For even the most health-conscious of people, pregnancy can bring out the best (er, worst?) in us when it comes to cravings and snacking. Pregnancy hormones are responsible for lots of things, including causing the irresistable urge to down a bag of Cheetos and sauerkraut (for example -- not that I would know). That said, when we dig down beneath the primary craving, what we often find is a basic flavor, texture, or nutrient that our body is calling for. So Cheetos = salty, crunchy, pronounced/sharp flavor, carbohydrates (energy). And while whole wheat salted crackers may not be the replacement your taste buds desire, pairing crackers with cheese, hot sauce, mustard, or olives, might ratchet up the flavor profile enough to fulfill the infamous neon orange torpedos craving, all the while providing you with more nutrients. Of course, there are the times when absolutely-nothing-else will do, in which case carpe diem -- and eat the Cheetos. But if your willpower will hang on, take a look at the following 6 "choose this -- not that" suggestions.
Choose This! (Not That) -- Pregnancy Edition
If you are craving... Chips
Chips have a lot going for them in terms of taste and craving -- salty, crunchy, flavorful, oily/fatty, full of carbs. But chips are not the best choice when considering nutrition. Instead of your favorite bag-o-chips, consider:
- Air-popped popcorn with butter/oil and salt. If you're seeking a flavor kick, try drizzling with honey or hot sauce or balsamic vinegar.
- Nuts - plain or salted and roasted, or try adding your own flavoring with items found in your spice cabinet, like paprika and garlic powder.
- Salsa on melba toast.
- Roasted chickpeas with salt or spices. You can find lots of yummy recipes on Pinterest.
- Sliced veggies with hummus or yogurt dip.
If you are craving... Cake/Donuts/Cookies
If there was a craving mecca for pregnancy, it would likely be baked goods. Mmmmm. But most of the time, baked desserts are packed with a lot of sugar, hydrogenated oils, and bleached flour -- ingredients that definitely do not scream good nutrition. Before driving through Dunkin Donuts for the third time this week, consider:
- Homemade muffins packed with better-for-you ingredients. Type in "healthy muffins" on Pinterest and you will find enough recipes to keep you busy for a long time. You can still get the taste and flavor profile of a baked treat, but now with better nutrition.
- Granola over fruit or yogurt. This is a great replacement for a cookie (go ahead and throw in a few dark chocolate chips if you want) -- you get the crunch and sweetness without all of the other processed ingredients.
- Oatmeal or baked oatmeal. You might be surprised at the many things you can add to oatmeal that will make it taste more like a treat! Applesauce, cinnamon, brown sugar, yogurt, fresh fruit, nuts -- play around with different combinations to find the right taste for your palate.
If you are craving... Chocolate
Eat it! Well, wait. Eat the better-for-you kind of chocolate. Dark chocolate (the higher cacao percentage the better) is rich in antioxidants, fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, and healthy fats, among other nutritious benefits. When possible, go dark.
If you are craving... French Fries
Who doesn't love french fries from their favorite fast food restauarant or burger joint? Of course, the potatoes in french fries aren't the culprit for poor nutrition, but rather the method in which the fries are prepared, which is often deep fried in oil and loaded in salt. There are a few ways french fries can be better for you, including baking instead of frying; using olive or coconut oil instead of vegetable oil; baking without oil and coated only with egg white or vegetable broth; using sweet potatoes instead of potatoes; cutting back on the salt and adding in spices for a flavor punch; and cutting back on or swapping out your favorite ketchup to opt for one with less sugar, no high fructose corn syrup, and no food coloring. Alternatives to french fries include:
- Sweet potato fries
- Parsnip fries
- Eggplant fries
- Apple fries
- Zucchini fries
- Carrot fries
- Turnip fries
- Rutabaga fries
If you are craving... Soda
The good news is that soda is very easy to replace. Real soda contains a TON of sugar and generally no nutrients (other than the water that's in soda). To replace your favorite soda, mix soda water or selzer with any of the following:
- Fruit juice
- Lime juice
- Lemon juice
- Fruity tea
- Cut up fresh fruit and cucumber
If it's not giving you the sweet punch you're craving, try adding a small amount of agave nectar to naturally sweeten your concoction.
If you are craving... Ice Cream
Where would our TV depiction of pregnancy be without a bowl of ice cream atop a very pregnant belly? Ice cream is hard to replace. If you're looking to "better" your choice of ice cream, check the ingredients. The smaller the list, the better. Avoid high fructose corn syrup and food coloring. Breyers Ice Cream makes some basic flavors of ice cream that include about five ingredients -- all of which are recognizable. Even so, ice cream has a whole lot of sugar. If you're looking to cut out your ice cream addiction, try these:
- Greek yogurt with honey, fruit and nuts drizzled on top. If you're looking for the frozen ice cream feel, mix up a bowl of your favorite ingredients and freeze it for eating later.
- Banana ice cream -- frozen bananas in a blender taste and feel a whole lot like ice cream! Flavor it with cocoa powder and voila, you have your chocolate ice cream!
- Frozen yogurt tubes have a way of tasting and feeling a lot like a popsicle. Look for brands that have lower sugar and no added food coloring.