You never thought you’d fit the pregnancy stereotypes. But here you are, craving ice cream so intensely that you’re about to send your partner out to the grocery store in the middle of the night to fetch a pint mint chocolate chip.
Clichés aside, ice cream is a pretty common pregnancy craving — with or without pickles.
Tempted to just give into the temptation and chow down the whole pint in one sitting? Hold up just a bit.
“Eating for two” is a bit of a misnomer. While eating ice cream when pregnant is fine, it’s also important to keep those cravings in perspective and make sure you’re indulging in a reasonable way. Here’s what you need to know.
Why does ice cream seem so incredibly irresistible for so many pregnant people? Experts speculate that hormonal changes may generate some of these cravings. You may pine for particular foods so intensely that you feel like you can’t rest until you satisfy that craving.
Not everyone experiences pregnancy-related food cravings, but a lot of them do. Research suggests that somewhere between 50 and 90 percent of women in the United States report cravings for specific foods while they’re pregnant.
The cravings tend to emerge by the end of your first trimester, and they often hit their peak sometime during second trimester. Cravings commonly decline as you approach your delivery date.
Let’s chat about ice cream safety for a few minutes. Before you dig your spoon into that mound of cold, sweet bliss, consider what you’re about to consume. What types of ice cream are your best bets?
Store-bought ice cream
Generally speaking, ice cream that you buy at your local grocery or big box store should be perfectly safe for you to eat.
If you’re tempted by the soft-serve machine at a local restaurant, that should be fine, too, as long as the ice cream is made with pasteurized milk. (The process of pasteurization will kill any potentially harmful bacteria that might be lurking in the milk that the ice cream is made from.)
Homemade ice cream
Homemade ice cream, as tempting as it may be, could be a little riskier. If it contains raw eggs, you should probably avoid it. The raw eggs could pose a risk of salmonella food poisoning, and you don’t want to open yourself up to that possibility while pregnant.
Flavors to avoid
If your favorite flavor is strawberry or mint chocolate chip, you can keep indulging your craving without any issues. (Well, within reason, anyway.)
But you might want to steer clear of any ice creams that contain caffeine, like coffee-flavored ice cream, if you already consume caffeine in other forms. Green tea actually contains some caffeine, too, so that might be another flavor to skip or limit.
As we mentioned earlier, a lot of people assume that you can eat as much as you want when you’re “eating for two.” But actually, it’s not a good idea to completely throw caution to the wind when it comes to calories when you’re pregnant.
On average, you need to consume an extra 340 calories per day during your second trimester and an extra 450 calories per day during third trimester. (Notice we didn’t mention the first trimester — that’s because unless your doctor tells you otherwise, you usually won’t need any extra calories at that time.)
If you get into the habit of eating an entire pint of ice cream each night before bedtime — and it’s so easy to do that — you may be consuming way more calories than you realize (or need).
A pint of ice cream usually contains four servings, and the calorie count can add up fast if you don’t put the lid back on after one serving. In fact, a pint of your premium ice cream may contain as many as 1,000 calories or more!
Although occasionally enjoying a sweet treat during pregnancy is perfectly healthy, consuming too many calories can lead to excessive weight gain and other health complications that can negatively impact your health and the health of your baby.
Gaining too much weight during pregnancy has been linked to a greater risk of gestational diabetes, a condition in which your body’s cells have trouble producing and using the hormone insulin efficiently.
Gestational diabetes can pose some health risks to your baby, too, such as:
- early delivery
- breathing problems
- low blood sugar levels right after birth
Also, babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes are more likely to be bigger, which can sometimes cause difficulties with delivery.
It’s best for pregnant (and nonpregnant) people to enjoy ice cream as a treat, not as a dietary staple. That’s because most ice cream is high in added sugar and calories. Consuming too many sugary, calorie-laden treats isn’t good for anyone’s health.
Although ice cream does contain nutrients that are essential during pregnancy, such as calcium, it shouldn’t be relied upon as a healthy source of such nutrients.
How much calcium do you need? ACOG recommends 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day for women aged 19-50.
You can certainly get some of that calcium with ice cream. The calcium content in different flavors and brands can vary — 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of ice cream might contain between
But if calcium is your justification, just remember: You can rely on other calcium-rich foods, too, which include broccoli, sardines, chia seeds, cheese, unsweetened yogurt, pinto beans, spinach, and almonds.
A little ice cream won’t hurt you or baby — just don’t overdo it.
As with most things in nutrition, moderation is key. Try to consume a pregnancy diet rich in nutrient-dense foods including healthy fats, filling proteins, and fiber-packed produce.
Enjoy ice cream as you would other sugary treats: occasionally and in small amounts. If you’re wondering how much ice cream is too much, work with a registered dietitian to come up with a healthy dietary pattern that allows room for your favorite foods to promote a healthy pregnancy.