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Here's to Pickles and Ice Cream

Constant Cravings

Enjoy the Ride, but Only Around the Block continued...

"If you eat whatever tastes good, pretty soon you could be 400 pounds," says Bruce Bagley, MD, a family-practice physician in Latham, N.Y. "Make sure you have a balanced diet, and then if you feel like eating ice cream, go ahead, but within a reasonable calorie range."

Women should consume only about 300 more calories than usual per day during pregnancy. That should include one extra serving of milk or dairy for calcium and about 10 additional grams of protein. Fats should remain at 30% or less of total calories.

A more serious condition related to cravings is "pica" -- an urge to eat non-nutritive substances like dirt, chalk, clay, or even toilet paper and laundry starch. There's evidence of these bizarre cravings as far back as ancient civilizations, when people used such substances to quell morning sickness.

"Most of those substances aren't harmful per se, as long as the patient is eating, too. Nutrition is the issue," says. Ronald Chez, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of South Florida. Women are often reluctant to confess such cravings, but discussing them with a doctor or midwife can help assess any nutritional problems.

Chocolates, Blueberries, and Those Pesky 'Momisms'

Is there any rhyme or reason to what you'll reach for? Ward says fatty, sugary, or salty foods are the most common -- hence the pickles and ice cream. Particularly in the first trimester, they may be the only foods you can keep down, and since morning sickness is worse on an empty stomach, cravings may be a protective device to stay full.

But that doesn't mean cravings are your body's way of screaming for foods it needs, experts say. That may be an eye-opener for those of us raised by mothers who took every opportunity to point out that our bodies must be deficient in a food we're craving -- proof that we're not eating right, or enough.

Niebyl says an example commonly used to disprove that old wives' tale is the urge to eat ice cubes, which is often associated with anemia. "That doesn't help the iron deficiency. They need to be eating iron-containing foods." One exception to the rule, however, may be salty foods. The body needs a little more sodium [salt] to balance the extra fluid volume during pregnancy, although the normal diet usually includes enough, adds Ward.

There's also no scientific evidence that what you crave during pregnancy will become one of your child's favorites. Anne Pike, a mother of four who lives in Evanston, Ill., says she ate tons of blueberries during her first pregnancy, and sure enough, by the time David was 1, he already showed an affinity for them. "He loved them as a baby, couldn't get enough of them," she says. With her second, she craved hot dogs, and her daughter, Sara, loves those.

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