Q & A: Ask the doctor

Hello Doctor, I am a junk food person as it is the only food I enjoy eating. I am seven months pregnant and one of my biggest cravings is chips.
Dr. Rachna Pande
Dr. Rachna Pande

Hello Doctor,

I am a junk food person as it is the only food I enjoy eating. I am seven months pregnant and one of my biggest cravings is chips. I have read a number of articles on the internet that say eating chips during pregnancy increases the risk of having an underweight baby. Is this true? Should I cut them out?
                       
Marianne 24

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Dear Marianne,

Congratulations on your pregnancy. During pregnancy there are certain kinds of food cravings a woman can have, sometimes as bizarre as eating mud or clay. But in your case, it looks as if you have been fond of eating junk even before getting pregnant.

Junk food is the kind of food which has no nutritional value; it’s high in calories and poses many health hazards.

Junk foods include ready to prepare and instant foods like chips, instant noodles, e.t.c. These foods have a high quantity of unhealthy hydrogenated fats added to give good taste. Thus, it poses risk for obesity, high blood lipid levels and resultant problems like hypertension and heart diseases.

Junk food lacks fiber and becomes difficult to digest. Taking it regularly, one can suffer from problems like constipation and bloating of the abdomen after meals.

Various chemicals are used in these kinds of food items as preservatives, colouring and emulsifying agents and also to enhance flavour.

A person allergic to one or more of these chemicals can develop recurrent asthma, skin rashes or a running nose.

Research has also demonstrated some of these snacks to be addictive in nature. After eating them regularly, one would find it difficult to quit readily.

Moreover, these food items have no nutritional value. So somebody solely dependent on them is bound to develop malnutrition. This can manifest itself as generalised weakness, joint and body ache, visual disturbances, dryness of skin and several other problems. During pregnancy, the demand for certain nutrients like iron and calcium is increased which cannot be fulfilled by consuming fast food alone.

Fast food in moderation during pregnancy is not harmful. But if it becomes the only food a mother takes, it is harmful. It can result in excess weight gain during pregnancy, increased blood pressure, precipitation of diabetes and salt and water retention - all conditions harmful for both the mother and child.

Studies have shown that eating habits of the baby are linked to that of the mother. Thus, a child born to a mother consuming junk food only is bound to develop a liking for fast food. The resultant risks would be same for the child as for the mother. Childhood obesity is a growing concern in the world. Inadvertently, a pregnant mother may instill the habit of eating fast food only in the child exposing them to all risks.

It would be prudent for you to cut down your intake of chips.

You can try eating some salads, vegetables and or fruits at the beginning of a meal. This may reduce your hunger thus reducing the desire to eat junk food. If you find it unpalatable, try taking fruit juice or soups in large quantity. A strong will power can change this habit forever.

Dr. Rachna Pande

 

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