One of the most common pregnancy symptoms most women, if not all, will experience is new or different food cravings.

If you ask any pregnant woman what she is craving, she is likely to be craving one or two particular foods or groups of food. Now be it wishful thinking, there are some who pine for certain vegetables like broccoli, but more common pregnancy cravings centre around chocolates, cookies and my most prominent craving, ice cream.

Being a nutritionist I still think having some of these foods in moderation is okay and hey, if it will get you through pregnancy, I don’t think a scoop or two of ice-cream every now and then will hurt. So if your desire for sugars is too much to resist, then you do not need to always fight it, it is okay to indulge occasionally. However it is important to try and keep our cravings in check.It is important that our growing babies get all the essential nutrients they need from a balanced and healthy diet.

Before I continue, I would just like to make it clear that if you have any underlying health conditions such as gestational diabetes, please check in with your personal doctor and/or other health care providers and follow the diet they have set up for you. Here are my top five tips to help curb those unleashed cravings during pregnancy:

1. Eat Breakfast

I know with busy schedules some of us are time challenged in the mornings, but my number one tip when pregnant is to never skip breakfast. Breakfast is a great way to start our day by feeding our bodies with good, proper nutrition. It will help curb nausea, help you concentrate and help regulate your blood sugars – which can all be a challenge when we are pregnant. Also, when we eat breakfast we are less likely to feel hungry later on and reach for quick fixes at morning tea like that piece of cake sitting in the office kitchen.

2. Eat Often

Now I do not know about you, but being told to eat often is all I have ever wanted to hear! Instead of waiting hours between meals it is a good idea to plan small meals throughout the day when you are pregnant. This has a number of benefits: it will help beat nausea; if we eat regularly, we are less likely to over eat at meals; and we are less likely to binge on junk food. By eating often, we keep our blood sugar levels stable. My tip is to plan 4-6 small meals over regular time intervals. 3. Substitute Although I did suggest that having certain foods like a scoop or two of ice cream in moderation is okay, we should try to overcome our cravings by substituting with healthier options. When it comes to substituting foods appropriately, try replacing processed foods with natural, healthy alternatives. Instead of having that piece of cake for morning tea, have a piece of fruit or two. I suggest making sure you have some fruit on hand at all times.

4. Exercise 

Although most of us are hit with what feels like a plague of fatigue during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester, exercising regularly has many great benefits. We know that exercise boosts our serotonin; putting us in a good mood and also helps keep our hormones in check; both of which are greatly affected during pregnancy. So if you are feeling down or emotional, which I bet most of you are, exercise can help us stay positive. Being active is also a great way to help curb those unwanted hunger cravings.

5. Drink Water

An important tip for curbing those cravings is to stay hydrated. When we are dehydrated we tend to confuse this feeling of being thirsty with being hungry. It is quite common to over eat without realising, as we often think we are hungry when we are thirsty.

The total amount you should be drinking will vary from person to person, so make sure you ask your doctor or health care professional exactly how much they think you should be drinking. This will be more than what you were drinking prior to falling pregnant, especially if you continue to exercise regularly.

By drinking water throughout the day, it will help us stay hydrated and as a result, it will help control our hunger and food cravings. If you struggle to drink water, mix it up; try adding lemon or mint for some flavouring or try some herbal teas.

Beating the sugar cravings

Fighting the urge to eat sugary food can be extremely difficult, especially when our hormones are giving us a hard time, and while fighting food cravings during pregnancy is a lot easier said than done, it is something that needs to be done. Yes, we all get them, but by knowing the triggers and some simple solutions, it may actually be easier than you thought it would be to overcome those unwanted cravings. Just remember, you will feel healthier with a nutritious diet, and so will your baby!

It is recommended that you speak to your doctor or health care professional for nutrition advice. Remember every mother is different and will have different needs during pregnancy. Results may vary.