Eating buckets of popcorn and ice cream? Craving sugar, spice and all things nice? Welcome to pregnancy cravings!
Sugar is a common craving during pregnancy but it’s not one we want to indulge. Too much sugar is never good for us however there are things you can do to ease those pesky cravings.
Here we share why you might get sugar cravings during pregnancy, how much sugar is safe to eat and alternatives that might help.
Why am I getting sugar cravings during pregnancy?
There are a number of reasons that pregnant women get sugar cravings:
- Hormones. Pregnancy hormones can correlate with nutrients that you may be lacking (despite sugar normally leading to unhealthy food choices).
- Energy. A probable reason you get sugar cravings while pregnant is because you are growing another human inside of you - so you need a little more energy than normal.
- Stress. We often crave sweet foods when we undergo emotional or physical stress to help us feel comforted, a common experience during pregnancy.
- Low blood sugar levels. If you are consuming refined rather than complex carbohydrates, or have missed meals, you may also have low blood sugar levels.
- *Sensitivity to smells. Some women find certain foods repulsive or nauseating during pregnancy, even if they loved them beforehand!
How long do sugar cravings normally last for?
Normally, pregnancy cravings happen at the same time as morning sickness, peaking during the second trimester and then gradually declining in the last trimester. However, everyone is unique, so you may experience cravings at different times during your pregnancy.
Is it bad to eat too much sugar while pregnant?
Anything in large amounts isn’t good for you and too much sugar in pregnancy can increase the risk of gestational diabetes. This impacts up to 18% of pregnant women and occurs when the body can’t produce enough insulin. There are no symptoms of gestational diabetes however you will be screened for it during your midwife appointments.
How much sugar can you eat?
It is advised to keep added sugar below 30g a day, the equivalent to 7 teaspoons (or one can of coke!). Added sugars are sugars in fruit juice, desserts, fizzy drinks, and other foods but not whole fruit and vegetables. This means you can easily make swaps such as cherries instead of a chocolate muffin for dessert.
Artificial sweeteners can be consumed in moderation, except saccharin which should be avoided. Make sure to check the sugar content in bought sauces and cereals; it might be more healthy for you to make your own pasta sauce and granola for example.
What can you do to cope with sugar cravings?
The good news is by the third trimester, your cravings will hopefully decrease dramatically. But until then, there are a lot of foods which are sweet but have nutrients in too! Eating these foods will mean you won’t experience a big sugar spike and crash, causing you to feel lethargic afterwards. Plus they’ll be a healthier choice for you and your baby.
Healthy sugar alternatives:
- Creamy greek yoghurt with honey and strawberries
- Dark chocolate (has less sugar than milk and white)
- Medjool dates with nut butter
- Tropical fruit salad with mango and pineapple
- Use fruit to sweeten dishes rather than sugar or honey
- Make homemade popcorn rather than shop bought
- Swap fruit juice and coke for infused water - try fresh fruits or iced tea
- Banana and nut butter
It is also handy to balance out your main meals, so make sure you are eating plenty of whole grains, vegetables, protein and healthy fats. Complex carbohydrates like wholegrain bread, pasta and rice and potato will boost your fibre and keep you feeling full for longer. Having the whole grain variety will give you a slow release of sugar into your bloodstream sustaining your energy levels for longer.
Doing some gentle exercise and having other activities to look forward to can also help with sugar cravings during pregnancy.
Sweet cravings are totally normal during pregnancy and are not harmful if you stay within 30g of free sugars a day. It is possible to have healthy sweet foods like fruit and dates to satisfy your cravings in a healthy way but it is also okay to indulge your sweet cravings now and again!
Want expert help on how best to eat during pregnancy? Whether you have a specific concern or are looking for general advice, our pregnancy nutritionists can help. Book a 1-2-1 appointment at a time that suits you.
Melissa, Naytal Nutritionist
Melissa is a registered nutritionist who is passionate about creating sustainable and enjoyable health and wellbeing plans for women and their families.