Cravings and pregnancy go hand in hand, but it needn’t mean the end to a healthy diet.
It seems that almost as soon as you announce you’re expecting, the questions about cravings start coming thick and fast. Do you have any? Don’t you? Will you? Have you licked coal yet?
Chocolate, salty chips, biscuits… The answer will always differ. Cravings, as with many aspects of pregnancy, vary between women and between trimesters. Some women experience no cravings at all.
“I just ate half a jar of silverskin onions. The vinegar cuts right through my morning sickness, though my boyfriend can’t stand the smell. He keeps thinking there’s been a gas leak!”Mel
“Cheesy twists were my 3am morning sickness lifesaver. I also got a real taste for potato waffles with vinegar and salt, and cheese and onion crisps on a sandwich, spread thickly with butter.”Terri
“I got a sudden craving for granny smith apple segments with cheese. I used to have this when I was a little girl. Definite comfort food.”Saskia
Fortunately, some of the more common cravings are actually for foods rich in particular nutrients. Pasteurised cheese, for example, is rich in calcium. Leafy green vegetables are also popular on the list. Spinach, kale and broccoli, for example, are crammed full of good things such as vitamins A, C, and K as well as calcium.
Know your food facts
One of the delights (or otherwise) for many of being pregnant is a heightened sense of taste and smell, so those leafy vegetables really taste quite delicious. Roses have never smelt so good, and rotten eggs so bad.
A number of women are sensitive to cooking odours and spoiled food, which may help expectant mothers avoid dangerous bugs found in food that is past its best, such as Campylobacter, Listeria, and Salmonella. These bacteria can be more dangerous for pregnant women as they not only cause sickness in mothers but may harm their unborn baby.
There are some foods to avoid eating during pregnancy. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to avoid raw or undercooked fish, eggs, mould-ripened and blue cheeses, unpasteurised milk and raw or undercooked meat. There are other foods to avoid such as those high in vitamin A, including liver or liver products. If you’re a fan of sushi and rare steak this might be disappointing, but there are plenty of other delicious options that don’t come with a warning label for pregnant women. If in doubt, go without; when you are pregnant it’s not worth the risk. It’s also important any raw fruit and veg you eat is thoroughly washed in advance.
Maintaining energy throughout the day
Food and pregnancy do share a tricky relationship at times, but getting the balance right can make all the difference.
In the first trimester nausea, particularly morning sickness, is inevitable for many women, but switching from three large meals a day to five or six smaller ones can help calm your stomach.
Later, in the third trimester, when your internal organs jostle for space with the baby, a large meal can feel impossible to digest; again, exchanging large meals for small regular snacks can help.
Many pregnant women also find that they tire more easily than before, so eating healthy food in regular small meals throughout the day will help maintain steady blood glucose levels.
Try to avoid reaching for the nearest chocolate bar or jelly sweets when snacking. Choose healthy fruit, vegetables, lean cooked meat, and whole grains.
Ditching white rice and pasta for brown rice is a quick win, as it helps you feel fuller for longer and is more nutritious. Remember that it takes a little longer to cook, though, so you might need to start preparing your meal 10 minutes earlier.
Tips on snacking
Healthy snacking as part of a varied diet can require some forward thinking, but once you’re in the flow of it you’ll never look back. Many women say they have never felt better than after ditching their emergency chocolate bar for a healthier option.
Stocking up on some basics is well worth the effort as it means you’re more likely to maintain your healthy snacking habit.
Firstly, think storage. Small plastic containers such as food bags or jars – there are plenty of options out there, but think about the environment and try to find something that is reusable.
Next, fill them with delicious, healthy snacks. Simple. Stash them in handy places around your work and home, so there’s always something within easy reach.
Once you’re up and running, adapting to smaller meals eaten more frequently may even be a habit you take over into your post-pregnancy life as a new Mum. Tips on snacking.
For more tips and ideas, read about how to prepare healthy snacks in advance.
A day of mini meals
Space your six snacks regularly throughout the day – below are some suggestions, including interesting ways to mix up ingredients. Eating the first snack when you’re still in bed is a great way to get the morning off to a good start.
07:00 A banana and a large glass of water with slices of lemon
09:30 Oats and hot milk with dried apricots, prunes, and mango
12:00 Cucumber and celery sticks with a side of mixed nuts and seeds
15:00 Sliced ham, cherry tomatoes, and cheddar sticks
18:00 Wholegrain rice with chicken and steamed vegetables
20:30 Mascarpone, strawberries, and honey