Pros and Cons of Sugar Rich Foods during Pregnancy
We all know how much our eating habits can change during pregnancy. Many women are suddenly reaching for more sweet things, and we certainly can’t blame them! Pregnancy brings out all sorts of new emotions and messes with our hormones in ways we’ve never experienced before.
It makes complete sense that we may want a little extra sugar. What’s more comforting than a big bowl of ice cream or a few chocolate biscuits? Unfortunately, if we aren’t careful, these new-found cravings can be harmful for us and our precious growing baby. The important thing is to learn the risks and benefits of sugar and make healthy choices.
Added Sugar vs Sugar as Natural Ingredient
The first thing you need to know about sugar during pregnancy is that sugar in foods comes in different forms. It’s important to understand this when making dietary choices as an expecting mum. Not all sugars are the same. Some sugar can be extremely beneficial in your pregnancy, but too much of anything is a bad thing. Knowing what form of sugar comes from a specific source can help you determine how much is okay during your pregnancy.
When sugar is not naturally occurring in food, but is instead added to it during processing or preparation of the food, it is called added sugar. Generally, when you think of sugary foods, this is the type of sugar you are thinking of. Cakes, ice creams, and biscuits etc. are all common examples of sources of added sugar. These foods are simple carbohydrates and therefore are made up of only one or two sugar molecules. Having excess amounts of foods with added sugars is not highly recommended during pregnancy.
This is the type of sugar that is naturally occurring in foods. Common sources of natural sugar would be fruits and milk. These are complex carbohydrates which are made of many sugar molecules joined together like a string or chain. Foods with natural sugars should be the preferred choice of ‘sugary foods’ during pregnancy.
Dangers of Sugar during Pregnancy
If you aren’t careful with your sugar intake during pregnancy, it can cause an assortment of different problems for you as well as your growing little bub. The type of sugar is what is most important to consider. Foods with added sugar are typically what you need to look out for.
Exasperated Common Pregnancy Discomforts
There are plenty of uncomfortable things about pregnancy; nausea, occasional vomiting, constipation, heart burn, and even mood swings are all common occurrences in pregnancy and are completely normal. However, if you are eating too much added sugar during your pregnancy, these discomforts can become worse and last longer than they would otherwise.
Sugar Replaces Needed Nutrition
If you are consistently indulging your sweet tooth during pregnancy, it means that you will be missing out on valuable nutrition that your body, as well as your growing baby’s body, desperately needs. To ensure a healthy pregnancy diet, the pregnant mum should include sufficient amounts of carbohydrates, protein, milk and dairy products, fruits, vegetables and small amounts of ‘extra foods’ to her every day diet. To learn more on what to eat during pregnancy to stay healthy and how much to eat, read here. If these recommendations are followed, the expecting mum and her developing bub will get all the nutrition they need.
The ‘extra foods’ category mentioned above include the ‘added sugar items’. One serving of an added sugar item could be ½ a chocolate bar or possibly a slice of cake. The recommended range of servings for this group starts at 0 because they are not needed and should be limited. An expecting mum should get no more than 2 ½ servings of these types of foods daily and ideally should not even be getting them every day.
When an expecting mum is consuming excess sugar, she is missing out on the other important food groups (carbohydrates, proteins etc.) that are essential to a healthy pregnancy. It’s also important to keep in mind that as the pregnancy progresses, energy needs increase. Ideally, the expecting mother should fulfil her increased energy needs with healthy options that supply valuable nutrition rather than foods with excess amounts of added sugar that are likely lacking in any real nutrition.
Excess Weight Gain
Gaining weight during pregnancy is a given, but gaining too much weight can increase your chances for complications, including making labour more difficult. Eating a lot of added sugar foods during pregnancy adds a lot of “empty-kilojoules” to your diet. Empty-kilojoules is energy that offers no nutritional value which is why excess foods with added sugar can cause excessive weight gain.
Additionally, gaining too much weight during pregnancy can make it more difficult to shed the kilos after you give birth. The post-partum period is often a sensitive time for new mums while they adjust to not only the changes happening in their lives but the changes that have happened and are happening with their bodies. The last thing a recovering new mum needs is extra stress about her body.
The Importance of Sugar during Pregnancy
Sugar isn’t all bad; it’s actually very important to keep our bodies functioning properly and ensure a healthy pregnancy. Sugar tends to have a reputation of being unhealthy, which can make you think that you need to give up sugar altogether during pregnancy. However, that’s not actually the case. As a matter of fact, sugar is crucial to a healthy pregnancy.
Helps you meet your daily energy requirement: One of the biggest benefits of sugar during pregnancy is that it helps expecting mums to meet the daily energy requirement during pregnancy. Energy needs of a woman are much higher during pregnancy. Expecting mums won’t really need these additional kilojoules during the first trimester. Yet, it is recommended to consume food that helps you gain approximately 1400 extra kilojoules in the second trimester, and approximately 1900 extra kilojoules during the third trimester.
The right choice of sugar foods come with other essential nutrients: What really matters is what sources you are getting your sugar from during pregnancy! Foods like fruit and milk are the best sources for expecting mums to get sugar. One problem with other sources of sugar is that they are usually more concentrated, as in you’re getting more sugar in less food. The great thing about consuming milk and fruit during your pregnancy is that you’re getting the healthy amounts of natural sugar while also getting lots of other great nutrients. Milk is not only a good way to get natural sugar during pregnancy but is also a vital source of Vitamin D and calcium, both of which are extremely important to the developing baby. Fruits are also a great source of natural sugar as well as many vitamins and minerals that are essential to a healthy pregnancy.
How to Handle Sugar Cravings during Pregnancy
Choose Healthier ‘Sugar Food’ Options
When you’re craving sugar during pregnancy, it can be very hard to turn down yummy treats like cakes or biscuits.However, there are wonderful alternatives that will keep you and your bub healthier and help you feel better in the long run.
What you eat during pregnancy and beyond will influence your little one’s health potentially for their entire lives. By eating healthy during pregnancy, not only are you providing the foetus with all the required nutrition, but you’ll develop a healthy eating habit for yourself which is good not just for your eating habits in the future but you will also be setting an example for your baby as he grows.
Some fruits that are recommended for expecting mothers are grapefruit, pears, apricots, and dates. These fruits make great alternatives to foods full of added sugar. They are nice and sweet, but are also very healthy choices. It is important to know how much fruit you should be eating during your pregnancy. The recommendation for pregnant women is 4 servings of fruit per day. One serving of fruit could be a single piece of fruit, a cup of canned fruit, or even ½ cup of fruit juice. To learn more about what foods to eat during pregnancy and how much of to eat, read here.
Exercise gives you equally sweet satisfaction
One of the reasons that we crave sugar is that it makes us feel good. It activates our brain’s pleasure center and increases production of dopamine. This can provide us with a temporary euphoric feeling. The good news is that, exercising does the same thing! Besides helping with cravings, a healthy amount of exercise will make for a healthier pregnancy and likely an easier labour and birth. Just make sure to not push yourself too hard as doing so may also cause harm to you and your baby. To learn more about safe exercises to do during pregnancy, read here.
Diabetes and Pregnancy
Having excessive sugar foods is generally harmful for your body but because pregnancy is a sensitive time of a woman’s life, the chances of complications are always higher. To learn more about the normal values of sugar during pregnancy and when is a pregnant woman more prone to diabetes, read here.
Everything in Moderation
The important take away here is not that sugar is awful and you can never have any if you want a healthy baby. You just need to understand how much is okay and what the best sources of sugar are. A tasty bowl of ice cream every now and then is not going to permanently damage your bub, but as always, you must take in everything in moderation.
As we keep hearing time and again that pregnancy is a sensitive time for both you and your bub, therefore, you should also always consult your health care provider about healthy food choices during pregnancy. Your doctor will be able to help guide you in the right direction to have a safe and healthy pregnancy.
Do your best to eat healthy and provide your body with what it needs to nourish your little one. However, if every now and then you want to indulge yourself a little bit, that’s fine too! Nobody is going to judge you; you are pregnant after all! You should always strive for the best for your bub, but don’t stress yourself out either. That’s not good for you or bub. Enjoy this amazing time in your life as you transition into the beautiful world of motherhood!