A spoonful of peanut butter with hot sauce? Pickles straight from the jar? Iceberg lettuce sprinkled with sugar? Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of pregnancy cravings!
It’s common to crave a variety of foods throughout pregnancy, and most of these foods fall into the categories of salty, spicy, sweet, or less commonly, sour. These cravings can occur for a number of reasons, including not drinking enough fluids, low levels of iron or simply not eating often enough. If your client is experiencing pregnancy cravings, it may be helpful to assure her that she is not alone!
In this video, we explain the top three reasons for experiencing pregnancy cravings, and tips on how to manage them https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2J_Jb_gG2tc&index=6&list=PLHiTs07Tq9RhC4NnUn8mNVchZqzIfwVWc&t=0s
Salty foods are one of the most common pregnancy cravings. This may be the body’s mechanism for increasing thirst and assisting with fluid retention. Before recommending high salt foods, it’s important to enquire about your patient’s fluid intake throughout the day. Expectant mothers have fluid requirements that are significantly higher than that of healthy, non-pregnant women, and require at least nine cups of fluid a day.
The next thing to question is your client’s iron intake, as iron requirements are much higher for pregnant women, at 27mg a day. Low levels of iron may cause extreme tiredness, resulting in the body craving sugary or high-fat foods to cope with exhaustion. A simple blood test can help to diagnose an iron deficiency.
Another common reason for pregnancy cravings is hunger! Our cravings are exacerbated when we are hungry. Although your client may have an increase in appetite during pregnancy, insulin resistance can exacerbate hunger even more. The risk of insulin resistance increases during pregnancy as a result of increased progesterone levels which can block the production of insulin. The best way to combat this is to eat a nutritious meal or snack every three to five hours, focusing on foods with a low glycaemic index, to stabilise blood glucose levels.
So what happens when your client has a craving for something non-edible? This condition is known as Pica, and is the practice of craving a substance with little or no nutritional value. Someone experiencing Pica may crave things non-food items such as dirt, sand or clay. In this case, it’s important a medical evaluation is done to assess their iron levels and any other potential health risks.
Finally, cravings can also be psychological. Pregnancy can be an emotional time, and if your client struggles with emotional eating this may result in a significant amount of weight gain.
Take the time to ask your pregnancy clients about the foods that they are craving, and then consider the likely causes. If you require assistance, refer on to an Accredited Practising Dietitian.
Author: Melanie McGrice is one of Australia’s best known dietitians. She is a highly respected author and health presenter on nutrition and dietary issues – and a lover of great food! Join her free nutrition and wellbeing network at www.melaniemcgrice.com.au or like her on Facebook www.facebook.com/MelanieMcGriceDietitian