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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.
More: 12 Pregnancy Superfoods
When Do Pregnancy Cravings Start?
There’s no magic time when all pregnant women will start to get cravings. Some women may never get cravings during any time of their pregnancy! But, if you do, they’ll likely start during your first trimester. Some women report getting them as early as five weeks into pregnancy. you may not even know you’re pregnant at that point!
You can expect cravings to get stronger during the second trimester. Many women notice that their cravings stop during the third trimester.
Just as there is no standard time when all women will have cravings, all pregnant women will also experience different cravings.
Why Am I Having Pregnancy Cravings?
Food cravings usually have to do with changing hormone levels and nutritional deficiency. Some of them are linked to old wives’ tales that try to predict whether you’re going to have a boy or girl depending on your craving.
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.
Craving chips? Chocolate? Eggs? We’re going to break down what all of those cravings could mean for you and your pregnancy
1. Why Am I Craving Chocolate During Pregnancy?
If you just can’t get enough chocolate, your craving may be due to vitamin deficiencies. Chocolate contains vitamin B, so you may be lacking in that department. When 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. Research shows that a lack of antioxidants in your body during pregnancy can cause stress within the placenta which could lead to pre-eclampsia symptoms and miscarriage.
2. Why Do I Crave Pickles & Salty Foods During Pregnancy?
For many women, pregnancy and pickles go hand and hand. 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.
3. Why Am I Craving Bacon During Pregnancy?
Bacon is right up there when it comes to salty foods you may crave during pregnancy. You may also be reaching for the bacon because it combines protein and fat. Increasing healthy fats and lean protein might combat this craving.
Some scientific studies have also found that consuming a moderate amount of bacon and eggs during pregnancy could help boost the intelligence and memory of your unborn baby! Pork and chicken eggs both contain the nutrient choline, which is important in the development of brain functions.
4. Why Am I Craving Eggs During Pregnancy?
Craving eggs during pregnancy is common. Eggs are a fantastic source of protein, so your body may be telling you that it wants more of it. No matter how you eat them, just make sure the yolk and white are thoroughly cooked to reduce the risk of salmonella.
5. Why Do I Crave Ice During Pregnancy?
If you have a craving to suck on ice cubes, you could be dehydrated. Body heat or loss of fluids may be to blame. Always be sure to stay hydrated during pregnancy to stay healthy for yourself and your baby. Wanting to eat ice can also be a sign of an iron deficiency or anemia. So it’s important to make sure you’re properly supplementing with iron during pregnancy.
6. Why Am I Craving Cheese During Pregnancy?
Your body may need calcium if you’re always reaching for the cheese. Although it can provide calcium, many types of cheeses are high in fat which can be bad for you and your baby. If calcium is what you crave, balance it with calcium-rich veggies like leafy greens and broccoli.
7. Why Do I Want Lemons When I’m Pregnant?
Yearning for sour foods often has pregnant women reaching for lemonade, limeade, or even raw lemons. This craving is more prevalent in the second and third trimesters. While scientists haven’t been able to pinpoint exactly why pregnant women want lemon and other citrus fruits, one belief is that these fruits are digestible and refreshing. Others think it’s the body’s natural way of getting a more varied diet. (You can only have so much chocolate and bacon).
8. Why Do I Crave Ice Cream While Pregnant?
Milk products in general usually top the pregnancy craving charts, most likely because of their high calcium content. You may be lacking enough calcium if you constantly crave ice cream. If you find your ice cream consumption getting a little out of control, try switching to chocolate milk, sherbet, or low-fat frozen yogurt.
9. Why Do I Want Fruit When Pregnant?
Fruit is a great craving to have when you’re pregnant, just keep it in moderation with everything else. Too much fruit can lead to a spike in blood sugar, so try to balance fresh fruit out with some protein. Your fruit frenzy could signal a need for vitamin C if you’re reaching for melons and strawberries or it could be your body’s way of getting healthier foods into your diet. If you want bananas, apricots, or dried fruit, you may be lacking potassium.
10. Why Do I Crave Chili Peppers & Spicy Foods?
Many pregnant women crave spicy foods, even if they bring a tear to their eyes! These cravings may be attributed to hormonal changes, nutrient deficiencies, and compounds found in spicy foods. While it may taste good on your tongue, these fiery foods could wreak havoc on your digestive tract, leading to heartburn and indigestion. So, chili peppers and salsa in moderation.
11. Why Am I Pregnant and Wanting Peanut Butter 24/7?
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.
While many pregnant women have cravings for foods like these, others might also experience a sudden dislike for foods that have always appealed to them before 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.
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 the first trimester can be especially challenging because they are often accompanied by morning sickness. During this time, focus on eating whatever you can actually keep down so you have enough energy and strength. Eating breakfast is important. Trying to have many very small yet healthy meals or snacks throughout the day can also 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 distractions 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 help with food cravings and overall well-being.
Health Issues Related to Pregnancy Food Cravings
You should always clue your healthcare provider in on your cravings. If you’re craving non-food items like dirt or clay, it 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 mineral deficiency like zinc. 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 having a large number of sweet foods and drinks, definitely let your provider know.
Remember, cravings can be a part of pregnancy. You just need to do everything in moderation to have a healthy and safe pregnancy.