The Gummy Bear Files, Part III – Dealing with sugar cravings during pregnancy.
“Are you having any weird cravings?!” This is the number one question I have been asked since becoming pregnant. And the answer is, NO. I am not having any weird cravings. No pickles and ice cream for me. My doctor even told me about women that have craved fresh mud when pregnant (ew). Definitely also not me.
Now let me clarify something. I said I was not having weird cravings, but that does not mean I am not having any cravings. Namely I am having cravings for one thing only: SUGAR. Before getting pregnant I was on a very low-carb (almost zero sugar) diet. Before I even knew I was pregnant my desire for cookies, cupcakes, brownies, and all things sugary and sweet skyrocketed and I did not understand why. I found it really stressful to deal with, and in the beginning of my pregnancy I gave in to those cravings. A LOT. I gained more weight in my first trimester than I needed to, but this is also my first pregnancy and I have definitely learned from this experience.
I told myself that it was okay to eat whatever I want because I was pregnant. But in all honesty this is not actually true. When you are pregnant it is even more imperative to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. Everything that you put into your body is going to be broken down and digested by the baby as well. And with my family history of diabetes, there is always a chance that I could develop gestational diabetes.
My challenge became: How can I manage my sugar cravings without completely going off the rails?
Here are my tips for doing just this…
- Make sure you are eating a healthy, balanced diet. Include plenty of lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, some starches, and healthy fats. Whole foods keep you full much longer than processed sweets. Oftentimes if I’m craving something sweet I literally just eat a regular meal of chicken and veggies. I promise you there’s no more room for a dessert after that.
- Eat 5-6 smaller meals throughout the day, rather than eating 3 large meals. Not only will this keep your blood sugar from crashing at any point, but it is also incredibly useful for keeping that pregnancy reflux and excessive bloating at bay. Trust me. If you eat too much your already growing and swollen belly will not feel very good.
- Keep sugar out of the house! This is pretty common sense, but if sugary foods are not easily accessible to you, you will think twice about having to do the extra work to obtain them. Set yourself up for success. If you know that you won’t be able to stop at just one serving of ice cream, don’t leave the grocery store with a pint of your favorite flavor!
- Fruits. I always keep my fridge stocked with fresh strawberries, blueberries, and apples. The fructose in these is usually enough to satisfy your sugar cravings, plus fruits have nutrients in them that you won’t find in that pack of oreos. Win-win.
- Distract yourself. If you’ve just eaten a meal and find yourself yearning for an unnecessary dessert, distract yourself by going for a 15-20 minute walk. Not only are you getting a little bit of movement and exercise, but by the time you get back you probably won’t even be thinking about those donuts that were on your mind before you left. Endorphins from exercise can be just as satisfying as the high you get from a sugary treat.
- Drink a glass of water. When that mid-afternoon hankering for a cookie sets in, drink a full glass of water. Sometimes your brain mistakes thirst signals for hunger. You’ll get a little extra hydration, plus the water will take up the space in your stomach where that cookie would have resided.
- Delete food delivery apps if necessary. Fortunately (and unfortunately) we live in a world where your significant other does not have to run to the grocery store at 10 pm to pick up whatever sweets you might be craving. It is so simple to just push a few buttons on our iPhones and someone will deliver fresh baked cookies (or even Dunkin Donuts!) right to your door. If you find yourself falling back on Postmates or UberEats on a regular basis, even if you are not keeping sugary foods in your house, do yourself a favor and just delete the app until your pregnancy is over.
- Don’t restrict ALL the time. Allow yourself to a indulge a little every once in a while. If you always say no, you will wear out your willpower muscle and this can lead to binges and overeating. I like to set parameters with myself. 5 days of the week I do not allow myself to have any sugar. That gives me two days of flexibility, so if I go out to eat with friends and decide to partake in dessert, I won’t feel so guilty.
One of my favorite ways to allow myself to indulge a little in dessert is to make healthier options to keep at home. I love to experiment with low-carb and low-sugar baking. If I have an absolutely unbearable craving for something sweet, I like to at least know exactly which ingredients (and how much) are in what I’m eating. In fact, in my next post I’m super excited to share one of my favorite recipes for almond flour chocolate chip cookies with you all!
Most importantly, remember to go easy on yourself! If you do eat something sweet you hadn’t planned on, don’t beat yourself up! It already happened, just keep moving on and make sure to have plenty of vegetables in your next meal. It is absolutely OKAY to treat yourself every once in a while, just make sure the bulk of your diet comes from healthy, whole foods. This is true of anyone, but especially for pregnant women like me, who are using all of our resources to grow tiny and healthy humans!