Cravings and Food Aversions During Pregnancyby Teresa Shaw | May 30, 2014 12:00 AM
Two sides of the same coin: you either are recoiled at the mere suggestion of certain foods, or you wake up at night drooling for a specific taste. What causes these opposite reactions to foods and what do they mean? How should you handle them?
According to a 2002 study, 61 percent of pregnant women experienced food cravings, while 54 percent had food aversions while pregnant. A whopping 80 percent of women dealt with nausea and vomiting at some time in their pregnancies. Researchers noted a link not between the onset of cravings and aversions, but the onset of morning sickness and food aversions. However, most women with cravings also experienced aversions as well, just not necessarily at the same point in their pregnancies.
Most doctors think the culprit behind these reactions to food is hormonally based. Progesterone and estrogen are quite elevated during pregnancy and are probably to blame. Stress can heighten the reactions, and improper diet can exacerbate symptoms as well.
Since this is highly linked to nausea and morning sickness, odds are you will see this symptom improve after the first trimester, or disappear completely by week 12. Most aversions are not permanent, so you should resume a normal taste for food post-birth. To avoid a trip to the toilet, avoid smells that you know will set off your gag meter. Ask hubby to avoid using raw onions when you are home, or wait until the eggs are cleaned up after his breakfast before going into the kitchen.
While you only need an additional 300 calories while pregnant, you do need to load all your calories with nutrient-rich foods. If you have an aversion to certain things, you may need to substitute something else to make sure there are no holes in your diet. If you have an aversion to:
- Meats then opt for other protein sources such as beans and legumes, dairy products, and egg yolks. Or snack on fortified cereals.
- Dairy then get your calcium from dark, green leafy veggies, or calcium-fortified orange juice.
- Vegetables then drink vegetable juice, fruit juice or a combination juice.
Cravings: When to Give In
Many women crave general tastes, such as salty foods, or sweets. Others have very peculiar cravings such as dill pickles with onion bagels, or barbeque chips with chocolate ice cream. When you have a craving, and you know it's not a nutritious choice, think of something that may satisfy your craving that is an appropriate substitute. For instance if you crave:
- Potato chips then opt for healthier things like pretzels, low fat popcorn, or baked chips or hummus and pita chips.
- Ice cream then choose another healthier dairy food like frozen yogurt, or low fat yogurt with granola.
- Hot dogs then get a healthier version such as a veggie dog, or a turkey dog.
- Candy then buy some dried fruits, raisins, or dip apple slices in vanilla yogurt.
- Soft drinks like colas then mix some seltzer with fruit juice for some healthier fizz.
When Cravings are Unsafe
Some women develop a craving for non-food items, like ice, clay, limestone, laundry starch, ice or other weird items. Don't think you're going crazy if it happens to you; call your doctor instead. This is a condition called pica, and your health provider can help you with this.
5 Tips for Handling Food Cravings
1. Don't let yourself get too hungry. Eat every few hours, but lightly. This will help with nausea and indigestion as well.
2. Buy healthy foods, and things you can grab and snack on without guilt. Keep the bad snacks out of the house. Have hubby eat his Krispy Kreme on the way home.
3. Keep things divided into appropriate portions. If you are buying in bulk, divide the items into snack sized portions and place in ziplock storage bags.
4. Find healthy condiments and add-ins for foods such as vanilla yogurt for sweet touches, plain for times you'd like sour cream, salsas, hot sauce, vinaigrettes, and low fat shredded cheeses.
5. Avoid bored eating or eating from habit. If you know you aren't really hungry, you just want to snack, distract yourself with another activity. Take yourself out of range of the refrigerator.
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