We have all heard about, gone through or have known someone who had massive episodes of sweet craving during pregnancy. Well, the drastic hormonal changes that pregnant women experience can have a significant impact on their taste and smell. This explains why some women experience intense cravings for certain foods while others develop an aversion to them.
Some of the most popular food cravings are for ice cream, chocolate, and other sweets. As long as you are still eating a wide variety of healthy foods, indulging in your cravings every once in a while is acceptable. However, many pregnancy complications and issues like excessive weight gain and dental problems can be brought on by unhealthy cravings like sweet cravings during pregnancy.
However, as long as you continue to consume a balanced diet, satisfying these cravings and eating the sweets you desire may not cause any harm.
Is Sweet Craving During Pregnancy Normal?
During pregnancy, cravings for sweets are extremely common, and more often than not, they may have no particular meaning. Long-standing research has demonstrated that desserts and other sweet-tasting foods, such as fruits and juices, are the most common cravings during pregnancy1.
Women who already experienced sweet cravings before becoming pregnant are more likely to experience them again during pregnancy. Sweet cravings are commonly attributed to low blood sugar or a lack of essential minerals like zinc and magnesium, which are thought to be depleted due to the increased energy needs of pregnancy. However, this theory does not have any scientific backing to support it.
Related Reading: Everything About Artificial Sweeteners During Pregnancy
Side Effects Of Craving Sweets During Pregnancy
You should always be mindful of how much sugar you consume, regardless of whether or not you are pregnant, in order to reduce the risk of developing any health issues. The following is a list of some of the adverse effects that can occur as a result of having a sweet tooth while pregnant.
1. It has the potential to make pregnancy symptoms worse.
Although sugar itself is not a direct cause of heartburn, it can aggravate an existing episode. People who suffer regular episodes of heartburn should stay away from foods high in sugar like chocolate, citrus fruits, peppermint, fatty foods, and caffeinated drinks, which can potentially trigger the symptoms.
2. Contributes to excessive weight gain
There is a correlation between eating a lot of sugar and having a greater appetite, which can lead to unhealthy weight gain3. Gaining an unhealthy amount of weight during pregnancy can be harmful to both the unborn child and the mother-to-be. Consuming a large amount of sugar can make the process of labor and delivery more difficult.
If you gain too much weight during pregnancy, your baby may be larger than average. Although having a large baby isn’t inherently bad, it can increase the difficulty of giving birth. A last-minute cesarean section (unplanned C-section) is often necessary to deliver large babies because they have a tough time being pushed out naturally. An excessive desire for sugar during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure as well as preeclampsia4.
Related Reading: 12 Tips To Maintain Weight During Pregnancy
3. Indulging in sweets during pregnancy cause nutritional deficiency
Having a craving for sugar during pregnancy is completely normal. However, if you crave sweets more than other foods, it can lead to nutritional deficiency because sugar adds empty calories to the diet. It also causes a temporary spike in blood sugar, making the pregnant woman drowsy and tired.
4. You may develop gestational diabetes if you crave sweets
A woman who has sweet cravings and does not receive specific nutrition advice is very likely to develop gestational diabetes. In order to reduce the risk of developing gestational diabetes, it is recommended that expectant mothers adhere to a diet that is low in sugar and fat.
This is especially important for women who already have a history of gestational diabetes. Pregnant women who consume a diet that is low in sugary foods have a lower chance of developing gestational diabetes.
5. Increases the risk of macrosomia
Some pregnant women with gestational diabetes experience intense cravings for sweets, especially in the second trimester. As a result, the baby will be born significantly larger than average. Fetal blood sugar levels will rise if there is an excess of sugar in the mother’s blood supply.
Related Reading: 18 Foods To Eat To Increase Fetal Weight During Pregnancy
To compensate, the developing infant will produce more of the hormone insulin, which controls blood sugar levels. This may lead to macrosomia. In addition to the possibility that labor and delivery will be more challenging, the macrosomic baby may develop obesity and diabetes in the future.
6. Increased sugar intake of the mother affects the baby’s health
When a woman is pregnant, whatever she consumes will also be absorbed by the baby that is growing inside her. There’s some evidence to suggest that a mother’s sugar intake during pregnancy may have long-term effects on her child’s brain development and intelligence.
Cognitive abilities, such as non-verbal problem-solving and verbal memory, were found to be negatively affected in children born to mothers who consumed large amounts of sugar, including diet soda, during pregnancy5.
This study does not prove that occasional sweet consumption will have a major and negative effect on the health of a growing fetus, but it does suggest that it is important to think consciously about what you eat when you are pregnant.
7. Sugar during pregnancy impacts your dental health
Sugar causes tooth decay and cavities even when you’re not expecting a child. Pregnancy itself increases the risk of gum issues and cavities. Thus, pregnant women who consume an excessive amount of sugar are at a higher risk of having their teeth decay. This is especially true if the pregnant woman has previously suffered from cavities.
How Do You Control Your Sweet Cravings During Pregnancy?
During pregnancy, it’s not uncommon to have a strong desire for sweet foods. However, both the mother and the developing baby can suffer negative effects from excessive sugar intake during pregnancy. Here are a few suggestions for curbing those pregnancy-related sugar cravings.
1. Contextual approaches
Understanding what sets off your sweet cravings and how you can avoid them will make it so much easier. You can try two effective strategies: removing the food that you crave from the environment and removing yourself from environments that may contain those foods.
2. Increase protein intake
Sometimes, a protein deficiency leads to a desire for sweets6. How, you may ask? The regulation of glucose levels in the blood is one of the primary functions of protein; therefore, this is the area in which we should look for an explanation. If you don’t get enough protein in your diet, you may struggle to maintain stable blood sugar.
You might feel the need for a “quick fix” to bring your body back into balance when this occurs. This means that you have a craving for sugary foods.
Related Reading: Top 10 Protein-Rich Foods For Pregnancy
In addition to controlling blood sugar levels, protein also prevents hunger pangs and increases stamina. You need to up your protein intake, so try eating more eggs, black chana, soy products, etc. Maintaining normal blood sugar levels during pregnancy is essential, and this can be achieved by eating a combination of carbohydrates and protein.
The amount of lean protein in your diet needs to be increased. Nuts, olive oil, and avocados all contain healthy fats that help you feel full and put an end to sugar cravings and binge eating.
3. Keep your blood sugar levels stable
Your brain sends signals to your stomach to increase your sugar intake when your blood sugar drops too low. Keeping a steady blood sugar level is one way to prevent sugar cravings from developing. The following tips will help you maintain a stable blood sugar level:
- Try not to skip meals
- Pick foods with a low glycemic index (GI). Oats, quinoa, whole-wheat bread, various fruits (pears, bananas, kiwis, mandarin oranges), sweet potatoes, lentils, milk, and yogurt all fit this bill
- Eat foods high in healthy fats such as avocado, extra virgin olive oil, nuts, and seeds with your meals and snacks
4. Don’t skip breakfast
Do not skip breakfast or any other meals if you want to be successful in overcoming your cravings for sugar. It is possible to experience sugar cravings when your blood sugar drops. It is recommended that pregnant women eat at least three healthy meals per day.
Also, have some extra healthy snacks to fuel mom and baby’s development. By eating several small meals throughout the day, you will keep your blood sugar levels healthy, feel full, and ultimately, reduce your cravings
5. Increase fiber and fluid intake
Food contains three distinct kinds of fiber: insoluble fiber, soluble fiber, and fermentable fiber, which is also known as resistance starch. When it comes to preventing sugar cravings, soluble fiber consumption is essential.
When soluble fiber combines with water in the digestive tract, it expands, which prompts feelings of fullness. Additionally, it assists in maintaining stable blood sugar levels and reducing the intensity of sugar cravings. Fruit, vegetables, and certain grains (including oats, whole-grain pasta, legumes, and seeds) are all good sources of soluble fiber. Choose wholegrain bread over white bread, brown pasta over white pasta, and fruit as a healthy snack.
6. Never curb carbs
Carbohydrates are the primary source of fuel for your body, including your brain and muscles. In fact, glucose (or sugar), derived from carbohydrate breakdown, is the sole fuel for your brain. So, it stands to reason that if you cut out carbohydrates from your diet, you will develop an insatiable desire for sweets.
7. Try alternatives to satiate sweet cravings during pregnancy
Whenever you feel sugar cravings coming on, try a healthier alternative. You may believe you have a craving for cookies or brownies. Actually, all your body needs is a sugar fix. As an alternative to sugary desserts, pregnant women can enjoy healthy sweets like peanut butter, fruit, and yogurt.
Related Reading: Top 10 Food Cravings When Pregnant With A Girl
However, attempting alternatives has negative consequences. Oftentimes, when we avoid our cravings and choose an alternative, we end up eating the craving later and in greater quantity. Occasionally, it is best to eat the food you crave and move on. During pregnancy, the majority of occasional cravings are completely harmless. Just keep in mind that moderation is key!
During pregnancy, it is important to monitor sugar cravings and indulge in moderation. Allowing unhealthy cravings to completely overpower nutritious food will undoubtedly affect a woman’s ability to carry a healthy pregnancy to term.
If you find yourself constantly hankering for something sweet, it may be a sign that your blood sugar is low. Drinking more water, avoiding hunger, substituting craved foods with healthier alternatives, or eating a small portion of a craved food can help to deal with sweet cravings during pregnancy.
As of yet, there are no universally accepted guidelines regarding sugar intake while pregnant. Your optimal sugar intake is determined by your metabolism, blood sugar levels, and weight. In any case, it is beneficial to limit daily sugar consumption to 25 grams or less.
Sugar does not cause diarrhea, but it can make it worse. When you’re already experiencing diarrhea, it’s best to stay away from sugary drinks like fruit juices and soft drinks. They worsen diarrhea by attracting even more water into the digestive tract.