The Most Common Pregnancy Cravings and Why We Have Them
Sweet, salty, sour, spicy — cravings during pregnancy can run the gamut. While certain cravings may indicate a nutritional need, many can be attributed to the amped-up hormones coursing through your body. So what types of food (and non-food items!), do pregnant women crave the most? Check out our list below to get the scoop on pregnancy cravings.
Common Pregnancy Cravings
There are many different kinds of food cravings that are common to pregnancy. Some of them are connected to old wives’ tales that mistakenly indicate that a certain kind of craving is predictive of having a baby boy or baby girl. Food cravings usually have to do with changing hormone levels and nutritional deficiency. Conversely, pregnant women might also experience a sudden dislike for foods that have always appealed to them prior to pregnancy. This is known as having food aversions. Food aversions can be due to a heightened sense of smell or changes in hormones or taste buds.
Pregnant women may choose to work with a nutritionist during their pregnancy to ensure they achieve a well-balanced diet. This can also be helpful during the postpartum period to help with nutrition as nutritional choices can affect breastfeeding. Aversions during pregnancy can sometimes leave women looking to establish new and healthy additions to their diet as well.
Some believe that a chocolate craving is attributed to a pregnant woman's increased caloric needs. If you're craving chocolate, pass over the milk chocolate and reach for the dark stuff — it will help satisfy your craving better, plus it's been shown to help improve heart health and is loaded with antioxidants.
Why do pregnant women crave pickles? This is a very common question! Pickles (along with olives and potato chips) are typical craving culprits. Increased blood volume raises a pregnant woman's need for sodium, making these salty foods a common go-to.
Craving eggs during pregnancy is not atypical. Eggs are a fantastic source of protein, which is one reason they might be a commonly craved food. No matter how you eat them, just make sure the yolk and white are thoroughly cooked to reduce the risk of salmonella.
It could be the body's need for calcium that has pregnant women reaching for the cheese. Although it isn't a bad food to indulge in, too much of it can (sadly) lead to excessive weight gain. Load up on calcium-rich veggies like leafy greens and broccoli to help balance it out.
The combination of protein and fat is what some believe makes bacon a crave-worthy food. Increasing healthy fats and lean protein might combat this craving.
A yen for sour foods often has pregnant women reaching for lemonade, limeade, or even raw lemons. This craving has been found to be more prevalent in the second and third trimester, and some think it's the body's natural way of getting a more varied diet (from the chocolate and bacon, maybe?).
Who wouldn't use an ice cream craving as an excuse to indulge? Milk products in general usually top the pregnancy craving charts, most likely because of their high calcium content. If you find your ice cream consumption getting a little out of control, try switching to chocolate milk, sherbet, or low-fat frozen yogurt.
Some think this craving could signal a need for vitamin C; others think it's the body's way of trying to get some natural, healthy foods in your diet. Either way, it's a good craving to have! Just keep in mind that too much can lead to a spike in blood sugar, so try to balance fresh fruit out with some protein.
Spicy foods, such as chili peppers, salsa, and cuisines known for fiery entrees are a typical craving for many pregnant women, even those who aren't normally a fan of foods that bring a tear to their eye. It's fine to indulge this craving; just be aware that heartburn and indigestion might be an unpleasant side effect.
A peanut butter craving could signal a need for vitamin B or protein. If you can't get enough, pair it with a healthier food (like apples) to help satisfy your need without eating the entire jar.
How to Prevent Food Cravings During Pregnancy
The best way to prevent food cravings in pregnancy is to make sure you are eating a healthy and well-balanced diet. Early pregnancy and first trimester can be especially challenging as it is often accompanied by morning sickness and increased nausea for many women. During this time, focusing on eating whatever you can actually keep down is important so you have enough energy and strength. Eating breakfast is important, and also focusing on having many very small yet healthy meals or snacks throughout the day can be helpful.
Once morning sickness subsides, typically around the start of the second trimester, it’s definitely okay to give in to your cravings. The key is to have these things in moderation. If you’re craving ice cream, your body might need some extra calcium. Have a bit of ice cream but also consider what other calcium-rich dairy products that include healthy fats might suffice. Looking for healthy distraction to address unhealthy food cravings can also be helpful. When women experience persistent cravings, they can use that time to take a walk, do some prenatal yoga stretches, or simply step outside for some deep, meditative breathing. Any focus on wellness activities can assist with food cravings and overall well-being.
Health Issues Related to Pregnancy Food Cravings
It is important to note that it is always worth mentioning your cravings to your healthcare team. If you find yourself craving non-food items like dirt or clay, this can be a sign of pica. Pica can be caused by anemia due to a deficiency in iron or B vitamins. It can also be the result of a deficiency in minerals like zinc. Please note that a cravings for any-non food item at all, including ice or uncooked rice, is worth sharing with your healthcare provider or midwife. Iron deficiency can be common in pregnancy, though it doesn’t always result in pica.
Gestational diabetes can also sometimes be related to food cravings. Gestational diabetes, or gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), occurs when glucose intolerance is recognized during pregnancy for the first time. Healthcare providers will typically test for this, but if you are especially having cravings for sweet foods or eating a heavy intake of sweet foods and drinks, definitely let your provider know.