Part of the problem with eating junk food is you end up eating less of the good stuff and it’s not just about your weight, there are other health risks to you and to your baby.
In Spain mums-to-be who ate fast food twice a week increased their risk of developing diabetes during pregnancy, even if they didn’t eat more calories than healthier eaters (1) and in Denmark a study found that 20 year olds were more likely to have raised blood pressure and high cholesterol if their mum ate a high GI (Glycaemic Index) diet when pregnant (2).
Most junk foods are high GI and eating them exposes babies in the womb to slightly higher levels of glucose as well as causing your blood glucose to spike rapidly and then plummet, leaving you feeling hungry and looking for a quick fix. Low GI foods take longer to digest so levels rise and fall more gently, so you feel fuller for longer.
4 great reasons to avoid the junk
By eating whole natural foods your baby will get all the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development.
When your baby grows up they will be at lower risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease (3).
A healthy diet means less weight gain, a healthier pregnancy and an easier birth (4).
It could reduce the risk of your baby developing a taste for foods high in sugar and salt, which may help you avoid food fights in the future (5).
1 Dominguez LJ et al.; Fast food consumption and gestational diabetes incidence in the SUN project. PLoS One. 2014 12;9(9):e106627. doi: 10.1371/ journal.pone.0106627.
2 Danielsen et al.; Dietary glycaemic index during pregnancy is associated with biomarkers of the metabolic syndrome in offspring at age 20 years. PLoS One. 2013 31;8(5):e64887. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0064887. Print 2013.
3 Szostak-Wegierek D; Intrauterine nutrition: long-term consequences for vascular health; Internat J Womens’s Health 2014;6:647-656.
4 NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence); Weight management before, during and after pregnancy; NICE Public Health Guidance 27, July 2010.
5 Lipchock SV et al.; The gustatory and olfactory systems during infancy: implications for development of feeding behaviours in the high risk neonate; Clin Perinatol 2011; 38(4):627-641.
Low GI snacks - under 200 kcal
- A slice of granary toast with mashed avocado, black pepper & lemon juice.
- Two oat cakes with cheddar cheese & a handful of grapes.
- A small handful of mixed nuts, seeds & dried fruit.
- Sliced apple with almond butter for dipping.
- 40g of bran cereal with semi-skimmed milk & a few sultanas.
Junk food swaps
While it's true that mums-to-be often develop a sweet tooth or crave salty snacks during pregnancy, there is no evidence that your body needs what you crave.
Try these junk food swaps to keep any cravings under control.
Switching to organic
This is a good time to consider eating more organic foods as it’s the best way to help reduce your exposure to harmful pesticides. Organic certification provides assurance that food will, overall, have fewer pesticides than non-organic food.
Despite washing and cooking, the pesticides used routinely in non-organic farming, often remain in the food we eat.
“It’s really important to me to eat a healthy diet but it’s not always easy with two toddlers to run around after. My aim is to be as healthy as I can within the confines of sometimes having very little time. I am generally more hungry in pregnancy and sugar has historically tended to be my quick fix but I’ve been working on finding alternative snacks that will keep me going.”Hailey
How to avoid cravings
• Eat a hearty breakfast to prevent you reaching for a mid-morning muffin.
• Eat low GI carbs (6) like wholegrain bread, and protein-rich foods like nuts, seeds, Greek yogurt and hard boiled eggs, along with lots of fruit and veg to help you feel fuller for longer.
• Eat regularly. Have 2-3 snacks a day as well as three meals so blood sugar levels never reach rock bottom.
• Have healthy snack foods ready at work and home, so you are not tempted by a quick fix.
• Get an early night. Being tired can make you eat more and often choose the wrong types of food (7).
6 Lennerz BS et al.; Effects of dietary glycemic index on brain regions related to reward and craving in men; Am J Clin Nutr 2013;98:641-7.
7 Van Cauter E, Knutson KL; Sleep and the epidemic of obesity in children and adults. Eur J Endocrinol. 2008;159 Suppl 1:S59-66. doi: 10.1530/EJE-08-0298.
Other sources: My Pregnancy: Recipes and Meal Planner by Dr Rana Conway PhD RNutr (Public Health), What to Eat When You’re Pregnant by Dr Rana Conway.
Fact or fiction?
Are fruit juices and smoothies just as healthy as whole fruit.
Fact or fiction?
Sadly not! When you eat whole fruit, it contains more fibre so an orange provides 20% of your daily fibre needs but a glass of orange juice virtually none. Pieces of fruit also contain skin or pulp that contain more cancer-fighting flavonoids. Your digestive system has to work to break up the plant cell walls and release the nutrients in fruit, so you get a slower release of sugar. With juice, this has already been done so the sugar is easily absorbed and can quickly cause blood sugar levels to spike.