Getting pregnant is all about thinking about the future of your family. I never imagined this decision would change my lifestyle before the baby even arrived. Due to struggling with fertility and loss in the past, my husband and I decided this time would be different — it had to be. I needed to change my mindset on what I ate, how I exercised, and the amount I allowed myself to indulge.
Many women have health-related issues they must resolve before they can even get pregnant. This fact didn’t feel fair to me.
How is it that my snack choices should dictate the outcome of my childbearing? Rather than feeling punished, I resolved to feel empowered while pregnant.
I had some big hurdles to overcome to get to the nutritional state my baby and body deserved.
The Cravings Kicked In Immediately
Once I got the thumbs-up from my trusted gynecologist, we got pregnant with our sweet little girl. From the moment the pregnancy test resulted in a “yes” — more like a thousand yeses because I took a bunch of tests and rubbed my eyes in disbelief… it FINALLY happened! — my cravings became stronger than my willpower.
The main temptations were sugary cereal (I’m looking at you, Cap’n Crunch Berries), fries dipped in a milkshake from a North Carolina food chain, and spicy foods. My body was working overtime, didn’t I deserve some treats? I didn’t know at the time that giving in to my cravings could cost the health of me and my baby in the long run.
The Risks of Giving In to Pregnancy Cravings
In the beginning, I thought I had been doing an okay job resisting my snack urges. I even gave switched from caffeinated coffee to decaf! However, my next trip to the doctor proved otherwise. My doctor predicted a healthy weight gain of 20 pounds for my entire pregnancy. By week 24, and I’d already gained 20 pounds — and then some.
I was heartbroken. I had been trying quite hard, after all, but my sedentary job combined with those instances of treating myself resulted in a swift weight gain.
My doctor was concerned and mentioned words like and “pre-eclampsia,” and “gestational diabetes.” What?
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, very fast and extreme weight gain — a little more than two pounds per week — can be a sign of health problems such as pre-eclampsia. This condition can be life-threatening for both the mother and her child. But it’s preventable with your doctor’s treatment, a good diet, and exercise.
Through some more research, I learned that putting on a lot of weight in pregnancy can also increase the risk of women developing diabetes in pregnancy known as gestational diabetes. The symptoms include an increase in blood sugar levels for women who didn’t have diabetes before becoming pregnant. Gestational diabetes increases the risk of pre-eclampsia and can result in your unborn baby putting on a lot of weight.
Why does this matter? Well, turns out having a big and heavy baby may delay the birth. Bigger babies are also more difficult for a woman to give birth to naturally.
I eventually delivered via cesarean section, and though I never developed either condition, I can’t help but wonder whether or not my early indulgences had something to do with that.
Healthy Alternatives to My Pregnancy Cravings
Reading a bunch of statistics and studies is a reality check — and one that I needed. After learning the brutal truth about my weight gain at that point in my pregnancy, I decided to make changes wherever I could and continue with exercising and proper hydration.
I was pregnant in the summer… and in the South. I vowed to dump Southern junk food, so when my mouth watered for a milkshake, I grabbed a few refrigerated dark chocolate chips and popped them in my mouth. Sometimes, all I needed was just a good taste of something to satisfy the urge to binge — and I found the chocolate chips at their yummiest when cold.
To kick my daily Cap’n Crunch cereal habit, I had brown sugar oatmeal or cooked apples for breakfast.
When it came time to bid farewell to my spicy treats like tamarind candy and Mexican mangonadas, I turned to spicy boiled peanuts. Though I was in the process baking a half-Latina princess, I indulged my Southern side by snacking on these nutrient-packed peanuts. According to Livestrong, compared to raw or dry-roasted peanuts, boiled peanuts are lower in calories and fat. They also have a higher concentration of nutrients that protect your cells from oxidation, making them a healthy addition to your pregnant and happy diet.
On miserably hot days, I snacked on refreshing bites like cucumbers sprinkled with Tajin, frozen yogurt, and watermelon.
Developing Healthier Habits for My Pregnancy
Mom-guilt is a very real feeling. With the risk of a complicated pregnancy or birth in mind, I was motivated cut treats down.
A New Snack Routine
In the beginning, I was treating myself to those crappy pregnancy craving snacks four or five times a day. After agreeing to change, I switched to indulging healthier alternatives a few times a week: once mid-week, after work, and in the evenings as I sat on the porch with my husband. Creating a routine helped me stabilize my cravings, and to encourage my body to love and accept the healthier snacks.
Take More Walking Breaks
Making these snack swaps and carrying a water bottle definitely helped — but the big gamechanger was taking lunchtime walks with coworkers. I regained control over my diet and my willpower. And I successfully kept the weight gain to a minimum for the remainder of my pregnancy.
Respect Your Body
I’m a huge advocate for treating your body with kindness and respect. That means that some days, respect comes in the form of black beans and corn with cilantro when you’d rather indulge in chips and guac.
Other days? You’ll have your cake and eat it, and maybe a brownie, too. Good nutrition while pregnant is non-negotiable, though — and I never once regretted swapping out my junk food treats for truly good, delicious foods that nourished my body and my baby.