Who hasn’t heard of the famous – or infamous – cravings which women experience during their pregnancy? Is there an underlying cause for this seemingly uncontrollable and frantically urgent yearning for certain foods (and even non-foods)? Can it be managed? (husbands, read on!)
Classic Cravings you may experience
- Ice cubes, crushed ice, iced drinks and ice lollies
- Sour / Citrusy fruits, lemon, pickles
- Ice cream, doughnuts, chocolate, sweet fruits, soft drinks
- Potato chips, vinegary and savoury snacks
- Meats and cheeses
- Spicy food
- Non-food things, such as chalk, clay, corn starch
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Why do you crave certain foods?
To manage something, a good start is to understand its underlying cause. So, why do you have cravings for certain foods or odd combinations of foods during pregnancy? Although there is no definitive word on why pregnancy brings with it cravings but there are a couple of ways in which this topic has been subject to analysis.
a) This one is more of a myth than a medically proven, established fact and hence not to go by this explanation. Nevertheless, it is better to be informed, to enhance your ability to distinguish between myth and reality!
One theory is that pregnancy cravings are the window to what (read nutrients) your body lacks and really needs. Andrei Rebarber, MD, associate director of the division of maternal-foetal medicine at NYU Medical Center in New York said that “…it represents some nutrient that the mother may be lacking — and craving is the body’s way of asking for what it needs“. This means that craving for pickles and chips could indicate your body’s requirement for more sodium; yearning for cheese and chocolate lattes could mean you need more calcium or fat. “It’s not that the body actually needs the specific food you are craving, but it may need something in that food. And your taste buds just interpret it as a craving for something specific,” says Rebarber.b)
This theory is more medically oriented and could be counted as a reasonable explanation. The other theory is that the hormonal changes/ upheaval during pregnancy can and do have a huge influence on the olfactory (sense of smell) and the gustatory (sense of taste) systems. Due to this powerful impact, certain foods seem soothing and are coveted. Many foods inspire an aversion, a nauseous sensation and are therefore avoided. In food matters, every woman is likely to experience varied likes, dislikes, aversions, intolerances, cravings in pregnancy all of which are incomparable and subject to change as the pregnancy progresses. Is it possible to ‘manage’ these cravings?
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Yes! With a little planning and conscious decision making, you can actually manage your cravings apart from indulging/gorging in unhealthy foods when hunger pangs strike at non-meal times! Try and inculcate the following in your daily routine:
1) Ensure that you eat breakfast every day. Starting your day with a wholesome meal will go a long way to ensuring that you snack less or not at all till lunch.
2) Try to store healthy snacks at home (cut fruits in a bowl, salads, baked-instead-of-fried munchies etc.) and even in your car (whole wheat granola bars etc.).
3) Eat a balanced diet including protein, dairy, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes. When your nutritional needs – and those of your baby – are met with whole meals, your craving for other foods will lessen.
4) Eat small but frequent meals throughout the day. Drops in blood sugar may trigger food cravings, hence avoiding an “empty stomach” with five to six small meals a day will help.
5) Try to distract yourself with chores and errands, reading, calling and meeting up with friends (but not at restaurants!).
6) Instead of going for the bigger packs of chips and the bigger bars of chocolates, buy only small packets and sizes. Portion control while purchasing will automatically limit and reduce your intake of unhealthy foods.
7) The urge to eat ice cubes/ icy cold drinks could simply be indicating your raised body temperature and may be assuaged by increasing your water intake – in the form of lentil water, tender coconut water, buttermilk, fresh juices and the like.
8) Instead of binging on chocolates and ice cream, consume sweet fruits, gur/ Jaggery etc.
9) Please note that in the event that you are craving non-food items such as mud, corn starch, clay etc., make sure that your Obstetrician is aware of this craving.
Must Read: How to Eat Healthy At Work For Pregnant Moms