Often food cravings and/or aversions are the first symptom of pregnancy. Cravings and aversions may last just a short period of time or you may find they last beyond pregnancy. While pregnancy is not the time to be watching your weight, you do need to be mindful about what you are eating (and not just filling up on the foods you crave). What you eat during pregnancy can influence your child’s health for years to come.
Craving and aversions during pregnancy may be linked to a number of factors, including:
– hormonal changes;
– increased nutrient needs;
– physiological changes (for example, the rate at which you digest your food decreases making it more difficult or uncomfortable for you to digest uncooked foods, resulting in aversions to salads and some vegetables); and
– psychological changes, especially if you are finding pregnancy overwhelming, which can also result in craving certain foods out of emotional comfort.
That said, the root cause of food cravings is still an unknown area, but there is a lot you can do to manage cravings and aversions and to support your growing baby.
Knowing how to manage your cravings and aversions can make all the difference to how you feel and ensure you are providing the best nutrition to support you and your growing baby.
Top tips for dealing with food cravings and aversions during pregnancy:
1. Easily digested food: if the thought of salads/vegetables is pushing you towards a bag of crisps, try opting for soups with rye or sourdough toast or smoothies (with a vegetable base), which will be more readily digested and provide a powerhouse of nutrients.
2. Avoid sugar rushes: avoid sugar highs and lows by choosing foods that will keep your blood sugar stable and by eating regularly (you may find 4/5 smaller meals easier, especially as pregnancy progresses). Instead of carbohydrates that break down quickly (white bread, white rice, pasta, sugars, sweets), opt for carbohydrates that release their energy slowly (wholegrains, brown rice, vegetables, pulses, legumes) and always include good quality protein and healthy fats at mealtimes.
3. Eat mindfully: before reaching for the food you crave, think about why you want that food, is it because you want something cold/hot/sweet or is it the flavour?
4. Get stocked up: be prepared and stock up your cupboards with nutritious supplies and always prepare a snack for you to have on the go (for example, a stash of nuts and oatcakes) – this will put you in good stead for when your baby arrives too.
5. Don’t deprive yourself: it is fine to have a little bit of the food you are craving and enjoy, just make sure you are not too hungry at the time so you don’t overeat.
6. Hydrate: drink enough water throughout the day. You may find iced water with natural flavourings (such as slices of lemon, cucumber or mint) satisfy some cravings.
7. Healthy alternatives: try these nourishing options for when cravings strike:
Sweet: strawberries with full fat Greek yogurt and coconut chips, banana ‘nice’ cream with nut butter, homemade granola with fruit (watch your portion sizes), bowl of porridge with sliced banana and seeds, frozen dates with nut butter, apple with 8-10 almonds, homemade trail mix (mix un-sulphured dried fruit with nuts and seeds (1:3 ratio)), homemade banana bread (without refined sugars), two squares of dark chocolate.
Salty: ¼ avocado on a slice of rye bread with chilli flakes, hard-boiled egg/hummus with vegetable dips.
Sour: grapefruit, melon or mango with lime.
Kristy is a qualified Nutritional Therapist and first-time mother. Her mission is to use the latest evidence-based nutrition to support you and your family. She has a special focus on nutrition for women for pregnancy and onwards, infants and children.
Kristy is running a Pregnancy Nutrition workshop at Frame Shoreditch on 28 April with Seedlip where you will get the low-down on how to nourish you and your baby during pregnancy, while sipping on (non-alcoholic) cocktails – perfection! Book your spot NOW.
Kristy will also be at Frame Kings Cross on 11 May running her hugely popular weaning workshop – early booking recommended!