Cravings and Food Aversions During Pregnancyby Teresa Shaw
Pregnancy can bring on strange changes in a woman's body, both inside and out. Swelling, hair loss and general feelings of detachment are quite normal, but the most common (and most commonly referenced) change is in a pregnant woman's appetite. Suddenly, she will crave a food she's never liked in the past, hate a food that used to be a favorite or crave something to eat that isn't a food at all!
So what do these cravings mean? The truth is, no one is really sure. Some experts have said that cravings, and their counterpart, food aversions, are protective, even if there is no scientific data to back up that theory. However, others think a pregnant woman's preference for certain foods such as a big piece of steak is nature's way of helping her meet a dietary deficiency. No studies have actually shown evidence of a link between cravings and nutritional requirements.
Like most other symptoms of pregnancy, these dietary preferences can be blamed on hormonal changes ' especially in the first trimester, when hormone changes are at their most dramatic. Common food aversions in pregnancy include most potent smelling items, such as ethnic foods, fish and garlic, but can also be everyday items, including coffee or even cereal.
If you are experiencing aversions to certain foods, try to avoid them. In addition, tell anyone you share a home or office with about your aversions so that they might be more amenable to keeping certain foods away from you.
The Up Side to Food Cravings
Food cravings aren't all bad, however. Many pregnant women crave items that are actually good for them, such as dairy products, fruits and whole grains. If your cravings lean toward the healthy, then indulge, but in moderation. Be sure that you are still getting foods from the basic food groups and that your diet is varied and balanced.
Keeping Cravings Under Control
It is possible to experience food cravings and still give your growing baby the nutrients he or she needs. Here are some tips to keeping the cravings in check and you and your baby healthy.
Eat a balanced diet, rich in whole grains, lean protein, reduced-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables, and legumes. Then, if a less than healthy item creeps into your diet, it's not crowding out the nutrients that your baby needs.
Distract yourself. Craving a hot-fudge sundae or a bag of potato chips? Try going for a walk or distracting yourself in some other way ' the craving will probably go away on its own.
- Indulge (but just a little). If you can't get that candy bar out of your mind, have some, but not a lot. Sometimes, just a bite or two of a food you're craving can be enough to satisfy the urge and allow you to get past it.
- Eat something else. Instead of an unhealthy snack, eat an apple or some low-fat cottage cheese.
- Think about why you're craving the food. Are you really hungry, or just bored? If you're hungry, have a low-fat snack, such as a piece of cheese or an apple or orange.
Foods to Avoid
A balanced diet is important to everyone, regardless of whether they are pregnant. However, during pregnancy, there are certain foods that pose health risks and should always be avoided:
- Raw and undercooked seafood, meat, and eggs
- Unpasteurized milk and any foods made from it, including most soft cheeses
- Unpasteurized juice
- Raw vegetable sprouts
When Cravings are Dangerous
Sometimes pregnancy cravings stretch beyond food. A condition called pica is when a person craves substances with little or no nutritional value. Most of these cravings involve non-food substances, such as dirt, chalk, mothballs, toothpaste, soap, sand, plaster, cigarette ashes and coffee grounds.
It is not known why some women develop pica cravings during pregnancy. No cause has been identified; however, the Journal of American Dietetic Association says that they might be connected to an iron deficiency. Others have speculated that pica cravings are the body's attempt to obtain vitamins or minerals that are missing in one's diet, and that they may even be related to an underlying physical or mental illness.
Pica cravings can be detrimental to your baby's and your health, as consuming non-food substances may interfere with the nutrient absorption of healthy food substances and actually cause a deficiency. In addition, non-food items may contain toxic or parasitic ingredients.
Don't panic if you are experiencing pica cravings; however, you should notify your health care provider to learn more about the specific risks associated with your cravings.Teresa Shaw is a professional editor and freelance writer with a degree in English and journalism. She writes about motherhood, travel, and cooking, among other topics, for a variety of print and online markets. She enjoys spending time with her husband, daughter, two cats, and dog. Visit her online at http://teresawrites.wordpress.com
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