Can You Eat Sugar While Pregnant?

During pregnancy it is important not only to discard junk foods and eat nutrient dense foods but also to eat the foods at right time and in right amounts. The dietary regimen followed by the pregnant female plays a vital role in the healthy development of the baby. Females who have a sweet tooth may enjoy eating sugar during their pregnancy. Now the question is whether eating sugar is safe during pregnancy?

Is Eating Sugar During Pregnancy Safe?

Normally, females eat a good quantity of sugar via various drinks and dishes they consume. But, after conception, a female should keep her sugar intake within limit. Excess consumption of sugar may prove harmful both for the female and her baby. What are the drawbacks of excessive consumption of sugar during pregnancy?

1. Aggravation of Symptoms of Pregnancy

Consuming excess sugar while you are pregnant may be harmful. During pregnancy, occasional symptoms of heartburn, mood swings and vomiting are naturally present. However, on consuming excessive sugar, these symptoms may get aggravated and become persistent. Hence, it is advisable to eat small quantity of sugar after conception.

2. Nutritional Deficit

When you get pregnant, you may develop food cravings, which is a normal symptom of pregnancy. The cravings could be for ice creams, burgers, pickles etc. Majority of these food items are rich in sugar and fat. When you consume lots of sugary foods, your intake of nutrient rich foods becomes less.  This is detrimental for both the pregnant female and her baby.

3. Worse Feeling of Fatigue and Tiredness

It is a common symptom of pregnancy to feel tired and fatigued at times. Eating sugar during pregnancy may worsen this feeling. Sucrose is present in sugary foods and drinks, which produce a surge in the levels of blood glucose, which is followed by a drop in energy levels.

4. Making the Baby Crave for Sugar

According to research, females who have craving for sugary food items during pregnancy give birth to children who grow up and develop sugar craving too. This makes them prone to develop obesity and other related illnesses in future.

5. Weight Gain

Females who eat excess sugar during pregnancy have a tendency to gain weight. While all females gain some weight while they are pregnant, those females, who consume more sugar, gain more weight in comparison to others. Moreover, it is also difficult for them to shed the extra weight after delivery.

Excessive weight gain during pregnancy may result in several problems such as:

  • Preeclampsia
  • High blood pressure
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Complications during birth and labor
  • Pain in back, leg and hip
  • Headaches
  • Cesarean section

Tips for a Low-Sugar Pregnancy Diet

After discussing the drawbacks of eating sugar during pregnancy let’s discuss some tips for a low sugar pregnancy diet.

Avoid Processed Foods

There is lots of sugar, saturated fat and salt present in processed foods. It is best to eat whole food, homemade diet to avoid these ingredients. A good guideline that you can follow is the least number of steps a food undergoes starting from farm to your table is the best food to eat. Moreover, the less a food is packaged, the less it is processed. You can think of fresh vegetables and fruits, lean meat, eggs, products of whole grains, and healthy proteins obtained from foods such as beans, nuts and peas. You should increase your intake of protein to 80-100 g or 60% greater than your pre-pregnancy intake to keep off your sugar cravings.

Increase Intake of Foods That Are Naturally Sweet

If you have a sugar craving, you should satisfy that craving with foods that are naturally sweet such as fresh fruits. Though they have sugar in natural form, they also contain fiber, which decrease the rate of absorption of sugar. They also have lots of minerals and vitamins.

Avoid Artificial Sweeteners

Some females find artificial sweeteners as an easy alternative to eating sugar during pregnancy. Not sufficient studies exist on the effect of the artificial sweeteners of your growing baby. Yacon syrup, which has a low glycemic index, is an excellent alternative for artificial sweeteners.

Get Help

Discuss with your physician or your dietitian about which foods you should be eating or not eating during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Guidelines for Healthy Eating During Pregnancy

1. Choose foods which serve multiple purposes: Eat foods that are nutrient dense as they will meet your multiple nutritional requirements at one time. For instance, milk gives lots of protein and calcium. Lean beef and pork give protein and zinc, iron and B vitamins.

2. Don’t eat foods that have only calories: Cake, cookies, ice cream and candy are not nutrient dense foods. You should eat them in moderation during pregnancy. If you eat too many sweets while pregnant, you are either consuming too many calories or replacing nutrient rich foods.

3. Keep in mind that you are not actually eating for two: Overeating is one of the main problems with pregnant females. Only 300 extra calories per day are required by a pregnant female and that too in the second and third trimester. Many females eat greater than this amount and gain more weight than the recommended 24-36 pounds.

4. Remember to ingest the prenatal vitamin: A prenatal mineral and vitamin supplement taken daily provides nutrients such as folate, iron, vitamins and many more. Iron is particularly important, as it helps in combating anemia. During pregnancy, there is a significant increase in blood volume; hence, more amount of iron is required.

5. Focus on the food groups: Apart from consuming a prenatal vitamin, consume the following per day to make sure that you get all the nutrients:

  • Nine servings from group bread, rice, pasta and cereal
  • Six ounces of animal protein from group meat, fish, beans, eggs, nuts and poultry
  • Four servings from group vegetable
  • Three servings from group fruit
  • Three servings from group cheese, yogurt and milk

6. Remember to consume fiber-rich foods and plenty of water: Drink lots of liquids/water-at least 8 glasses per day to support your increase in blood volume. Also eat fiber rich foods, which along with water can help in preventing constipation. Eat lots of vegetables and fruits, whole-grain and whole-wheat pastas and breads. Eat at least 24-36 g of fiber per day.

7. Avoid unpasteurized and uncooked foods: Avoid unpasteurized and uncooked cheese such as Camembert, Brie, blue-veined, Mexican-style cheese and feta. These products can contain listeria, which is a bacterium that may result in food-borne disease. Do not buy deli meats, instead buy cold cut, prepackaged meats. Furthermore, do not eat undercooked or raw sushi, eggs, seafood or meat while pregnant. Do not eat fish that contains excessive quantities of mercury including king mackerel, shark, swordfish, tuna and tilefish. Limit your intake of canned fish and shellfish to 12 oz per week. Do not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy.

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