Guest author: Laurel Otey
The holiday season is upon us, which means time spent with loved ones, cherished traditions and lots of opportunities for delicious food! Sugar cravings tend to increase during pregnancy (I know mine did), and even more so over the holiday season. We all know sugar isn’t good for us or our growing baby, but there’s no reason most of us can’t enjoy a little sweetness here and there. Here are some top tips for navigating those cravings over the holidays.
Eat fat first.
Often a sugar craving is a result of our blood sugar levels dropping. Our bodies know that the fastest way to bring those levels back up is with sugary treats or refined carbohydrates that quickly metabolize into sugars. The problem is this puts us in an endless cycle of blood sugar spike-and-crash that leaves us hungry, tired, unsatisfied, irritable and still craving more sugar. On the other hand, healthy fats take longer to metabolize which helps steady our blood sugar levels and keep us satiated for longer. Next time you find yourself craving sugar, try eating some healthy fats first and see how you feel after about 20 minutes. Avocados, nuts and seeds that are either whole or as a nut/seed butter, unsweetened coconut, olives, wild-caught fatty fish like salmon and organic pastured eggs are a few delicious healthy fat options.
Incorporate more naturally sweet vegetables.
Carrots, onions, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, parsnips, turnips and beets all taste sweet when cooked. Try adding them to meals—including breakfast. A couple of sunny-side-up eggs over leftover roasted butternut squash sounds like a delicious start to the day to me! Not only will the natural sugars help satisfy your cravings, but they’ll make your meals taste amazing. Try to purchase organic whenever possible at your local grocery store, farmer’s market or CSA.
Stock up on low sugar fruit.
Fresh whole fruit can be a wonderful addition to your diet when eaten in moderation and a healthy alternative to processed foods with added sugars. Berries are our powerhouse fruits! Enjoy these antioxidant-rich gems on their own, mixed into salads or as dessert. Citrus fruits like oranges and lemons are a great source of vitamin C to help you fight off illness and naturally curb your appetite. Even higher sugar fruits such as bananas and mangos when eaten whole are going to be healthier than refined sugar options because they come with all their wonderful fiber and nutrients intact.
Add fat when eating sugar.
Craving bananas? Try adding peanut/nut/seed butter. Can’t get enough mango? Throw on a generous helping of unsweetened shredded coconut or full-fat organic yogurt. Chocolate lover? Choose one with toasted almonds or pumpkin seeds. Not only will these combos taste delicious, but the added healthy fats help slow down the blood sugar spike. Your body, brain, and growing baby require healthy fats to thrive, so enjoy!
Drink a glass of water.
Often, we misinterpret signs of dehydration as a sugar or simply a hunger craving. We require even more water while pregnant and nursing. Dehydration can cause extremely serious complications for both you and your baby. Next time you find yourself faced with a craving, drink a full glass of water and check back in with how you feel after 20 minutes.
If you’re in a state of chronic stress and/or sleep deprivation, your body will crave the quickest form of energy available: sugar. The amount of sleep you require varies from person-to-person, but generally falls in the range of 7-9 hours per night for adults age 18-64 years. However, you may find you require more rest during certain phases of pregnancy. Listen to your body and take a break, even if it’s for only 5 to 10 minutes. Your body and your growing baby will thank you!
Move your body.
Physical activity helps balance blood sugar level, boost energy and reduce stress and tension. This will make you less likely to feel the need to self-medicate with sugar.
Find fulfillment and joy in your life.
Humans need things that make them feel good every day. When we don’t get these from our relationships, careers, hobbies or physical activities, we may seek them out in our food. If you’re finding yourself more stressed and craving more sugar than usual while pregnant, have a look at the non-food sources of nourishment in your life. Which areas could benefit from a bit more attention and self-love?
Laurel Otey is the owner of Layered Living, a certified health coaching business. They offer personalized health coaching, group workshops, recipe creation for businesses and wellness product consulting. Her inspiration for entering the world of wellness came from her own family’s health journey. Are you ready to start living a healthier, happier life? Contact Laurel today to schedule your free consultation!