8 Reasons To Limit Junk Food During Pregnancy

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Eating fast food during pregnancy may be tempting to many women because your body may cause you to crave salty or sweet food. However, eating junk food may not be a good option because pregnant women need nutrient-rich food to nourish themselves and the growing fetus.

Since junk food is low on nutrients, eating it can adversely affect the baby’s health. Some negative effects of junk food may be an increase in digestive issues, weight gain, and risk of genetic abnormalities in children. Therefore, it is recommended to adopt healthy eating habits and choose your food options mindfully.

This post shares some side effects of eating junk food while pregnant and how you can curb the craving.

Why Should You Limit 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 food is low in nutritional value, so it doesn’t provide many of the necessary nutrients you need during pregnancy. If you fill up on junk foods, there’s little room left to eat the nutritious food you need.

Here are the possible ways junk food may affect you and your baby :

  1. The baby develops a liking for fatty foods: A study published in Frontiers in Endocrinology 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 (1).

  1. There may be 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.
  2. Chances of genetic abnormalities may increase: A study carried out on pregnant rats found that consumption of high fat or sugar diet by the mother lead to impaired peripheral insulin signaling at mitochondrial dysfunction in the female offspring. And this passed on to the next three generations (3).
  3. May result in an increased in-take of acrylamide: According to the US Food and Drug Administration, Acrylamide is a chemical that may be formed when foods are fried at very high temperatures, such as french fries, potato chips and other fried foods in the category of junk (4). Studies have found that a higher level of acrylamide can lead to smaller head circumference and low birth weight in babies (5).
  1. The chances of gaining excess weight might be higher: Too much junk food during pregnancy can lead to excessive weight gain (6). Experts at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists state that obesity puts 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 congenital disabilities, miscarriage, and stillbirths (7).
  1. Junk foods have zero nutritional value: Many foods we consider junk are high in sugar, salt, fats, and cholesterol, which should not be eaten in excess during pregnancy.
  1. Might lead to digestive problems: An excessive intake of deep-fried food may upset your stomach. It might cause gas, bloating, and indigestion. Also, many junk foods lack fiber content, which is essential for smooth bowel movements.
  1. Risk of gestational diabetes increases: Junk foods are often high in sugar and calories. Studies have revealed that the consumption of junk food increases the risk of gestational diabetes (7).

Limiting your intake of junk foods may be easier said than done. Hence, read on as we share some tricks to manage cravings.

How To Control Junk Food Cravings?

First decide that you want to eat healthy foods during your pregnancy to increase the health of you and your baby.

  1. Stock 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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 be more aware of the content of the foods. Snacking on a chocolate or pizza slice once a while will do no harm to your body or the baby. However, try 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.

And, if you want to eat some food from outside, then here are some options (8):

  • Stir-fried chicken or seafood, which is light on the oil and sauces
  • A whole wheat roll-up or wraps without mayonnaise and with salad
  • Two slices of vegetarian pizza with a green salad as side dish
  • Brown rice or whole-wheat pasta with tomato based sauce
  • Clear soups
  • Avoid salads with creamy or oil-based dressings as they can be very high in fat.

Junk food might seem tempting, and you may crave them quite often. However, regularly eating junk food during pregnancy might not be a good option. Pregnant women require nutrient-dense foods to nourish themselves and their babies. Junk food is low in nutrition and may increase the risk of complications such as gestational diabetes and digestive problems. Some great healthy snack alternatives are fruits, nuts, and yogurt. Nevertheless, eating a burger or pizza once in a while won’t harm you. Enjoy your pregnancy, pamper yourself occasionally, and remember to take care of your health.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Julie Paradis et al.; (2017); Perinatal Western Diet Consumption Leads to Profound Plasticity and GABAergic Phenotype Changes within Hypothalamus and Reward Pathway from Birth to Sexual Maturity in Rat.
    https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fendo.2017.00216/full
  2. Annabelle Bédard et al.; (2017); Maternal intake of sugar during pregnancy and childhood respiratory and atopic outcomes.
    https://erj.ersjournals.com/content/50/1/1700073
  3. Jessica L Saben et al.; (2016); Maternal Metabolic Syndrome Programs Mitochondrial Dysfunction via Germline Changes across Three Generations.
    https://erj.ersjournals.com/content/50/1/1700073
  4. Acrylamide Questions and Answers.
    https://www.fda.gov/food/chemical-contaminants-food/acrylamide-questions-and-answers#2
  5. Talita Duarte-Salles et al.; (2013); Dietary Acrylamide Intake during Pregnancy and Fetal Growth—Results from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa).
    https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/10.1289/ehp.1205396
  6. Obesity and Pregnancy.
    https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/obesity-and-pregnancy?utm_source=redirect&utm_medium=web&utm_campaign=otn
  7. Ligia J. Dominguez et al.; (2014); Fast Food Consumption and Gestational Diabetes Incidence in the SUN Project.
    https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0106627
  8. Eating out and takeaway tips.
    https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/im-pregnant/nutrition-in-pregnancy/eating-out-and-takeaway-tips
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Claudia Wilson

(MS, RDN, CSSD, CSCS)
Claudia Wilson is a registered dietitian/ nutritionist, a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Nutrition (CSSD), and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). She founded ALL of NUTRITION and authored ONE-TWO PUNCH. She holds a BS in Public Health and an MS in Nutrition. Claudia spent 10 years as sports nutritionist for the University of Utah Athletic Department and in... more

Swati Patwal

Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist and toddler mom with over eight years of experience in diverse fields of nutrition. She started her career as a CSR project coordinator for a healthy eating and active lifestyle project catering to school children. Then she worked as a nutrition faculty and clinical nutrition coach in different organizations. Her interest in scientific writing... more

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