Being pregnant

Is it OK to give in to my pregnancy cravings?

Karen is tempted to let prenatal hankerings dictate her diet. Would you?

Karen’s lemonade and watermelon mocktail.

One of the things I’m asked about most is what I’m craving. Maybe it’s because many women eat such restricted and, let’s be honest, boring diets on a day-to-day basis that there’s such interest in what moms-to-be are indulging in. I totally get it because in my normal pre-pregnancy life I rarely allowed myself the pig-out sessions I’m enjoying so freely now. I have to say, there really is something nice about just letting go and eating whatever you feel like — for once. But, lately I’ve been wondering if it’s healthy to let my preggo impulses guide my diet.

It’s not like I’ve been binging on burgers and fries — not often anyway. But not all of my cravings are super-nutritious, either. Lately two of my most coveted snacks are watermelon and lemonade. (I even made a mocktail out of them!) Maybe it’s the heat wave we’ve been experiencing but juicy, refreshing flavours are top of mind.

Now, if this were the end of it I wouldn’t be concerned, but I have a few more sinister wants, too. Namely Diet Coke and Lays barbecue potato chips. And yes, they must be Lays — I’ve now sampled literally every brand of barbecue chip available in the GTA in search of the perfect one (seriously, just ask Barry, who is horrified by the new “chip cupboard” I’ve created which is full of half-eaten bags). What you need to understand is that the old me was a bit of a health food nut, so I’m shocked at my dietary transformation.

To try to understand my cravings I’ve been doing a little research. What I’ve learned is that sleeplessness, which is common during pregnancy, can make us crave fatty foods because we find them comforting. Carb-rich foods can give us a boost in serotonin (the feel-good chemical) levels and that a hankering for salt could indicate a need for more sodium, which comes from the increase in blood volume during pregnancy. Nutritionists at the University of Connecticut also found that moms’ taste buds changed along with each trimester of her pregnancy. Something that suddenly tasted too strong during the first trimester could be favourable again a few months later. I’ve definitely had this experience with coffee: It made me ill during the first trimester but I now find myself enjoying the occasional decaf iced latte.

The other reason we crave certain foods during pregnancy is for comfort. I’ve had many moms tell me that they couldn’t get enough of their childhood favourites because they were oh-so-comforting. During this time of turmoil and major life changes I guess that makes sense. And could explain why my pantry is suddenly stocked with mac and cheese (though the new organic whole wheat with white cheddar version, but it still harkens back to a lunchtime favourite from my kiddo days).

As for giving into these urges, most health experts seem to agree that moderation is the key. Subsisting on chips, pop and cheesy pasta probably wouldn’t be good for me or the baby, but a little here and there won’t do too much harm as long as I’m getting all the good stuff in, too. So all this means that I’m going for it. When I want a treat — sweet, salty or greasy — I’ll keep having it, and when I don’t feel like steamed veggies I’ll skip ‘em. I already have a good foundation of healthy eating habits so I think I can take this time to just trust my body and my instincts. We’ll both get enough of what we need — and an extra helping of watermelon, too.

What did you crave during your pregnancy? Tweet me @KarenRobock.

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