PhotoSomewhere between the nausea and fatigue, pregnant women may find themselves struck by a food craving.

An estimated 50 to 90 percent of all pregnant women experience a food craving at some point in their pregnancy. But should moms-to-be always heed their body’s advice when it comes to food cravings?

According to a new study, maybe not. New research suggests that pregnant women who frequently succumb to cravings may be hurting their health rather than helping it.

Weight gain concerns

Keeping your body -- and by extention, your growing baby -- healthy is the number one goal during pregnancy. But gaining too much weight during pregnancy should be avoided, as it can lead to health problems such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and postpartum weight retention.

Cravings may be one culprit to blame for excessive weight gain. A study, published recently in the journal Appetite, has found that the more often women give into cravings, the more likely they are to gain too much weight during their pregnancy.

Between 40 to 60 percent of women put on too many pounds while they’re renting out a womb, studies show. But whether it’s due to frequently indulging those cravings or the mindset that you're “eating for two," gaining more weight than is recommended for your BMI can be harmful.

Combating cravings

The most common pregnancy cravings were for fast food and sweets, the researchers discovered. Chocolate, pizza, ice cream, and cookies were the most craved foods. And the more often women experienced each craving, the higher the chance that they would give in to it.

In light of these findings, the researchers suggest coming up with skills and strategies that can keep cravings from sabotaging a pregnant woman’s efforts to maintain a healthy weight.

So what can pregnant women do to stifle the urge to hit the drive through or pick up a pint of ice cream?

  • Engage in a distraction, such as taking a walk or playing a favorite game
  • Substitute an unhealthy craving for a comparable, healthy alternative. Instead of potato chips, try soy chips; instead of a hot fudge sundae, try frozen yogurt with fruit and granola
  • Give in to cravings once in a while, then eat well for the rest of the day

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