Do you have pregnancy food cravings? Are they as crazy as you expected?

There’s a lot of hype about crazy pregnancy cravings. You know what I’m talking about. Eating pickles with ice cream. Sending your partner out in the middle of the night for that triple decker cheeseburger you must have NOW. Do you believe the hype? I think it’s a little overly dramatic.

I think most women generally want to eat as healthy as possible during their pregnancies and kind of sort of also want to indulge in not so healthy cravings from time to time. Both are possible. More on that in a minute.

Don’t get me wrong, I definitely had my share of pregnancy food cravings. In my first pregnancy I had a two-month long craving for veggie subs, specifically veggie subs with Subways ‘sub sauce’ – the oil and vinegar dressing I hadn’t had in probably 10 years. I honest to god experienced ‘mouth-watering’ for the first time. Vinegar is #16 on this list of the foods pregnant women crave the most, so it looks like I’m not alone.

In my second pregnancy I didn’t have any seriously intense cravings. From time to time (ok, lots of the time) I just got the urge to eat certain foods that I knew weren’t the best choices –cake, comfort foods, juice, the list goes on. This counts as cravings too and is a little stressful when you know what your body is asking for may not be the best thing for you or for baby.

So what to do when you crave unhealthy foods but want to have a healthy nourished pregnancy?

Just eat it. Not what you expected? As pregnant women, we have so much guilt as it is based on the things we are told we should and should not do for 9 months (or much longer if you could time spent breastfeeding). Eating should not be a source of guilt and self-care is the absolute best thing you can do for yourself and your baby.

I’m not going to tell you that a craving for cookies is your body saying it needs chromium so try some broccoli instead to get an equally strong dose of it. Actually, I think anyone who says that to a pregnant person better run and hide. It might be true – but it’s pretty hard to do, and I’m all about being realistic and kind to yourself. So I say do both – give in to your cravings and ensure you’re getting the nutrition you need.

Here are 3 tips for finding the balance:

1.Pair it up

If you’re really craving a not so healthy food, eat it first, then follow it up with some nutrient rich choices. You’ll feel better if you eat what your body wants, and that will make it easier to down the healthy and nutrient rich foods. This is especially true if you can only stomach a handful of foods. So if your thing is baked potatoes, mac and cheese, or vinegar-soaked subs, go ahead and eat it, and try to pair it with some pregnancy power foods – think protein, colourful produce, and fibre.

Pairing it up also ensures you won’t go too crazy on the not so healthy part of your meal. Try for 30/70 – have a piece of cake but fill up the rest of your plate with an assortment of fruit.

As always, there are exceptions to allowing yourself to eat the food you crave. If you have cravings for non-food items or have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, there’s more going on and you’ll need to follow your healthcare provider’s advice to ensure you’re doing what’s best for you and your baby.

2.Mix it up

Here’s where a little self-restraint comes into play. Allow yourself to eat the foods and tastes you really want, but be mindful of moderation and look for healthier substitutions. The key is to go for variety.

If you’ve been craving fried chicken and you indulged a few days ago, make a healthier baked version at home and serve it with a spinach salad. If you really want juice, try adding a homemade green smoothie sweetened with pineapple and mango into your regular morning routine. If you can’t stop thinking about cookies, try out a healthier homemade recipe (like this double chocolate delight).

It may also help to think about what you like about the food you keep craving. Do you want baked potatoes because they’re comforting? Try a soup. Do you want freezies because they’re cold and refreshing on a hot day? Try snacking on frozen blueberries.

You know what they say, variety is the spice of life.

3.Give it up (the guilt, that is)

Let go of any eating guilt and know that no craving will last forever. Your body is amazing and your baby will get the nutrients it needs. You may crave something today that you absolutely can’t stand tomorrow. It’s just part of the ride. Some days, it will be easy to eat healthy, and some days it will feel really hard. Just do the best you can.

If you’re like me and most of the women I know, hunger in pregnancy can quickly turn to feeling nauseated. You need to eat and you need to eat often (amirite?). But if you find yourself reaching for the first carb and sugar loaded food within reach, the trick is to have a couple healthy grab and go snacks on hand (more on that in an upcoming post).

Do you believe the hype of pregnancy cravings? Tell me what you crave and share your tips for pairing cravings with the good stuff below, or tag me in your food photos by using #gingerrooteats.