When I say no, it is a surprise. It is almost as if people don't believe me! After all, aren't cravings a standard pregnancy feature?
Before I had first-hand experience with pregnancy, I assumed so. Now, however, I have my doubts. I mean, I don't doubt that many women experience cravings. I believe they do. But I do not believe that cravings are out of our control. And I do believe that with proper nutrition we can avoid them altogether (and we should avoid them altogether, because Taco Bell's Fourth Meal is never ever a wise choice -- pregnant or not).
My experience with pregnancy cravings
Before I explain, let me say a little more about my personal experience. In the days immediately following the confirmation of my pregnancy, I really enjoyed spicy red salsa. So much so, that I ate with a spoon straight from the jar. I did correlate this with pregnancy because, even though I love spicy red salsa, I have never eaten it straight from the jar with a spoon before. That same week, I also decided that hot chocolate was irresistible. Because I couldn't stop thinking about it, I indulged. I ordered the 8-oz. kid-sized one and enjoyed every drop. A few days later, I caved in again -- but after two or three sips, I was done. The hot chocolate went into the trash can, and I haven't wanted one since. I'm over the salsa, too.
These two incidents are about the closest I've personally experienced to cravings. But is that because of paleo?
According to Amy Kubal, M.S., a dietitian who specializes in paleo nutrition, the answer is yes.
"There is definitely something to be said for lack of cravings and diet pattern," Amy says, citing a recent study in the journal Obesity, which indicated that avoiding high-carb junk food reduces the desire for such foods over time."Eating paleo prior to and during pregnancy means that the foods being eaten are healthy, nutrient dense choices opposed to the high carbohydrate, high sugar and other junk foods. The non-exposure to (junk) likely helps decrease cravings for them."
As for the women who do experiencing cravings, they are probably including nutrient-void options in their diets regularly and therefore are more likely to crave them during pregnancy, says Amy, who runs the blog Fuel as RX and also offers nutritional consulting services (check out her consulting page on Robb Wolf's web site).
Interesting! Of course, I'm not surprised. I am glad, though, to have a dietitian back up my hypothesis. Other moms back me up, too. Moms like Peggy from Denver, Colorado, who wrote about her paleo pregnancy on her super-informative blog, The Primal Parent.
Like me, Peggy didn't experience cravings while pregnant.
"A close non-paleo friend of mine had cravings all over the place and I always wondered when mine would set in, but they never did," says Peggy, whose daughter is now five. "I remember one week she was craving peaches like crazy. I thought peaches sounded really good, so I bought some, too. Naturally, they were super good in the middle of summer, so I bought some more. I remember thinking that was the closet to cravings I was going to come."
I also asked Peggy about her thoughts on why pregnant women who are not paleo experience such intense cravings. I love what she had to say, and love that she has the courage to say it (I feel the same way, but so far have been too concerned about ruffling the feathers of my non-paleo friends -- something I really shouldn't worry about)!
"The first (reason), and this may be the biggest problem, is cultural. Women believe that pregnancy is some kind of license to eat whatever you want because you need the extra calories for the baby and because as a pregnant woman you are supposed to gain weight. These beliefs are both nonsense. I certainly expected to gain weight, though I never did," she says (on a side note, I believe Peggy is referring to weight that is above and beyond what the body actually needs to sustain the pregnancy -- obviously the baby itself and things like blood volume, etc., are going to add some temporary pounds).
The other reason, she explains, is more scientific.
"Once a person starts eating more sugar and grains, a lot of things start happening to the body. One is that the pathogenic bacteria in the gut flourish, causing deficiencies and cravings. Opioids in the brain cause an addiction to high glycemic foods, which leads to more cravings," she says, adding that paleo helps eliminate cravings because it stabilizes hormones and provides plenty of healthy dietary fat (in case you didn't get the memo -- fat, like the fat found in avocado, coconut, grass-fed beef, fish, nuts and olive oil, is good for you and you need a lot of it!).
Coping with cravings
With all of this said, I realize this is my first pregnancy and I really don't know exactly what I will experience over the next five months. What I do know, however, is even if I do wind up experiencing cravings I will not give in to them. Nobody needs high carb junk food. And, like Peggy pointed out, pregnancy is not a license to indulge. Not only is it bad for our bodies, it is bad for our growing babies! Besides, there are plenty of strategies out there to help cope with any cravings that do come up. Here are a few tips, courtesy of Amy Kubal:
- Always choose healthy paleo foods and never allow yourself to get ravenous.
- If you find yourself with an overwhelming desire to eat a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, take a few minutes and decide if that is what you really want. Then, eat a healthy snack with some protein, good carbs and fat.
- Go for a walk or engage in another activity: it will help get your mind off the temptation.
- Think about all the good things you are doing for yourself and your baby by nourishing your body with "clean burning fuel."
So, what is the general consensus out there? Did you experience pregnancy cravings while following paleo? I would love to hear your thoughts!