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Decoding the (Nom, Nom, Nom) Food Cravings

By Charlene O'Hanlon

When I was pregnant with my first child, I craved comfort food:grilled cheese sandwiches, roasted chicken with mashed potatoes,homemade soups, rocky road ice cream. Those things obviously didn't helpwith my waistline, but after coming home from work each night stressed alittle more than I probably should have been, the comfort food put mein a place where I could focus on getting ready for baby and adjust tothe idea of being a parent.

Cravings during pregnancy are as unique as the parents-to-becraving them, and it's not just the one who's pregnant: it has beendocumented that some partners take on pregnancy symptoms including moodswings, food cravings and even morning sickness.

But while there's no medical evidence to suggest cravings point todeficiencies in your diet, some theorize they are ways to make sureyou're getting what you need nutritionally.

According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, pregnant women should be getting an additional 200 to 300 extra calories daily.But having a bag of potato chips is not the way to add calories-ACOGrecommends "nutrient-dense" foods such as lean meats, low-fat dairy,fruits, vegetables and whole grain products.

If your cravings seem excessive or odd (even for a pregnant person),check with your doctor to make sure there's no underlying condition.

Here's a quick rundown of the most popular cravings, and what they could mean:

Ice: Pregnancy makes a person thirsty - aside fromkeeping her own internal processes humming along, a pregnant woman'sbody is hosting another human being, which means she needs at leasttwice as much water daily than non-pregnant people. Craving ice couldmean you're not getting enough water: The Institute of Medicine recommendsthat pregnant women drink about 10 cups of fluids daily. So enjoy thoseice cubes, but be careful not to hurt your teeth. Better yet, grab aglass of water - or two.

Salty food: Your body could be telling you to increaseyour sodium level, which makes sense: an increase in blood volumeduring pregnancy raises the need for sodium. Just don't go overboard, oryou could find yourself with swollen ankles and fingers.

Sweets: For most, this could be your brain telling youto relax and enjoy your pregnancy - forget the adage, "A second on thelips, a lifetime on the hips." You're pregnant, for crying out loud! Youdeserve that extra piece of cake. Or piece of chocolate (just rememberto include it as part of your daily caffeine intake). Or, for me, icecream, which I attributed to the body's need for extra calcium. Justdon't go overboard, or you could regret all those extra indulgences.

Fruit: Who doesn't love fruit salad (yummy yummy)?Fruit is packed with vitamins and minerals, and it can help quell thecraving for sweets. Plus, fruit provides that spike in blood sugar -something I know I needed come 3 p.m. every day.

Spicy food: I did not crave anything spicy - in fact,with my heartburn, I stayed far away from anything that might upset mystomach. But for some, craving for spicy food such as chili peppers isthe body's way of cooling down. Spicy foods can make you sweat, whichcools the body. And when you're pregnant, keeping cool can be paramountno matter what season it is.

Bottom line: If you're craving something, listen to what your bodyis telling you. Often it's easy to figure out. And most likely, yourbody will thank you.

Read More by Charlene O'Hanlon

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