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How Can I Manage a Sweet Tooth During Pregnancy?
Read time: 4 minutes
What to know about sugar cravings during pregnancy
Some people crave sugar more than others, especially during pregnancy
There may be some detriments to eating too much sugar while pregnant
Tips on how to manage your sweet tooth
Do you have a sweet tooth that just can’t be satisfied? Perhaps you are finding it harder and harder to resist that piece of cake?
Whether you’ve had a sweet tooth your whole life or whether it’s something that has started during pregnancy, the desire to indulge in something sweet can be strong and difficult to manage.
Read on to learn why we crave sugary foods and tips to help you manage your cravings.
Why do we crave sweet foods?
While experts agree that there are no definitive reasons why we gravitate towards sweets, there are several things going on in our bodies that may leave us with a hankering for that sugar rush.
From birth, sweet is the first taste humans prefer.1 Sugar and other carbohydrate-containing foods stimulate the release of the feel-good brain chemical called serotonin.2 Naturally, our bodies enjoy that sensation of pleasure, which may leave us wanting more and more of our favorite indulgences.
During pregnancy, sweet foods may be craved in part due to changes in hormones, as well as the simple need for more calories, which may cause a preference for sweeter foods.4
Sweets and other simple (aka: refined) carbohydrates digest rather quickly, causing our blood sugar to rise and then fall rapidly.3 While this may energize us and help us feel good right away (one of the reasons we crave it!), once this energy spike recedes we may end up feeling tired and unsatisfied.
Having too many simple carbohydrates that spike our blood sugar may have negative health effects, even outside of pregnancy.10
Read More: Managing Cravings while Pregnant
Are there risks to eating too many sweets during pregnancy?
Depriving ourselves of foods that we enjoy is not the answer; yet we know that giving into our cravings too often may also be detrimental.
Research indicates that high sugar intake during pregnancy may interfere with recommended weight gain recommendations as well as may increase the risk for gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.4
Eating too many sweets during pregnancy may also impact our baby. A high intake of sugar-sweetened beverages has been linked with an increased risk for higher birth weight, as well as higher weight later in childhood, among other potential consequences.4
Tips for managing cravings for sweet foods
Satisfy your sweet tooth with naturally sweet foods
If you are used to reaching for something more indulgent, try these naturally sweet foods instead:
Baked cinnamon apples with a dollop of low-fat yogurt and toasted oats
Banana “ice cream”: ripe, frozen bananas blended with cow’s milk, almondmilk, or other unsweetened plant-based milk alternatives
Greek yogurt berry drops: Mix berries with Greek yogurt and drop in dollops on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze until firm. Store in the freezer until ready to enjoy
Whole grain rice cake with nut butter and sliced strawberries or bananas
Whole grain waffle topped with 100 % fruit spread
The good news is that while simple carbohydrates and sugar-sweetened beverages may need to be moderated, extra fruit may actually have a positive impact!4
Read more: Nutritious Snack Ideas during Pregnancy
Eating consistent meals may help stop sugar cravings in their tracks since regular meals provide your body with a steady stream of energy.5
Learn about: How Much Should I Eat While Pregnant?
Try combining foods
Most sweet dessert-type foods do not have much nutrition to offer.6
If your sweet tooth just won’t concede, try pairing a small serving with a food that is packed full of good-for-you nutrients. This can also help you feel more satisfied while eating a moderate amount of the food you crave.
Dark chocolate paired with peanuts or almonds
A bit of ice cream paired with chopped pecans and toasted oats
A small slice of cake with sliced berries or an apple on the side
Read more: Meal Plan: Key Nutrients of Pregnancy
Get up and move
Engaging in regular physical activity can help tame your sweet tooth by increasing your energy levels, leaving you a little less likely to rummage through the cabinets in search of that sugar rush.7
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend building up to 20 to 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week during pregnancy.11
Read more: Exercise during Pregnancy
If you feel this may be the case, do something to distract yourself such as go for a walk, make phone calls, do something to pamper yourself.
You might be surprised how quickly you forget about your craving when you start doing something else.
Learn your triggers
What intensifies your sweet tooth? Is it your reward at the end of the day? Or do you “have to have something sweet” after dinner? Is it a difficult phone call or interactions with a specific person?
Identifying what heightens your desire for something sweet will make it easier to find ways to manage it.
Be sure to drink enough water and eat foods that have a high-water content like fruits and vegetables. If you are drawn to sugar-filled beverages like sodas and juices, try a more natural alternative like fruit-infused water or seltzer.
Fill up a large pitcher of water and add your favorite fruits, veggies, and even herbs. Try cucumber and lime, watermelon and mint, and basil and pomegranate.
Stress can cause us to reach for those feel-good, sugar-filled foods.9
If you can relate your sweet tooth to increased stress levels, find ways to lower your stress like deep breathing and meditation.
Learn more: Stress Management 101
Indulge just a bit
It’s perfectly OK to surrender to your sweet tooth every once in a while.
Make it count by truly savoring what you are having. If you are craving chocolate, but all that’s available is stale, leftover Halloween candy, perhaps save your indulgence for something you will more thoroughly enjoy later.
We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.
Our Happy Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitian nutritionists certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am - 6pm (ET).Chat Now!
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