Can’t Stop Eating Sugar When Pregnant? Safety + Limits

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Written by Amy Kaczor RDN

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Do you struggle to limit your sugar intake and stick to the recommended amounts during pregnancy? Let’s discuss some tips and tricks to safely satisfy your sweet tooth while pregnant. 

It’s important to allow yourself to have some sugary treats. Complete restriction will only strengthen the craving and desire for sugar. However, practice moderation by mindfully eating your sugar in small amounts. 

Read on to learn more tips and tricks to control sugar consumption and maintain your health during pregnancy. 

What to Do if You Can’t Stop Eating Sugary Food During Pregnancy

First of all, take comfort in the fact that cravings during pregnancy are incredibly common. In fact, it is estimated that 50 to 90 percent of women have a specific food or beverage craving during their pregnancy (source: Frontiers in Psychology).

However, when you are craving something with little nutritional value, such as sugar or sugary foods, it makes sense that you would want to take some precautions to maintain your and your baby’s health. 

woman biting a chocolate bar

Whether you are craving sugar on its own or sugary foods and beverages, such as cakes, chocolates, donuts, candies, sodas, and more, it is essential to manage this desire for sugar in a healthy way.

Mainly, it is important to allow yourself to have some sugar. Rather than eating an entire carton of ice cream or a whole box of cookies, it is okay to have a small dessert that you enjoy – even every day!

If you try to eliminate added sugar from your diet completely, you may intensify the cravings for sugar and end up over-consuming it when you decide to give in to the craving.

Therefore, practice mindful eating. When you do decide to have a small dessert, enjoy it fully. This may look like putting away your phone or computer and turning off the television. Take small bites and chew thoroughly and slowly. 

Additionally, you can make simple swaps in your diet to lower your sugar consumption. Here are some examples: 

  • Replace some of your desserts with a small piece of the whole fresh fruit that has been thoroughly washed. The fiber in the fruit will slow down the digestion and absorption of the sugars, keeping your blood sugar level steady.
  • Substitute soda with sparkling water or flavored water.
  • Avoid skipping meals. When you miss a meal or snack, you may be more likely to over-eat or eat sugary, high-calorie foods later on because you are so hungry.
  • Include lean proteins, dietary fiber, and healthy fats when choosing your meals and snacks. This powerful combination is the perfect pairing for a filling and satisfying meal that may prevent you from wanting a sweet dessert afterward.
  • Opt for unsweetened versions of foods and beverages, such as applesauce, dried or frozen fruits, canned fruit, and iced tea.
pregnant woman holding a glass of juice

How Much Sugar Can a Pregnant Woman Have Daily? 

The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than six teaspoons of added sugar per day. This amount is approximately 25 grams. For reference, a typical 12-fluid ounce can of regular soda contains 32 grams or eight tablespoons of sugar.  

Since this recommendation specifies “Added Sugars,” the sugar you consume from fruits, milk, and starchy vegetables should not be included. 

Added sugars are found in desserts, baked goods and pastries, candies, sodas, sweetened juices, lemonades, some coffee and tea drinks, and more.

Check the nutrition facts labels of your items at the grocery store and look for the “Added Sugars” amount, which is listed separately from total sugars and total carbohydrates.

When reading the ingredients list on a food’s packaging, besides just “Sugar,” you may see sugar written as “corn syrup,” “dextrose,” “sucrose,” “maltose,” “rice syrup,” and more.  

What Happens if I Eat Too Much Sugar When Pregnant? 

Mainly, limiting sugar intake is important because of the increased risk of gestational diabetes, excessive weight gain, and obesity. If you are overweight or obese, you have an increased risk of developing gestational diabetes. 

A high-sugar diet can significantly increase your risk of gestational diabetes, which is diabetes diagnosed for the first time during pregnancy.

pregnant woman eating donuts and other sweets on bed

In general, after you give birth, your blood sugar levels will return to normal. However, pregnant women who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes after pregnancy (source: Mayo Clinic). 

With gestational diabetes, your body does not adequately use the sugar from the foods you eat. Gestational diabetes can often cause high blood pressure, contributing to complications for you and your baby. 

Gestational diabetes can also contribute to an increased risk of excessive birth weight for the baby, as well as breathing difficulties, low blood sugar level, and an increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes for your baby later in life (source: Mayo Clinic).

Unfortunately, gestational diabetes also increases the risk of preterm labor and delivery or even a stillbirth.

While this is not intended to be scary or panic-inducing, it is important to recognize the risks of consuming too much sugar during pregnancy and to make healthy swaps to lower your added sugar intake.