Hungry again? How much food does your baby actually need? Part of dealing with your hunger pangs is all about having easy-to-make options, lots of soups and salads – plus light but filling options like nuts to fill you up.
In your pre-pregnancy nutrition plan, you should look to maintain a well-balanced diet and generally add about 300 calories a day after the first trimester. Normal weight gain for your pregnancy should be between 25 to 35 pounds.
For most normal-weight pregnancies, you’ll look to consume:
- Roughly 1,800 calories per day during the first trimester.
- Roughly 2,200 calories per day during your second trimester.
- Roughly 2,400 calories per day during your third trimester.
While you’ll be hungry for more, not all calories are created equal. Keep away from sweets and junk food, which lack good nutrients for your baby. You may feel hungry, more often, if you’re consuming more foods of low nutritional value.
Even with preparation, you might still feel frustrated with hunger pangs throughout your day. Understanding what they are (and aren't) can help you make the best decisions throughout your pregnancy.
What are hunger pangs?
Hunger pangs are an uncomfortable feeling you'll have when your abdomen is empty. Your hunger pangs are a natural reaction to having an empty stomach and are the accompanying desire to eat. These strong contractions of your stomach will create a feeling of needing to eat while not always being an accurate indicator of needing food.
You may also experience hunger pangs as an early sign of pregnancy. When your hormone levels change with conception, you may feel more rumbling in your stomach. Hunger pangs alone won't tell you you're pregnant – but when accompanied by other symptoms may indicate pregnancy.
Some other causes of hunger pangs could be:
Your baby's growth: Especially true in your second and third trimesters, as your baby has had time to grow significantly.
Poor chewing: Surprisingly, if you're not chewing your food well enough, it could lead to indigestion and an upset stomach. Spend a little extra time chewing to avoid the pain!
Spicy foods: Who doesn't love good spicy foods? The problem? They can cause heartburn and indigestion and also irritate your stomach lining. All of which can be mistaken for hunger pangs.
Will you always experience hunger pangs while pregnant?
In your first trimester, as morning sickness sets in and throwing up may become common — your stomach may feel empty often. This isn't always the case, as you may lose your desire to eat or not feel hungry due to nausea. Mixed with the contractions of throwing up, these pangs can send your body's warning signals haywire.
During your second trimester, your baby will require more nutrients and nourishment. You'll need 200 to 400 extra calories to meet fetal growth and nutritional needs. Since your little one is becoming more demanding in their meal requests, you will often feel hungry.
So, how do you deal with these hunger pangs and not overindulge every meal? Let's look into it.
1. Don't overeat when you feel hunger pangs
You're going to want to overeat each meal. You're going to want snacks while lying in bed late at night. Don't do it! Part of binge eating when you feel hunger pangs is the unwanted weight gain which can put even more stress on your body. Planning out your meals with foods that are right for your pregnancy can help keep you full and full of foods that best support your pregnancy.
Some ways to keep yourself full:
Add fiber-rich foods: Get your whole-grain bread and quinoa ready for your meals. Foods that are also high in fiber can help prevent indigestion and manage constipation.
Simple snacks ready-to-go: If you're still craving, try having a cup of tea, maybe toast with peanut butter or even some handy veggies. Be ready for your hunger pangs, but respond to them with nutrition.
2. You should eat frequently
Don't binge, but you should still be snacking throughout the day. The easiest way to accomplish this is through several small meals instead of having larger ones. Trick your brain into seeing smaller plates of food as enough food. It's not going to be easy to avoid huge meals when you're hungry at night, but know that the feeling will subside with more consistency in your meals.
You could try adding fresh fruits and dried dates, which help reduce your nausea and can ease those hunger pangs. Think of having trail mix (or just nuts in general) that you can snack on when you feel the hunger come on.
Don't skip on the fats, either! While you should avoid foods high in saturated fats like chips, you should also try to get foods high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Some of those include olives and avocados.
3. Get as much sleep as you can
What is it about being exhausted that makes you want to eat more? You might find yourself being awake more often at night due to hunger pangs. Finding tryptophan-rich foods can help regulate your sleep schedule.
Tryptophan or L-tryptophan is an essential amino acid your body can't produce with consumption (or supplementation). You need to get it through food! Your body converts tryptophan to niacin, a B-vitamin that plays a role in your metabolism. It helps to make serotonin and melatonin – both essential to help get better sleep.
A fun food that contains tryptophan is turkey. No wonder everyone feels so tired after Thanksgiving dinner.
Outside of getting foods that can help regulate your sleep cycle, you should plan for six to eight hours of sleep a night. Not getting enough sleep can mean poor blood sugar control and higher levels of ghrelin (the hormone responsible for producing hunger).
4. Distract yourself – often
TV alone might not be enough to distract those hunger pangs from striking. Finding ways to keep your brain active and working can ensure food is not at the forefront of your brain. Maybe there is something around the house you can do or prepare for the baby.
This is also a great opportunity for self-care, such as taking a bath or meditation. You may also want to consider prenatal yoga, which focuses on your mental and physical well-being. If it's your first time doing yoga, you'll want to wait 14 weeks (into pregnancy) to start and choose a class for pregnant women. Less is more, but it can be so helpful for total wellness.
5. Keep yourself hydrated
You're going to want to keep water handy and drink it often. Dehydration can sometimes show itself as hunger. How dare you, dehydration! Water is also a natural appetite suppressant. When your stomach senses its fullness, the brain will get a call telling it to stop eating. Water also occupies space in your stomach, helping you feel full.
Keeping hydrated starts in the morning. First thing in the morning, after the bathroom, of course, drink an 8-oz glass of water before breakfast. You will eat smaller portions and feel more satisfied after the meal.
Also, get a water carrier and keep it with you on the go.
A bonus to keeping hydrated is how the extra fluids can help prevent pregnancy constipation.
Is your baby starved for chicken wings, or did you not drink enough water today?
At the end of the day, do what feels right for your pregnancy. You'll want to indulge from time to time, and that's perfectly alright. Managing hunger pangs come from planning and understanding what your body is telling you.
Keep a journey, keep strong, and know you're doing a great job.