Often when people think about pregnancy or are considering to conceive, one of the first things that comes to our mind is pregnancy cravings. Infamous for making expectant mothers and partners take impromptu trips to the grocery store or reach into kitchen shelves at odd hours, it is not entirely understood why these intense cravings occur. While there are many theories, doctors often credit pregnancy cravings with two prominent ones. The first theory is hormonal changes, and the second is the lack of nutrients during different stages of pregnancy.
Coming to the first theory, as the body makes adjustments to accommodate the developing baby, hormonal changes over the following months can cause shifts in the senses of taste and smell, which results in cravings or aversion to certain foods. The second theory is about sensing the body’s needs through cravings, as it is said that the intense urge to eat particular food items may be associated with a lack of specific nutrients in the mother’s diet.
While it is absolutely okay to indulge in a small serving of a sweet treat or whip up a midnight meal but an excessive intake of sugary food items and salty snacks can lead to a host of health problems in the long run. In such situations, what should an expectant mother do about her pregnancy cravings?
At this stage more than ever, women need to strike a balance between satisfying their pregnancy cravings and consuming a nutrient-rich diet. It is extremely important to find healthy alternatives that are safe for both mother and the baby. So, the next time your cravings are getting the best of you, manage them with the below healthy choices!
Before you reach out for sugary treats like candies, cookies and chocolates— why not give fresh fruits a try? Prepare a fruit bowl with all-year-round available fruits like apples and bananas or treat yourself to the season’s latest offerings like mangoes, strawberries and lychees. If you feel like upgrading your snack to a small meal, then either blend a delicious fruit smoothie or add cubes of fruits to Greek yoghurt or dahi and enjoy with a drizzle of honey.
Just before you rummage through your snack supply for chips, prepare yourself a quick tub of pepper-flavoured popcorn or whip up a small plate of chickpea hummus and wholegrain crackers. Another alternative would be roasted or baked sweet potatoes with a sprinkle of rock salt.
While spicy cravings are not common, be prepared to combat them with herb-sauteed unsalted nuts like almonds, cashew and pistachio. If you want a healthier meal option, bring a wok to heat, and add a slight drizzle of oil and spices of your choice in moderation to prepare a quick stir-fry dish with vegetables of your choice.
One of the most debated items that women have to eliminate from their regular diet is seafood. So if you are craving that rich, unique flavour, then why not substitute seafood with protein-rich, vegetable or vegan alternatives? Go for alternatives to seafood dishes with a similar preparation that helps replicate the desired taste, like the vegetarian or vegan version of sushi or curries.
If you find yourself scooping into ice cream, excessively sweet milk-based sweets or rich cheese varieties, then consider choosing low-fat options from the lot. If you are feeling rather indulgent, then go for frozen yoghurt or fruit sorbets.
While it is essential to have a balanced diet and include healthy craving alternatives but if a woman is still experiencing intense cravings, then something else might be at play. Apart from hormones and catering to specific nutritional needs, even psychological factors might affect pregnancy cravings, as observed by several doctors.
Just as people often seek comfort in certain foods, so do expectant mothers. So, if you find yourself craving food items that you often enjoy then relish them but be careful to not overindulge.
Pregnancy is a journey that is different for every woman. Even for the same woman who has experienced multiple pregnancies over the years, it is not necessary for her to crave the same food items as she did the first or the second time around. In fact, a woman might even be averse to certain dishes, snacks and fruits she once savoured.
If even after including healthy craving alternatives to your diet as per your dietary restrictions or personal preferences, if any, — follow the policy of consulting your doctor when in doubt. If you find yourself wondering about different ways to manage your cravings or if you need help in curating a healthy diet plan for you and your growing baby, then it is best to voice your concerns to your doctor or a referred nutritionist.