If you’re pregnant, you are in a very interesting stage now. You will surely experience many changes, not only in terms of your body but also your emotions. This is inevitable, so don’t worry too much: all pregnant women go through them.
One of the most common experiences among pregnant women is food cravings. Sweet, salty, sour, savory, unusual or downright weird food combinations—you name it, a mom-to-be has had it at some point.
But should you really give in to your pregnancy cravings? Will it be bad for you to just ignore them?
What are pregnancy food cravings?
Pregnancy food cravings are those times when you desperately long to eat a specific food. Although you may have had some before you got pregnant, when you’re expecting, you can desire food you wouldn’t even dream of touching before or hanker for some weird food combination.
You may also become indifferent to stuff you used to love when you weren’t expecting.
How early in pregnancy do you get cravings?
They begin in your 1st trimester. Some women start to have food cravings as early as the 5th week of their pregnancy. These pregnancy cravings will become stronger and more persistent during your 2nd trimester and will gradually stop as you enter the final trimester.
Just as every pregnancy is different, so are pregnancy cravings. They may start or stop anytime, and yours will probably be quite unlike those of another mom-to-be.
What causes pregnancy cravings?
It’s really hard to pinpoint the actual cause of pregnancy cravings. While some say that raging hormones are to blame, one study posits that pregnancy craving might be your body’s way of telling you what you lack nutrition-wise. For instance, when you are craving cheese, your body is signaling that you need to increase your sodium or calcium intake.
In the US, as many as 76% of pregnant women experience pregnancy cravings by the 13th week of gestation. According to the study that came up with this number, the likely causes are hormonal changes, nutritional deficits, food composition, and psychological factors.
Some pregnant women experienced pica, which is the desire to consume non-food items, such as hair, dirt, chalk, soap, paper, and other substances without nutritional value. This unusual craving is caused by zinc or iron deficiency.
Talking to a medical professional will be the best step to take to address this issue. He can provide appropriate medical advice and recommend the best way to improve mineral intake through diet and supplementation.
What about food aversions?
Sure, you love some foods while you’re pregnant, but you may also start finding the taste or smell of some offensive. This is called food aversion. Like pregnancy cravings, it’s normal.
Food aversions often start early in your pregnancy. They are sometimes the main cause of weight loss for some pregnant women as they can be directly connected to morning sickness, nausea, and vomiting. It’s important to know that food aversion is different from appetite loss.
It is always best to talk to your doctor in case you find yourself with no appetite or your morning sickness is stronger than usual. He may give you some advice on how to deal with these issues and prescribe supplements for your nutritional needs.
Is it real, or is it all in the mind?
Some people may think that pregnancy cravings are all in the mind or just one of those pregnancy myths you should stop believing. However, research indicates that about 39% of women experienced at least one food craving during their pregnancy.
Whether it’s all in the mind or real, pregnancy cravings are a normal phase you may have to go through. There’s no harm in giving in to the occasional food craving as long you continue to have a variety of healthy meals and these cravings don’t compromise your health.
What are the most common pregnancy cravings?
A pregnancy craving is more than just wanting to have a certain food. It can be about your hormones or an indication of a nutritional need. Here are some common pregnancy cravings and the possible reasons for them:
- Chocolate. Craving chocolate is your body’s way of telling you that you need to increase your caloric intake. Just remember not to overindulge because too much sugar can do more harm than good.
- Pickles. This may very well be the most common food craving among pregnant women. Pregnancy increases your blood volume, so there’s also a greater need for sodium, which is very much present in pickles.
- Eggs. This is, in fact, a healthy choice for moms-to-be because eggs have loads of protein. Just be sure to cook them well to reduce the risk of salmonella. This quiche is a great choice.
- Cheese. It could be due to your body’s need for calcium while expecting. However, it’s best to eat cheese in moderation because it can cause weight gain. Try to balance your calcium needs by eating green leafy vegetables as a healthier option.
- Ice cream. Dairy products can be considered a must because of their high calcium content. If you find yourself overindulging, you can consume healthier alternatives, such as frozen yogurt, sherbet, sorbet, or a yogurt parfait.
- Weird food combinations. Unusual food pairings are common, too. Pickles and cheese or milk and fries—the possibilities are endless. As long as the food choices are healthy, treat yourself. After all, the pregnancy cravings will eventually stop.
Can you satisfy pregnancy cravings with healthier options?
The media present an unfavorable narrative when it comes to pregnancy cravings. You often see a pregnant woman craving and eating food that lacks nutritional value, such as chocolate, junk food, and other stuff that may be unhealthy even for non-pregnant women. So, can you indulge your pregnancy cravings in a healthy way?
If you find yourself having sudden unhealthy cravings during pregnancy, you can go for healthier alternatives to your favorite guilty eats. For instance, if you’re craving ice cream during those humid summer days, you can opt to have frozen yogurt or sorbet instead. If you’re hankering for steak on your date night, why not go for lean meat with fewer fat and calories, like chicken breast?
There are ways to indulge without putting your health at risk. Don’t let unhealthy cravings completely overpower your need for nutritious food.
Getting the most out of your diet
Personally, I had cravings during all of my 3 pregnancies although I would consider them normal because I didn’t pine for apples with mayonnaise or other weird combinations. It’s real because I had an overpowering urge to eat something at a particular time. I often craved something sweet, which led to gestational diabetes in my 2nd and 3rd pregnancies, so I really had to improve my diet.
Having pregnancy cravings is a normal part of this journey. While it feels good to enjoy the food you are craving, it’s best to have well-balanced meals regularly accompanied by light exercises. By monitoring your nutritional intake, you can make sure you and your baby get the most out of your prenatal diet.