- What are the harmful effects of eating junk food during pregnancy?
- How to control craving for junk food cravings?
Nothing can be tastier than junk food. During pregnancy, the craving is at its all-time high, and you don’t have to worry about your weight too! But you know that is not the way to look at things. In fact, pregnancy is the time when you need to be extra cautious about eating any undesirable foods, and junk tops the list of such foods.
What Are The Harmful Effects of Eating Junk Food During Pregnancy?
You and your baby need a good amount of nutrients during pregnancy for healthy weight gain in you and proper development of brain, bones, organs and immune system in your baby.
Junk foods certainly not help you meet these nutritional demands. If you consume junk food, it does not provide you nutrition, and also doesn’t leave any scope for you to have a healthy food like fruits or vegetables as you feel full.
Here are the possible ways how junk food can affect yours and your baby’s health:
- The baby develops a liking for fatty foods: A study published in Frontiers in Endocrinology (1) explains how a mother’s diet can influence her baby’s food preferences.
The study, which was carried out on pregnant rats, revealed that the rats that ate high-fat food during pregnancy had heavier pups, which preferred fatty foods. Their brain circuitry got altered to have a weakness for fatty foods throughout their adulthood. However, a balanced diet showed a lesser craving for fatty foods in the rat offspring.
- There is an increased risk of allergies: High sugar content in the diet can lead to allergies and asthma. As per a study published in the European Respiratory Journal (2), children of women who had ’free sugars’ (added sugars) in the form of sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, fruit juices or honey in their diet during pregnancy, had an increased risk of allergy and asthma between the ages of 7 and 9.
[ Read: Food Cravings During Pregnancy ]
- Chances of genetic abnormalities could be high: A study carried out on pregnant rats found that consumption of high fat or sugar diet by the mother had lead to impaired peripheral insulin signaling at mitochondrial dysfunction in the female offspring. And this passed on to the next three generations (3).
- Results in the high in-take of acrylamide: Foods such as French fries, bread, potato chips etc., have high content of starch. These foods are baked/ fried at a high temperature (above 250°F), which converts starch into a chemical called acrylamide (4). Studies have found that a higher level of acrylamide can lead to smaller head circumference and low birth weight in babies (5).
- You tend to put on excess weight: Too much junk food during pregnancy leads to excessive weight gain, which can put the pregnant woman and the baby at the risk of various complications, including preeclampsia, birthing a large baby, preterm labor, gestational diabetes, sleep apnea, increased risk of birth defects, miscarriage, and stillbirths (6).
- They have zero nutritional value: Junk food is full of sugar, salt, fats, and cholesterol, which need to be avoided during pregnancy. It is needless to say that neither excess salt nor excess sugar is good for your body.
- You might have digestive problems: Relishing on deep-fried junk food can upset your stomach. It might cause gas, bloat, and indigestion. Also, the junk foods lack fiber content, which is essential for smooth bowel movements.
- Risk of gestational diabetes: Junk foods are high in sugar and calories. Studies have revealed that the consumption of junk food increases the risk of gestational diabetes (7).
[ Read: Gestational Diabetes: Causes, Symptoms ]
When there are so many side-effects of eating junk food while pregnant, you would want to control your cravings. But that is easier said than done. Hence, read on as we share some tricks to get over the urge.
How To Control Junk Food Cravings?
The first trick is to determine not to eat excessive junk food. Once you have decided not to, it will become easy for you to follow the other measures to control your cravings:
- Stock up your shelves with healthy snacks. Avoid junk foods by replenishing your kitchen shelves with natural and healthy snacks. Baked foods are healthier than fried foods. Bake foods at home and enjoy your snacks without any additives and preservatives.
- Snack on fruit and nuts. Whenever you feel like munching, snack on dry fruits and fresh fruits. They will satiate your hunger as well as provide you with essential nutrients.
- Choose your foods sensibly. What you eat is what your baby gets. Make a list of foods that you eat and identify their nutritional content. This can greatly help you to stay away from junk food. Snacking on a chocolate or pizza slice once in a while will do no harm to your body. However, ensure that you do not make it a daily habit.
Get smart and cook some dishes at home to feed your cravings. Here are the alternatives if you have a craving for:
- potato chips or such stuff – go for baked kale chips, beet chips or dried seaweed.
- cakes and candies – snack on bananas, apples or any other fruit paired with almond butter or a drizzle of melted chocolate.
- ice creams – fruity yogurt or ice cream made with bananas.
[ Read: Healthy Snacks During Pregnancy ]
And, if you want to eat some food from outside, then here are some options (8):
- Grilled chicken with salad greens and dressing on the side
- A whole wheat roll-up of turkey breast with lettuce and tomato
- Two slices of vegetarian pizza with a green salad as side dish
- Chicken, beef, or shrimp fajitas
- Stir-fried chicken or seafood, which is light on the oil and sauces
- Low fat milk for a beverage
- Brown rice or whole-wheat pasta
- A cup of fresh fruit dessert
Junk food satiates your taste buds but not your nutrient requirements. However, it doesn’t mean that you have to totally avoid a pizza, hamburger, French fries, cool drinks and more. An occasional feast is fine, but do not make it a habit. When you are meeting your nutritional requirements every day, pampering yourself now and then with your favorite junk food is perfectly alright.
How did you deal with your craving for junk food while pregnant? Let us know in the comment section below.
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