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Pregnancy Cravings: When You Gotta Have It!

Pregnancy and food cravings go hand in hand; 3 experts offer suggestions for healthy cravings.
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Not only can this cause serious deficiencies in both baby and mom, since oftentimes the foods we crave during pregnancy can be laden with empty calories, it can also lead to gaining too much weight; a problem that doctors say is on the rise.

Rebarber explains that because the population, as a whole, weighs more, it's not uncommon for overweight women to get pregnant -- meaning there is an even greater need to ensure she doesn't gain an excessive amount of weight during her pregnancy.

Indeed, a Scandinavian study of 600 pregnant women published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2002 showed that excessive weight gain during pregnancy increased the risk of preeclampsia (a life-threatening condition often characterized by a rapid rise in blood pressure), as well as a series of labor and delivery problems.

According to the Institute of Medicine, if you are of normal weight before pregnancy, you should aim to gain between 25 and 35 pounds while pregnant. But if you're overweight at the time of conception, your goal pregnancy weight should be no more than 15 to 25 pounds.

Bernstein tells WebMD that how you handle your cravings could make a big difference.

"If you are craving high-fat premium ice cream and chocolate doughnuts and eating them all the time, you could see your weight blossom to an unhealthy level quite early on," he says.

If you are at risk for gestational diabetes (diabetes diagnosed during pregnancy that can affect the health of both baby and mom), giving in to high-sugar cravings could cause even more problems.

"With gestational diabetes you not only have to watch weight gain, but also what you eat -- so again, cravings can easily get out of hand," says Bernstein.

The good news is that you don't have to spend your pregnancy with a yen you just can't fill. Clinical nutritionist Samantha Heller, MS, RD, says it's easy to quench a pregnancy craving with healthy alternatives if you simply know what it is you really want.

"It's all about understanding what your craving is really for and then finding a more healthy version of that same food, and make a simple substitution," says Heller, a clinical nutritionist at NYU Medical Center in New York City.

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