Pregnancy cravings are different for every woman and stem from a broad range of foods. You may be surprised to start craving foods you otherwise would never enjoy. Some of the most common cravings are sweet treats, spicy foods, red meat, pickles, etc. Unfortunately, not all pregnancy cravings are the healthiest thing for you or your baby. However, you can implement many healthy swaps for pregnancy cravings in your diet during these nine months.
Identifying Pregnancy Cravings
When women experience pregnancy cravings, it’s usually their body signaling a lack of a specific nutrient rather than a need for a particular food. Dr. Andrei Rebarber of NYU Medical Center clarified pregnancy cravings by stating, “It’s not that the body actually needs the specific food you are craving, but it may need something in that food. And your taste buds just interpret it as a craving for something specific.”
Having a certified nurse-midwife throughout your pregnancy can assist you with making the best decisions for yourself. They serve as a resource for all pregnancy topics, including diet and exercise. Knowing which foods to avoid and which are safe will make navigating this process easier.
Healthy Swaps for Pregnancy Cravings
According to research from Frontiers of Psychology, the most common pregnancy cravings are chocolate, candy, pizza, meat, fruit, dairy, pretzels, fast food, ice cream, and vegetables. Regardless of pregnancy, some foods on that list pose little to no nutritional benefit. In addition, some of the above fall under the category of foods to avoid during pregnancy. As mentioned earlier, these cravings signal your body for a particular nutrient rather than a specific food. Based on what your body is asking for, here are some healthy swaps for pregnancy cravings:
Swaps for sugar cravings:
- Dark chocolate
- Low-sugar candy
- Fresh fruit
When your body craves sugar, the mind tends to signal for chocolate, candy, and other delicious sweets. While it’s okay to indulge in moderation, a high sugar intake when pregnant can put you at risk for gestational diabetes. Make the swap from milk chocolate to dark chocolate, or opt for low-sugar candy like SmartSweets. If you want to go even healthier, natural fruit sugars may satisfy your sweet tooth.
Swaps for sodium cravings:
- Grilled burgers
- Vegetable chips
- Baked or air-fried fries
Fried food, fast food, or anything salty is a pregnancy favorite. Your recommended sodium intake remains the same during pregnancy. Therefore, the “eating for two” theory does not apply here. Swelling of the face, hands, and other body parts is a common pregnancy symptom. Too much sodium while pregnant can sometimes make the swelling worsen.
Reducing your salt intake or opting for products without added salt is best. You can also swap out foods you usually fry and try grilling, baking, or throwing them in the air-fryer. Many alternatives are available to combat fast food cravings.
Swaps for dairy cravings:
- Pasteurized dairy products
- Frozen yogurt
- Dairy-free products
Many dairy products contain a strong source of calcium, which is an essential nutrient for you and your baby during pregnancy. However, with dairy products comes the risk of unpasteurized foods. Unpasteurized dairy products can often carry unwanted bacteria, leading to foodborne illness. Be cautious when purchasing milk and cheeses, especially soft cheese. You can choose vegan cheese during pregnancy or stick to pasteurized hard cheese.
When it comes to ice cream, a healthy swap for pregnancy cravings is frozen yogurt. This alternative is usually lower in sugar and higher in protein. There are many dairy-free ice cream options available as well.
Other healthy swaps for pregnancy cravings:
- Lean meat
- Whole-grain carbohydrates
Steaks, burgers, and other forms of red meat are commonly craved during pregnancy. These meats are safe to consume as long as they’re fully cooked through. Raw and undercooked meat is one of the top foods to avoid while pregnant. Consuming it poses a small threat of toxoplasmosis, which can result in miscarriage. To stay on the safer side, stick to lean meats when your body craves protein, such as chicken or turkey. Deli meats can also contain harmful toxins, so be cautious about purchasing those that are heavily processed.
Lastly, when craving bread, pasta, or pizza, choose carbohydrates with a higher nutritional value. High-fiber, low-sugar, and whole-grain options are not only better for you, but they will keep you full for longer.
Get In Touch With A Midwife
A certified nurse midwife is an excellent resource for discussing nutrition while pregnant. Knowing which foods are best and how much food you should consume can be challenging. Consult with any of our midwives at City of Oaks Midwifery to learn more. Call us at (919) 351-8253 for more healthy swaps for pregnancy cravings.