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Junk Food During Pregnancy: Good Or Bad?

Cravings are as normal as morning sickness and tiredness during your pregnancy. Pregnancy food cravings are commonly observed during the first trimester of the pregnancy. Out of all the foods, the one that tops the list of pregnancy cravings are junk food; basically, anything from salted snack foods, gum, candy, sweet desserts to fried fast food, and sugary carbonated beverages.

When you are pregnant, you need to be careful about what you eat. Too much spicy food can be harmful to health. Moreover, junk or fast food, especially chaats or burgers from road-side stalls, have an increased risk of contamination. So, how safe is it for pregnant women to eat junk food? Let's take a look.

Junk Food During Pregnancy

Pregnancy cravings are, in a single word, unpredictable. Sometimes you may crave for fried pickles (yikes!), sometimes it can be ice cream on cold winter nights, all in all, majority of the cravings are highly unlikely for a pack of almonds or some healthy green - they are essentially and by 98 per cent, for junk food [1].

But that's okay, after all, your body is undergoing extreme hormonal changes that play a major role in their sense of taste and smell, making you crave foods that you never knew you would take a second look at [2]. After all, you are eating for two - you need to have some fun with it, right? Well, you can eat healthily and have fun too. Let me break it down for you, pregnant mommas.

By definition, junk foods are food types that do not give anything to your body and are considered 'trash' by the body. Junk foods, be it fried snacks or greasy burgers, are high in salt, contains very low fibre and has high sugar and fat content [3].

For example, mayonnaise, sauces, cheese etc. are packed with salt which can lead to water retention in the body resulting in swelling in the feet and hands and can lead to hypertension (high blood pressure) in pregnancy [4].

The absence of fibre in junk foods poses another risk during pregnancy because it is important to have a fibre-rich diet to avoid constipation because constipation can increase the risk of rupture in the foetal bag (due to the strain) [5].

In addition to that, the high amounts of sugar and fat in junk foods may lead to gestational diabetes during pregnancy and may also interfere with the healthy development of the baby.

So, let's take a look at the harmful effects of eating (excessive) fast food/junk foods during pregnancy:

  • Increases the risk of premature delivery, a lack of fibre in junk foods can put pressure on bowel movement, which may lead to rupture of your water bag, leading to complications [6].
  • Constipation is another risk posed by junk foods during pregnancy.
  • Unhealthy and unwanted weight gain, which is the most obvious effect of eating junk foods. This, in turn, can lead to pregnancy-induced hypertension, various congenital disabilities and other complications during delivery [7].
  • A lack of protein during pregnancy can interfere with the proper kidney development in the foetus, which can result in the development of high blood pressure and renal disease in the baby.
  • There is a possibility that the baby may develop a liking for fatty foods [8].
  • There may be an increased risk of allergies in the child, which usually develops between the ages of 7 and 9 [9].
  • Studies have shown that if the mother consumes an excess of junk food during pregnancy, it can increase the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes in the children [10].

Remember, it is not about cutting out food entirely but making the right eating choices. If you cannot help but binge on that bag of potato chips, go ahead; but make sure you eat better the next day to avoid excessive fat accumulation or other adverse effects. OR you can try healthy alternatives such as, instead of potato chips, try beetroot or kale chips; for cakes or candy, try apples/banana etc.

On A Final Note...

A well-balanced diet is a primary requirement to stay hale and healthy. The necessity for this will increase to its double when you are pregnant. Since the only nutritional source of the foetus is its mother's food, you have the complete responsibility to make it a healthy one. While it can be impossible to control pregnancy cravings, try to take the healthy route by choosing healthy alternatives for junk foods.

Story first published: Sunday, February 14, 2021, 15:26 [IST]