Tomato Soup? Ice cream? Sardines? Are you experiencing weird, out-of-control pregnancy cravings that are over-ruling your diet? In this blog I discuss why you may be having weird pregnancy cravings and what to do about it…
If you’re having weird pregnancy cravings, you’re not alone. Today, I’m going to explain the top three reasons that you’re experiencing cravings.
Number 1: you’re dehydrated.
Are you craving a food that is high in salt? Maybe vegemite, potato chips or tomato soup? If so, there’s a good chance that you’re craving it because you are dehydrated.
Our fluid volume increases by approximately 150% during pregnancy – which is part of the reason that later in your pregnancy you may notice your feet and fingers swelling. The main reason for this is that we need so much extra blood, to feed and nourish our baby, and of course, blood and your amniotic sac that your baby is resting in, are essentially fluid. In fact, most women put on at least 2 kilograms of fluid in the first trimester alone!
Salt helps our body to retain more fluid. That’s why athletes drink salty sports drinks when they’re competing in marathons, and we give salty electrolyte drinks or chicken soup to our children when they’re sick.
If you’re not drinking enough water, there’s a good chance that your body will crave salty foods to help you drink more water and retain more fluid.
So, what should you do if you’re craving salty foods?
Well, it might sound counter-intuitive, but the best idea is to drink more water.
If you are going to have salty foods, try to get your salt intake from healthier foods such as sardines, salted nuts or soy sauce over some vegies instead of potato chips or pizza.
Number 2: you’re low in iron.
Our iron requirements sky-rocket during pregnancy! Particularly, during the second and third trimesters. To give you some perspective, men only require 8 milograms per day, where as we require 27 milograms per day during pregnancy – that’s nearly four times as much!
When we’re low in iron, we can become extremely exhausted. In extreme cases you can even develop a condition called pica whereby you crave really weird things like dirt – yes, you heard me correctly! If we need iron, we need iron, and our body will make you crave what you need to make sure you get it!
So, what should you do if you think you may be craving foods for iron?
Well, I’d recommend starting by asking your doctors if they’ve checked your iron levels. If not, it can easily be checked at your next blood test.
Secondly, take a look at the nutritional supplements that you’re taking. If you’re not taking a supplement, or yours is too low in iron, you may struggle to achieve your requirements with diet alone. However, some supplements can be too high in iron and cause nausea or constipation – so just like baby bear in the story of the three bears, you need one that is just right for you, and your needs.
Finally, take a look at your diet. We don’t just get iron from red meat, but from a range of healthy foods such as brown rice, fish and spinach. Unfortunately there’s not much iron in chocolate biscuits or potato chips. And, you won’t be able to meet all of your iron requirements from supplements alone without constipating yourself. So, if you’re filling up on junk, make some tweaks to your diet to help boost your iron levels. I know it can become a vicious circle…. we eat a poor, low-iron diet, then we become too tired to cook, and we crave weird foods, so we eat more junk! But, you can break the cycle, you just need to be really strong for a few weeks!
Number 3: you’re not eating regularly enough.
Your appetite increases during pregnancy, and pregnancy hormones block the action of insulin which can also impact your appetite…..so this means that you need to eat smaller meals, more regularly.
If you try to eat the way you used to eat, skipping snacks, and having late meals because you’re caught up with other priorities, there’s a good chance that you’ll crave sugary foods.
The problem is that sugary foods can cause a lot of excess weight gain, and they’re often low in nutrition.
So, if you’re craving biscuits, ice cream, juices or other sugary foods, what should you do?
It’s really important to take the time to have a nutritious meal or snack every 3 to five hours during pregnancy. Opt for low GI foods such as wholegrain crackers or a tub of yoghurt. You might like to check out my video on healthy snacks for more pregnancy snack ideas.
So, these are the most common three reasons why women have cravings during pregnancy. I’d love to hear about your food cravings, so make sure you comment in the chat box below!
Click on this Youtube link to watch Melanie talk about this in more detail.
This post originally appeared on melaniemcgrice.com.au and it has been published here with permission.