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Pregnancy Cravings

A belly swells with baby – and good food.

I have never thought of living gluten-free as a deprivation. But the day I followed a bizarre craving for lemongrass, right that instant, I realized that eating while pregnant might be a bit more challenging. Scanning the shelves of my favourite grocery store, I found that everything I wanted contained gluten, while the celiac-friendly options left me feeling nauseated. Pregnancy, it seemed, was going to be a fascinating food journey.

During my first trimester, I woke up exhausted and went to bed tired. In between came several bouts of nausea. I didn’t want to eat much through the roiling motions of my stomach. There would be no saltine crackers for me, so I lived on gluten-free toaster waffles for a while.

Thankfully, the powerful food aversions disappeared in my second trimester, while the cravings continued. No longer nauseous, I just wanted food, all the time. Not just any food, however. I wanted protein.

Beef called to me. I drank three large glasses of milk a day, after an entire adulthood of staying away from the stuff. Roasted chicken breast, handfuls of almonds, bowls of yogurt – these foods filled my days. Cheese became my best friend. I nibbled on French feta, tangy Brie, and gluten-free mac and Manchego cheese.

As my belly ballooned to eclipse the view of my feet, I wanted to experience as many aromas and tastes as I could. Starting in the fifth month, fetuses experience what their mothers smell. I knew this was true when my husband put a sizzling hot pork roulade under my nose and the baby kicked me. By the seventh month, the amniotic fluid changes taste according to what the mother eats. So I ate spicy Thai food, homemade gluten-free bread, Ethiopian-spiced lentils, lamb with harissa, and roasted peppers. My baby was going to love food long before she was able to eat it herself.

Not once was I tempted to eat gluten. Not only because I know that just a smidge of it will make me sick, but also because I was not alone in my body anymore. I knew that every bite of food I ate made my child grow. Eating anything from a selfish craving could hurt her. I wanted to eat everything mindfully, and with great gusto.

Going gluten-free three years ago helped me to be re-born. Throughout my pregnancy, I was healthy and fit, gaining only as much weight as the doctors suggested. It wasn’t until the very end that my ankles swelled, or I felt short of breath. By the time our dear daughter was born, I was eating better – and feeling more alive – than ever in my life.

And then our lives opened entirely, when we held her in our arms.

For Shauna’s “Pan-roasted Chicken Breast with Orange-honey Sauce” recipe – see Allergic Living magazine’s Fall 2008 issue.
To order that issue or to subscribe, click

Shauna James Ahern’s first book is Gluten-Free Girl, published by John Wiley & Sons. Send Shauna your comments at

Shauna James Ahern’s and Daniel Ahern’s new cookbook is Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef, published by John Wiley & Sons. Their blog is

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