How to handle food cravings in pregnancy

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Ahh, the wonderful world of pregnancy food cravings! We've all heard the weird and wonderful combination cravings like pickles and ice-cream, the classics like cheese burgers and potato chips, and the truly unique, including mashed potatoes with caramel sauce and buttered watermelon.

Some women will crave foods they wouldn't normally eat, others will want non-food items (like chalk and dirt). Then there's the 'I must have this {insert food} right now!' type of cravings.

Around 50 to 90 per cent of women have a craving for at least one particular food during their pregnancy. Cravings can vary from pregnancy to pregnancy, and sometimes from day to day in the same pregnancy.

The cause of pregnancy cravings is not yet fully understood, but some believe that it may be linked to the hormonal changes occurring in the mother's body. Others believe that it may be a type of protective mechanism for mum and bub – that you crave what your body needs, and develop an aversion to those that are not good for you.

When it comes to pregnancy cravings - some of those crazy (and not so crazy) cravings may not be an indication that your body needs the specific food you are hankering for - but it may need a nutrient that is in that food (for example,– there's probably not too many women that physically 'need' cheeseburgers to survive during pregnancy, but they may need more protein – and their body is interpreting that into a cheeseburger craving).

What to do about your cravings will depend on what type of cravings you're having.

If you are craving relatively healthy foods, go for it - albeit in moderation. Just ensure that you don't let the foods you're craving become the only thing you eat, or prevent you from eating a wide and varied diet.

If you find that you are craving foods that are high in fats and sugars, and lacking in nutrients (think potato chips, ice-cream, donuts, and chocolate biscuits) try to be strong, and only give in occasionally.  The problem with these sorts of cravings is that if you give in to them often enough it can contribute to other unwelcome problems.

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It can be a good idea to try and find  healthier alternatives: maybe try a frozen yoghurt instead of ice-cream, or carrot or zucchini bread instead of that piece of chocolate cake.  . Think fresh fruit, or frozen unsweetened fruit instead of sugary icy poles, and mineral water with fruit juice or lime as an alternative to high sugar content sodas or fizz. It's all about getting creative.

If you find that you are craving non-food items like dirt, chalk and ice you may be suffering from a condition known as pica. Avoid eating those non-edibles that look so tempting, and speak to your healthcare professional for some blood tests and advice.

Blackmores Pregnancy & Breast-Feeding Gold

While vitamin supplements should not replace a balanced diet, and your first source should be fresh, healthy food, you could consider taking a supplement such as Blackmores Pregnancy & Breast-Feeding Gold, which provides a daily dose of 20 important nutrients for mother and baby including folic acid, iodine, DHA and vitamin D3 ,with a low-constipation iron and odourless fish oil.

Always read the label. Use only as directed. If symptoms persist see your healthcare professional. Vitamin supplements should not replace a balanced diet. Do not exceed the stated dose except on medical advice. If you have had a baby with a neural tube defect/spina bifida, seek specific medical advice.