Weird pregnancy cravings: the source of thousands of jokes and many late-night trips to the grocery store. The most stereotypical pregnancy craving is pickles and ice cream, but pregnant women have reported craving just about any kind of food you can think of. Around half of pregnant women in the U.S. have at least one craving, which can be as standard as the pickles and ice cream cliché, or as strange as eggplant or Cheese Whiz sandwiches. Other foods become repulsive to moms-to-be—sometimes food they loved before pregnancy.
Why do pregnant women crave pickles and other kinds of food?
These cravings and aversions occur for a specific reason—the influx of hormones can cause both biological and neurobiological imbalances. Pregnancy hormones impact a woman’s senses of taste and smell, which can cause major shifts in what she wants to eat. Some scientists also believe that some food cravings can indicate a deficiency in certain vitamins and minerals. The bottom line though? It’s not totally clear why women have cravings and aversions during pregnancy.
Although many women give into their cravings with no problems, food cravings can become severe, causing problems during pregnancy. In these cases, neurocounseling can be effective for reducing or eliminating cravings.
Incorporate cravings into a pregnancy diet for healthy fetal development
Interestingly, some experts have noticed that cravings often change during different stages of pregnancy. For example, many women start becoming hypersensitive to bitterness during the first two trimesters—possibly to prevent the consumption of harmful substances during fetal development.
It’s important to incorporate cravings into a pregnancy diet, since they can be an indication of what the mother or baby needs for healthy development. The catch is that many of these cravings consist of junk food, which should be limited during pregnancy. Too much junk food won’t help the baby’s development, and may cause excess weight gain. Balancing unhealthy cravings with a healthy diet (and healthy cravings) is key for a healthy pregnancy.
Coming up with alternatives for unhealthy cravings is a good way to ensure you’re getting the nutrition you need without compromising your health. Of course, every once in a while, nothing will do but the specific food you’re craving, and it’s okay to indulge once in a while, as long as it won’t be directly harmful to the baby.
10 Common cravings pregnant women have
One of the most-craved foods among pregnant women is chocolate. Some believe that this is due to an increased caloric need during pregnancy. Research shows that it’s also the most-craved food in the United States. While indulging in a chocolate craving isn’t harmful, it’s better to choose dark chocolate and limit the amount.
2. Milk & Ice Cream
Dairy connects to an increased need for calcium during pregnancy. Ice cream is an especially powerful craving, because it is sweet and caloric. If you’re eating too much ice cream, try these recipes for chia pudding for a healthier alternative.
3. Steak Fat/Red Meat
Because of the iron, protein, and vitamin B6 contained in red meat, many women crave steak, specifically steak fat during pregnancy. This can be very distressing for vegetarian and vegan women, but some have successfully overcome this craving with daily massages—a treatment that can also help address postpartum depression.
Salty pickles are the quintessential pregnancy craving among American women. A greater volume of blood during pregnancy can explain a desire for salty foods, as this increases sodium requirements.
5. Spicy Food
Some women develop strong cravings for spicy food during pregnancy, which is thought to be tied to perspiration. Spicy food can help the body release sweat, cooling the expectant mother down.
Fruit is both sweet and nutrient-rich (including vitamin C). Fortunately, this craving is okay to indulge in on a daily basis, preferably using fresh, whole fruit, or cut up into a fruit salad.
7. Potato Chips
Just like pickles, potato chips can be a powerful craving because of their salt content. They should be limited during pregnancy because they are quite unhealthy.
A need for protein could explain the common craving for eggs, which also contain iron, phosphorous, and B-vitamins. Eggs are a healthy protein choice for women, but should be prepared with hard-cooked yolks to avoid the risk of salmonella. Hard-boiled is a good choice.
Specific cravings for tart foods like lemons are more common during the second and third trimester. It’s thought to be linked to both “shocking” the tastebuds, and encouraging a more varied diet. Luckily, lemons can be added to many recipes or just plain water, adding a healthy dose of vitamin C and B-complex vitamins.
10. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is a good source of B vitamins and protein, which could explain why this is a common pregnancy craving. Natural peanut butter contains no added sugar, and pairs well with apples.
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