Following up on our last post about sugar and pregnancy, here are some ideas for improving the overall quality of your diet and managing cravings for sweets.
–Start out with a low-sugar breakfast. What you eat first thing in the morning can set the pattern for what you eat for the rest of the day. If you start off with something high in sugar, you will likely experience an energy surge as your blood sugar rises, and possibly a drastic energy drop as your body releases insulin to regulate your blood sugar. This crash can make you crave more sugar and simple carbohydrates as your body seeks to quickly raise your blood sugar. To avoid this cycle, try a breakfast that contains protein, fiber, and little-to-no added sugar. Examples include an egg scramble or omelet; sausage or Canadian bacon with vegetables; dinner leftovers; or a smoothie made with fruit, your favorite milk, and possible additions of seeds, nut butter, and/or leafy greens.
–Add extra nutrient-dense foods. During pregnancy, the body needs around an extra 300 calories a day. Many people talk about how this gives you the rare chance to eat whatever you want. While you can enjoy the things you want in moderation, try to think about the best way to make up those extra 300 calories. You will feel better if you add in extra nutrient-dense foods like colorful vegetables and fruits, healthy sources of protein (like nuts, beans, eggs, grass-fed meats, cheese, and fish), and whole grains like brown rice and quinoa. Your baby will also benefit from the extra nutrients as well as the lack of added sugar.
—Look for the “low-hanging fruit”. To reduce sugar, first go for the “low-hanging fruit,” or should we say sweets. What are some of the high sugar items you have on a regular basis that you could easily substitute? Sugar-sweetened drinks? Sweetened yogurts or granola bars? Sweet bakery items? With a few changes like drinking water, getting used to plain yogurt with fruit, or baking your own cookies and muffins with no added sugar, you can drastically lower your added sugar intake.
—Steer clear of beverages and foods with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). When trying to reduce the amount of sugar you eat and drink, focus first on limiting high fructose corn-syrup. Excess fructose has been found to be particularly damaging to the body, especially during growth and development.
–Be wary of artificial sweeteners. While it can be tempting to replace regular sweeteners with artificial sweeteners, these alternatives are not necessarily safe. Research shows that they can have a negative effect on metabolism and risk for obesity, not only in adults but also in children, even before birth.
—Try creative alternatives for sweet cravings. Pregnancy is known for food cravings, often for sweets. One of the classics is ice cream. While you can enjoy some ice cream on occasion, for a more regular fix, you may be able to satisfy your craving with something else that is also cold and calcium rich. Examples include plain yogurt or cottage cheese with fresh fruit, or a smoothie made with your favorite milk, frozen fruit, and dates if needed for extra sweetness. The smoothie can be poured into popsicle molds and frozen as well. A refreshing, one ingredient, fruit “ice cream” can also be made by simply processing frozen banana or mango slices in a food processor. Some mothers-to-be crave chocolate, and this craving can be satisfied directly with a small piece of high-quality dark chocolate that is relatively low in sugar, compared to something like a brownie, a candy bar, or chocolate cake.
—Try a nap or a glass of water. Often we crave sweets when we are stressed or tired, and sometimes when we are thirsty and don’t realize it. Before you reach for the sweets, consider if you can manage a 20-minute power nap or even a few minutes of meditation. This luxury may not be available, but when it is, try to take advantage. At the very least, try having a full glass of water or a piece of fruit. After that, you may feel more alert, more hydrated, and content without extra sugar.