food that is perceived as delicious during pregnancy. This in turn creates a desire for more.

Other factors that can increase food cravings during pregnancy include:

  • irregular meals
  • lack of sleep
  • boredom
  • stress and frustration
  • mental stress

Weird pregnancy cravings

Nutella bread with pickles, cold cuts with jam... pregnant women are often said to have the strangest eating habits. When the hormones start playing up, mums-to-be can develop pretty unusual cravings in pregnancy.

However, not all women develop weird eating habits during pregnancy. In many cases, it's simply a craving for a particular flavour or food. Many pregnant women report almost irrepressible cravings for sweets (chocolate being high up on the list), sour foods (e. g. pickles or lemons), salty foods (e. g. salt sticks or crisps) or fatty foods such as fast food.

Compared to these common pregnancy cravings, the pica syndrome is far less common. Pregnant women with pica syndrome develop cravings for non-edible things such as sand or chalk. Cravings for non-digestible objects should not be taken light-heartedly, since they can cause severe harm to mother and baby. Signs of pica syndrome should therefore always be discussed with a GP or another health professional.

How to deal with cravings during pregnancy

In order to prevent uncontrolled eating which could lead to excessive pregnancy weight gain, mums-to-be need to get their pregnancy cravings under control. Here are a few tips that can help you better deal with food cravings.

  • Have a small snack: It’s never a good idea to try to suppress food cravings once they make themselves known. Trying to suppress them typically leads to the cravings becoming stronger and stronger until they are so overwhelming that you finally give in. That’s why the best thing to do is to have a little snack as soon as the cravings start.
  • Prefer healthy snacks: Pregnant women should cut down on sugar and fat, which is why cookies, chocolate or cake are not a good snack choice in pregnancy. Prefer a piece of fruit or a small meal that is high in fibre. We’ll tell you more about good snack options for mums-to-be in the next section.
  • Don’t eat for two: It’s often said that pregnant women need to eat for two. However, this is not true. In fact, the mother’s body only requires very few extra calories during the first months of pregnancy. Even during the last trimester, the extra calories needed to supply the growing baby are far below what a fully grown adult requires in calories per day.
  • Look for possible distractions: The more you focus on your pregnancy cravings, the worse they become. That’s why distraction is the best strategy to deal with food cravings. Go for a little walk in the fresh air or do some pregnancy yoga to forget about the uncomfortable feeling.

Tips for preventing pregnancy cravings

The best way to deal with pregnancy cravings is to prevent them straight from the beginning. It’s a lot easier to prevent food cravings than it is to control them. Here are a few tips that can help you.

  • Eat a balanced diet: Eating a healthy, balanced pregnancy diet that contains plenty of protein and fibre can help prevent food cravings during pregnancy. That’s because protein and fibre keep you full for a long time. Mindful eating is just as important.
  • Get into exercising: Physical activity is important during pregnancy. Not only is it beneficial for body and soul, but exercising also helps regulate hunger and stabilise your metabolism.
  • Eat several smaller meals throughout the day: Instead of eating three large meals per day, pregnant women should eat several smaller meals throughout the day. This can help stabilise blood sugar levels, which in turn reduces the likelihood of food cravings. Eating less but more often can further help prevent nausea during pregnancy.
  • Drink plenty of fluids: Many adults mistake thirst for hunger and respond to their body’s signals by eating a snack. Many women feel more thirsty during pregnancy. Drinking plenty of fluids helps quench your thirst and further prevents you from eating unhealthy snacks when what your body really wants and needs is a low-calorie drink. Suitable beverages for mums-to-be include water, diluted fruit juices and unsweetened fruit or herbal infusions.
  • Enjoy sweets consciously: Eating a healthy diet does not mean giving up sweets and other treats completely. It’s rather about eating sweets with moderation and savouring them consciously to really celebrate the occasion. This also helps to avoid cravings.

In cases where it’s not possible to prevent food cravings during pregnancy, mums-to-be should opt for healthy snacks. Healthy snack options include:

  • slice of wholemeal bread with a dip or with avocado
  • apple, banana or another piece of fruit
  • nuts
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • vegetable sticks with hummus or herbal quark dip
  • raw vegetable salad with nuts, seeds or kernels

Conclusion: controlling pregnancy cravings is not that hard

It’s completely normal to experience food cravings during pregnancy. So there’s no need to worry if you have an increased appetite for sweet, savoury or sour foods - or even a combination of different flavours. The most important thing is to know how to control food cravings to prevent excessive weight gain which can have negative consequences for mother and baby.

Sticking to a healthy, balanced diet and eating several small meals throughout the day are effective means of preventing pregnancy cravings. Engaging in physical activity and drinking plenty of fluids can also help regulate appetite.

In order to prevent binge eating and excessive weight gain, mums-to-be shouldn’t hesitate to have a healthy snack, such as a piece of fruit, some nuts or vegetable sticks with a dip, whenever they are overcome by food cravings. Looking for a distraction is also a good strategy for dealing with cravings.

The best tips for controlling pregnancy cravings

2024-01-24 12:00:00
The best tips for controlling pregnancy cravings - The best tips for controlling pregnancy cravings

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