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How to eat well during pregnancy (even when you're craving Chicken Twisties and ginger beer)

Ahh – the dreaded pregnancy food cravings! We’ve all heard the weird and wonderful combinations like pickles and ice-cream and while the cause of pregnancy cravings is not yet fully understood,it may be linked to the hormonal changes occurring in the mum-to-be.
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How to eat well during pregnancy

Ahh – the dreaded pregnancy food cravings! We’ve all heard the weird and wonderful combination cravings like pickles and ice-cream, or my new personal favourite that I found while doing some research, ‘Tuna fish mixed with peach yoghurt’ (eeww!).

Some women will crave foods they wouldn’t normally eat, others non-food items (like chalk & dirt). Then there’s the ‘I must have this {insert food} right now!’ type of cravings. 

I have to confess - during my pregnancy I craved cheese sandwiches, and caramel milkshakes for weeks – neither of which I normally eat. I often craved them at the same time, and much to my lovely hubby’s dismay, normally right before dinner.

Happily I’m not alone - around 8 out of 10 pregnant women experience cravings for at least one particular food during their pregnancy. Cravings often vary from pregnancy to pregnancy, and sometimes from day to day in the same pregnancy.

The cause of pregnancy cravings is not yet fully understood, but some believe that it may be linked to the hormonal changes occurring in the mother’s body. Others believe that it may be a type of protective mechanism for Mum & bub – that you crave what your body needs, and develop an aversion to those that are not good for you.

When it comes to pregnancy cravings - some of those crazy (and not so crazy) cravings may not be an indication that your body needs the specific food you are craving - but it may need a nutrient that is in that food (for example - I don’t know too many women that physically ‘need’ cheeseburgers to survive during pregnancy – but they may need more protein – and their body is interpreting that into a Cheeseburger craving).

What to do about your cravings will depend on what type of cravings you’re having.

If you are craving relatively healthy foods – I say ‘Go for it’ - in moderation. Just ensure that you don’t let the foods you’re craving become the only thing you eat, or prevent you from eating a wide and varied diet.

If you find that you are craving foods that are high in fats and sugars, and lacking in nutrients (think chicken Twisties, ice-cream, donuts, chocolate biscuits, etc) try to be strong, and only give in occasionally.  The problem with these sorts of cravings is that if you give in to them often enough – that baby bump is likely to turn into a baby blimp – which presents a whole host of other problems.

The best idea in this case is to try and find a healthier alternative. Maybe try a frozen organic yoghurt instead of ice-cream, or home-made carrot or zucchini bread instead of that piece of chocolate cake – have a look at a few other healthy substitution ideas here.

(but if it’s chicken Twisties that have you in their grip – let me know if you can think of a healthy alternative – I’m stumped!)

If you find that you are craving non-food items like dirt, chalk and ice you may be suffering from a condition known as Pica which may be a sign that you are deficient in certain nutrients. Avoid eating those non-edibles that look so tempting, and go see your GP for some blood tests.

References available on request

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