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eat healthy when pregnant pregnancy cravings supplements vitamins halza digital health

Being pregnant comes with a whole host of lifestyle changes. Suddenly, it’s not just your own health in your hands. While some changes may be easier to cope with than others, many are made ultimately for your own health and your baby’s health.

Choosing to eat healthy becomes a conscious decision with every meal and it can definitely be overwhelming.

So, how can you stick to what you know is good for you and your child, especially during tough moments where it’s 2 a.m. and you’re fighting back the urge to eat an entire jar of pickles?

Read on to find out.


Firstly, food cravings – why do pregnant women even get them?

At this point, thanks to what we’ve seen in popular media, everyone expects pregnant women to develop food cravings.

But exactly why they get them is often never addressed.

Through various experiments involving everyone’s favorite sweet treat – chocolate – researchers have eliminated several theories on why cravings occur.

When a group of women were each given boxes containing a different type of chocolate and told to eat it when they had a craving, it was discovered that white chocolate was actually the most successful at satisfying the craving. The lack of cocoa solids and nutrients in white chocolate indicate that cravings do not appear to stem from a growing need for additional nutrients.

In another test tracking participants’ chocolate cravings, researchers found that even menopausal women continued to display a desire for chocolate, dismissing the frequent perception that cravings tend to arise from hormonal changes a woman experiences during pregnancy.

Existing studies highlight that cravings may ultimately be cultural and psychosocial, that is, cravings may be influenced by what we do and what we see around us.


How can you resist your cravings?

Given that pregnant women often have a relatively strict diet to adhere to, it’s unsurprising they may want to indulge once in a while.

But fixating on a craving may intensify the desire to consume.

Furthermore, food cravings may come from a place of restlessness or boredom. Occupy your time well or surround yourself with sturdy distractions to prevent excessive snacking during your pregnancy.

If you are unable to keep your hands busy, keep your other senses busy with calming scents, relaxing music, or deep conversation with someone you know.

You may also be having cravings because you aren’t particularly full to begin with. Start off the day with a big healthy breakfast and make sure your meals are full of nutritious and filling ingredients.

Resisting these cravings may be difficult, especially on difficult days, so finding healthier alternatives may be the way to go. As satisfying as diving into a bucket of piping hot fried chicken could be, a well-seasoned grilled chicken will probably be better in the long run, for both you and your child.

Keep nuts and dark chocolate in the pantry for emergency snacks, instead of having cookies and chips in your bedroom. Freshly popped popcorn is another low-calorie snack alternative.

Understanding the source of your cravings may also help rein them in. Tracking your mood might help you establish a connection between certain emotion and cravings, allowing you to better anticipate and manage them.

Journaling your experience with your cravings might also help you identify patterns of behavior that might be causing excessive cravings and hunger pangs. The Halza app’s latest feature lets you jot down anything that comes to mind in the palm of your hand. Discover the feature and more here.


How do your eating habits affect your baby?

Fighting your cravings is important as constantly caving in might exacerbate gestational weight gain.

While women are expected to gain some weight during pregnancy, an excessive amount could lead to delivery complications, cesarean delivery, and obesity during childhood. Exceeding the recommended weight gain amount can also make it harder to lose weight after pregnancy, which can lead to obesity.

You’ve probably also heard the phrase ‘eating for two’ uttered in the vicinity of a pregnant woman.

Though common, this oft-quoted saying is a touch misleading when it comes to the amount of food an expecting mother should eat.

Not only has having a balanced, nutritious diet during pregnancy been linked to good brain development and a healthy birth weight, it can also reduce the risk of birth defects. For the mother, a good diet can also reduce health risks like anemia and pregnancy symptoms like fatigue and morning sickness.


What foods should you avoid during your pregnancy?

Cravings can certainly veer towards the bizarre, with women reportedly craving cornflakes with orange juice instead of milk.

While strange food combinations aren’t exactly unhealthy, fast food, junk food, and any other type of processed foods, such as microwavable meals and energy drinks, certainly can be. These are often high in sugar and fat, contain very little nutritional content, and may set back your efforts at maintaining a healthy body weight during pregnancy.

But obviously unhealthy foods like these shouldn’t be the only things to stay away from. Other foods to avoid include:

  • Certain types of fish

These might have higher levels of mercury, a metal linked to birth defects, and include shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, bigeye tuna, king mackerel, and marlin.

  • Uncooked fish and shellfish

Eating raw seafood poses a risk of bacterial or viral contamination which can lead to food poisoning or potentially harm your baby.

  • Raw eggs

Even foods with raw or partially cooked eggs in them could be harmful as they could cause a salmonella infection.

  • Uncooked or undercooked food

How your food is cooked is also important. Ensure that meats are cooked to the recommended internal temperatures to minimize the risk of listeriosis, as well as infection from other pathogens. Listeria is a group of bacteria that can cause potentially fatal infections to pregnant women and their babies.

  • Any type of pate

Whether it’s vegetable or meat-based, consuming pate while pregnant increases the risk of having a listeria infection.

  • Soft cheeses

Cheeses like blue-veined cheese, Brie, or Camembert also pose a risk of developing listeriosis if consumed while pregnant. Protect you and your baby from bacterial or parasitic infections like listeriosis by avoiding unpasteurized dairy products.


What about vitamins? What are some necessary ones?

Sometimes, despite eating healthy, you may still not receive sufficient amounts of the recommended vitamins you need during pregnancy.

Some of these include:

  • Folic acid
  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Vitamin D
  • Choline
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • B vitamins
  • Vitamin C

Folic acid helps prevent birth defects in the brain and spine. It also supports general fetus and placenta growth and development. The daily recommended amount of folic acid is 600 micrograms (0.6mg), which may be hard to reach from foods like fortified cereals and dark leafy greens alone.

Discuss taking a daily prenatal vitamin with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid at least a month before pregnancy and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy with your doctor.

Iron makes the extra blood that you and your baby need during pregnancy, and also helps red blood cells bring oxygen to your baby. It can be found in lean red meat, poultry, fish, dried beans and peas, iron-fortified cereals, and prune juice. The daily recommended intake of iron is 27mg.

Getting the daily recommended intake of calcium, which is 1000mg for those aged 19 to 50, is important. The vitamin helps build strong bones and teeth and can be found in foods like milk, cheese, yogurt, sardines, and dark leafy greens.

Vitamin D is vital in building your baby’s bones and teeth, as well as having healthy eyes and skin. 600 international units of vitamin D is the daily recommended amount. One of the best ways to get vitamin D is through sunlight. Fortified milk and fatty fish like salmon and sardines are alternatives, as well as vitamin D supplements. Being overly exposed to direct sunlight may have adverse effects so do take precaution.

Choline is an essential nutrient that supports vital bodily functions and overall health. Experts recommend a daily intake of 450mg, available through food sources like milk, beef, liver, eggs, peanuts, and soy products. This nutrient is vital for the development of your baby’s brain and spinal cord and prevention of some common birth defects.

Always speak to your doctor about effectively and healthily incorporating these vitamins into your diet during your pregnancy.


How Halza helps

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Get weekly insight into both your growth, as well as your baby’s, throughout your term and track your mood every step of the way. The feature also comes with a contraction timer, to help you measure the duration and frequency of your contractions and determine which stage of labor you are at.

Halza also comes with a variety of other useful features for the health of the whole family – find out more here!

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Sources: HealthlineACOGMUHealthBBCFrontiersCDCMedical News Today