A food craving is a strong feeling that you must have a certain food. A food aversion is a feeling of complete revolt against a certain food and the inability to eat it.
Feel like eating a jar of pickles? Need a quart of chocolate ice cream at 2 A.M.? These are favorite TV sitcom clichés that get us to laugh at the harried husband, as he combs the streets looking for food to satisfy his pregnant wife's cravings. I doubt there are too many pregnant women out there who really crave pickles or ice cream in the middle of the night, but those wacky hormones that course through the body in the first three months of pregnancy can and do cause both food cravings and aversions. Suddenly, you just have to have a certain food, or, just as suddenly, you can't stand the sight of a food you used to love!
Although hormones are the chief culprit in these cravings and aversions, there is a theory that these are signals from your body telling you what it needs and what you should stay away from. If you suddenly can't stand even the smell of coffee or the thought of a cream doughnut, this aversion could be your body's way of keeping toxins away from your developing baby. If you find yourself craving fruit (as many women do) your body might be low in complex carbohydrates. If you feel a daily need for an ice cream sundae, your body might actually be calling for more dairy products and calcium. (In this case it's best to skip the sundae and have some yogurt or cottage cheese instead.)
Sometimes there's no explanation at all for a particular food craving or aversion. If you wake up one day and can no longer stand the smell of green vegetables, don't panic. Don't force yourself to eat foods that are "good" for you if they make you sick to your stomach. If an aversion to a nutritious food doesn't disappear in a few days, try something else that will give you the same nutrients. For example, if you can't eat broccoli anymore, make up for this loss of a good source of calcium by eating more dairy products.
If you get a craving for food that is not nutritious for you and your baby, try these two strategies:
- Substitute. If you absolutely must have a piece of candy, for example, substitute the craving for something that's sweet but nutritious, such as raisins or dried fruits. If you must have ice cream, switch to a frozen fruit bar or yogurt.
- Distraction. When you feel drawn to a food you shouldn't eat, get up and do something else. Take a walk, read a book, call a friend. Keep your mind busy until the craving passes. Or, have a glass of water; some say this often satisfies the urge to eat!