Here’s an e-mail that I received from an expectant Mom earlier this week:
“I am four months pregnant and my regular daily meals consist of grapefruit or oranges and almonds for breakfast, organic mixed greens and organic chicken for lunch, a sugary snack in the afternoon (often banana bread, or a donut)and carrots, and meat and veggies for dinner. If I have an evening snack it might be a sugary snack, but is more likely to be some fruit.
My husband argues that my once a day sugar food habit will cause our baby to have bad eating habits because the baby will develop a taste for sugary treats and will crave them.
I understand my one-donut a day habit spikes the sugar levels in my blood, which can stimulate the baby. But I disagree that this one transgression a day will ruin my babies eating habits for life. If I didn’t eat as many veggies, fruit and high quality protein throughout the day I might be more concerned.
My question is: am I ruining my child’s ability to say no to sugary snacks because I might have a single sugary snack in a day?”
I thought that this was a great question and something that many of you probably wonder during pregnancy, so I thought I’d share!
First of all, I will answer the actual question:
NO! You are not ruining your unborn baby’s ability to resist sugary snacks in the future because of your one indulgence per day while being pregnant. In fact, as all of my regular readers will know, I encourage “treat” foods everyday in moderation.
One treat per day will definitely not negatively impact an unborn baby’s ability to process sugar. We do worry though, when sugary treat foods displace other healthy foods in the diet, especially during pregnancy. So, for example, if this woman was eating a donut instead of a balanced healthy breakfast, it would mean that she is missing out on key nutrients that her body needs for general health and for her baby’s development.
Now for my rant (and I write this with love):
I couldn’t help but notice, as I read this e-mail, that there were literally no whole grains or starchy foods in her daily intake! Even though it’s not terrible that she is enjoying a treat everyday, I think I know exactly why this well-intentioned Mom-to-be is craving sugary snacks more than once a day…she’s depriving her body of carbs! Whole grains provide energy in the form of carbohydrates, as well as essential b-vitamins and fibre – all very important for pregnancy. They also release certain hormones in the brain that make us feel good and satisfied after a meal. If left out of a meal, intense cravings for carbohydrate foods (likely high sugar, or starchy white treats) surface within an hour or two of the meal. And that’s when it’s tempting to reach for a donut, cookie, banana bread or chocolate-to get the sugar or carbohydrate fix that the body ultimately needs to function and was deprived of in the previous meal.
My additional advice to this Mom-to-be would be:
Add a whole grain food (examples: whole grain bread, high fibre cereal, oatmeal, whole grain pasta, brown rice, quinoa, etc.) to your breakfast, lunch and dinner. You will likely notice that your sugar cravings subside and you won’t feel that intense need for your daily donut. Oh, and your meals will be MUCH more enjoyable 🙂 I would also add a healthy, balanced snack between your meals if there are more than three hours in between. Yogurt and fruit or veggies and hummus are great choices. If you would still like to have a treat or two per day (not to replace a meal or snack, however), go for it and enjoy!
Many thanks for your great question!
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