Pregnancy is a time when eating a balanced diet is of the utmost importance. Significant hormonal fluctuations can cause a variety of changes, which may include food cravings and an increased appetite for some women. While it is all right to indulge your sweet tooth on occasion, eating too many sweets while you are pregnant may put you and your baby's health at risk. The key to a successful and healthy pregnancy is finding a healthy balance of wholesome foods and the occasional sweets.
Nutritional Needs During Pregnancy
During pregnancy the need for important vitamins, minerals, and nutrients such as protein, iron, calcium, and folic acid increases. In order to meet these needs, the Office on Women’s Health, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, advises that you consume an extra 300 calories daily during your second and third trimester. Even though you are technically "eating for two," you are not eating for two adults, so do your best to use the extra calories wisely.
Choose foods with the nutrients your baby needs to grow and thrive per your doctor's recommendation. Sugary drinks, candy, chips and desserts are often called "empty calories" since they provide little to no nutritional value. Fruit is a healthy choice if you want the taste of something sweet. Low-fat gelatin deserts or puddings may also curb your cravings without compromising your recommended caloric intake. If you'd rather have ice cream or candy, for example, try planning your meals ahead of time so you can get the nutrients you need and still have calories left over for dessert.
Blood Sugar Levels
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, doctors suggest gaining 2 to 4 pounds during the first trimester and 3 to 4 pounds per month for the remaining trimesters. Your doctor or midwife will periodically draw blood, weigh you and make dietary recommendations. If you have healthy weight gain and blood sugar levels, enjoying sweets in moderation should not be a problem unless your practitioner says otherwise
If you were overweight before your pregnancy or your doctor tells you that you have a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes, it is important follow your doctor's orders regarding your diet. Diabetes is when your body doesn’t produce enough insulin or can’t use it properly, resulting in high levels of glucose in your blood. Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise will help control your blood sugar will make you more likely to give birth to a healthy baby.
A study published on May 7, 2008 in the National Institutes of Health News reported that pregnant women with higher than normal blood sugar levels are more likely to give birth to babies with the same risk for problems as babies born to mothers with diabetes. The mothers were found to be at risk of developing preeclampsia, or high blood pressure, and their babies were more likely to be born with larger than normal bodies, which often results in a cesarean delivery.
While this study did not make any recommendations for acceptable blood sugar levels, it is important to note that these outcomes were based on women whose blood sugar continued to rise gradually. In other words, eating sweets occasionally and in moderation would probably not cause these issues. Rest assured that your doctor will be monitoring your blood sugar during your pregnancy and will make recommendations accordingly.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, you should avoid artificial sweeteners like Sweet 'N Low since studies have found that saccharin can cross the placenta. However, the FDA has categorized saccharin as safe for public consumption. Talk to your doctor about other sweeteners and additives found in certain candies and sweets that he may want you to avoid or limit during your pregnancy. By simply reading food labels carefully, you can avoid or limit the foods and beverages you consume that contain undesirable ingredients.
If you think you may be pregnant, see your doctor or midwife right away for confirmation. Nutrition is critical in all stages of pregnancy, and particularly in the early months when organs are developing. Talk to your health care provider about the proper diet and nutritional requirements for you and your baby. If you are having difficulty affording the right foods, state-funded programs such as WIC may be available to you. Remember, balanced meals and regular physical fitness are the best way to maintain good health during your pregnancy.
- National Institutes of Health : Gestational Diabetes
- The National Women's Health Information Center : Staying Healthy and Safe
- National Institutes of Health : Mothers' High Normal Blood Sugar Levels Place Infants at Risk for Birth Problems
- American Pregnancy Association : Using Artificial Sweetener during Pregnancy
- Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.