Gotta have pickles and ice cream? How about a juicy bacon cheeseburger, or the world’s biggest bowl of pineapple? Not all women get to fulfill their food dreams in a jar of pickles, but interesting food cravings are common when you’re expecting. So, along with changes in your body during your pregnancy, you can also expect some changes to your appetite.
What Causes Pregnancy Cravings
Pregnancy cravings can be caused by a number of things, including hormones, a heightened sense of smell and taste, and nutritional deficiencies. Cravings typically begin during the first trimester and peak in the second trimester, but can happen anytime during pregnancy. If you find yourself reaching for something that makes your family and friends raise their eyebrows, know you’re not alone. Let’s explore some of the most common pregnancy cravings, and how to keep eating healthy during this important time.
These salt-and-vinegar-soaked zingers are undoubtedly one of the most common food cravings for pregnant women. If you find yourself reaching for the dill pickles in the back of your fridge, it may because you have low sodium levels. Regardless of the cause, feel free to eat up. Pickles are low in calories and are an inexpensive snack to keep on hand.
Feeling low or depressed? Chocolate contains a naturally occurring chemical called tryptophan, which produces serotonin in your brain. Serotonin is responsible for secreting endorphins, which helps us experience positive emotion. Simply put, chocolate makes us feel happy. However, that chocolate bar is not all sunshine and roses. Chocolate is usually high in fat and calories and isn’t the best choice when consumed in large doses. Instead of eating an entire king-sized candy bar, try tossing some chocolate chips in your yogurt, or drizzling a little melted chocolate over some fresh strawberries.
It may seem unusual but it’s common for pregnant women to crave lemons. Some women satisfy this craving by adding lemon to their water, which is a great way to stay hydrated. Some also crave eating the fruit itself. If you crave lemons like this, be sure to moderate your intake or use a straw. The juice from fresh lemons is known to erode tooth enamel, which can cause a number of uncomfortable dental problems.
Many women drink soda to ease morning sickness. However, because soda contains large amounts of sugar, it’s not a great choice for pregnant women, especially women dealing with gestational diabetes. A healthier alternative is mineral water mixed with fruit juice or lime.
Red meats like beef are rich in iron and protein. Women who are experiencing iron or protein deficiencies often crave red meats to fulfill these mineral needs. Just remember, too much red meat may increase your risk of heart disease. The key to satisfying your craving for red meat without compromising your health is to choose leaner cuts. This means avoiding the fatty rib eye, and instead opting for sirloin cuts.
During your pregnancy, you may feel so hot that even standing in a freezer couldn’t satisfy your inner volcano. Try eating some curry, hot wings, or red peppers. Spicy foods will make your body sweat, which will naturally bring down your body’s temperature. Our bodies trigger this on their own through cravings, or you can use this trick on purpose when you just want to cool off. If you find yourself reaching for spicy foods, just make sure they’re baked and not fried so you’re not consuming unwanted calories.
When you’re pregnant, your body is doing the best it can to make a healthy baby. Craving fruit is perfect because satisfying the craving provides your baby with vitamins and nutrients like vitamin C. Opt for fresh fruits instead of canned fruits in heavy syrup, since the canned option usually comes with a dose of sugar. If you’re struggling with gestational diabetes, talk to your doctor about which fruits are best for you. Fruits like grapefruit and berries are lower in natural sugars, which make them a great choice.
Ice cream and yogurt are go-to cravings for many pregnant women. This may be due to a calcium deficiency (or just loving ice cream). Head off these cravings with calcium supplements and calcium-rich food options like cheese and milk. If you just can’t shake your craving for ice cream, try non-fat frozen yogurt with fresh fruit instead.
Ice and Nonfood Substances
Okay, ice isn’t technically a “food,” but it’s a legitimate craving for many pregnant women. If you’re craving ice while you’re pregnant, it could be an indication of anemia, which is most often caused by an iron deficiency. Pregnant women with anemia crave ice because it helps relieve the inflammation of the mouth and tongue (a common symptom of anemia).
Some pregnant women are surprised to find they experience a phenomenon called Pica, which is the desire to eat nonfood substances. In these cases, you may crave things like laundry starch, crayons, or dirt. These cravings may be due to an iron or zinc deficiency and satisfying these cravings may be as simple as loading up on foods rich in these minerals.
Strange food Combinations
Weird food combinations aren’t uncommon for many pregnant women. Some women crave pickles wrapped in cheese, eggplant on pizza, and other strange food combinations they wouldn’t normally eat. As long as the food choices are healthy, go for it! The cravings will only last for a short time.
Beating Pregnancy Cravings
One of the best ways to head off pregnancy cravings is to make sure you have well-balanced meals throughout the day. Eat breakfast, get regular physical activity, and make sure you have a lot of emotional support.
When cravings hit you hard, distract yourself. Go for a walk, play a game, visit a friend. If that’s just not working, you can help satisfy cravings by paying attention to what your body is telling you, and finding an alternative.
If you still find yourself hankering for ice cream, have a little. Moderation is the key to a healthy diet during pregnancy. However, it’s best to consult your healthcare provider if you’re having cravings for things like starch, dirt, or Play-Doh. Having cravings for these non-food items could be a sign of a nutrient deficiency.
Pregnancy is a wonderful experience. Embrace the changes in your appetite, but make sure your cravings don’t compromise your or your baby’s health.