Food Cravings During Pregnancy And What Do They Indicate

Food Cravings During Pregnancy And What Do They Indicate

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Cheese spread on bread? Pickles? Or gobbling chips straight from the big pack? New tastes every day! If you are a pregnant, you are likely to have cravings, which you might not have had before. Not only are these cravings for a particular food, but also for some weird combinations, at times. What is the reason behind these mysterious likings for food? Is it safe to have cravings or harmful? Let us understand all about food cravings in detail here in this MomJunction post.

What Do Food Cravings Mean During Pregnancy?

The sudden urge to eat particular foods during pregnancy is a food craving. They may include hunger for sweet delicacies, spicy, salty or sour foods. Sometimes, you will also crave for non-food items (1). Pregnant women experience extreme food cravings during the first and second trimesters.

What Causes Pregnancy Cravings?

Studies have found that around 84% of pregnant women around the world experience food cravings, some of them being pretty strange! So, what is it exactly that gets you all weak in the knees to grab that bag of chips all of a sudden?

Well, experts believe that generally, food cravings are symbolic of a dietary deficiency. This means that when your body lacks a particular nutritional element, it shows out like a craving.

And that’s just one side of the story. Some other experts believe that pregnancy cravings arise as a result of hormonal changes. The hormones, estrogen and progesterone, which have an impact on the brain, could cause those irresistible urges.

It is also believed that hormonal fluctuations tend to increase the sense of smell and taste in pregnant women, which could be another contributing factor for food cravings (2).

Is It Normal Not To Have Food Cravings During Pregnancy?

It is perfectly normal not to have food cravings. In fact, it is good as you are more likely to eat healthy foods and get all the essential nutrients for you and your baby.

When Do Pregnancy Cravings Start?

Cravings start in the first trimester, intensify in the second, and then begin to decrease in the third. A few food cravings continue even after delivery, and sometimes you may end up eating strange things throughout your life. You may also experience alternating cravings, where your choice of foods changes constantly.

How Long Do Pregnancy Cravings Last?

Some women have cravings throughout their pregnancy, some will have for a limited period, and some will not have them at all. Sometimes, you will just crave for a day, a week or a month. It all depends on your body system.

Common Pregnancy Cravings:

Sweets, salty and spicy foods, and sour foods are the most common cravings during pregnancy.

1. Salty foods:

If you have a low sodium level in your diet, you might crave for salty and spicy food. Craving for salt during pregnancy is a common observation. Moreover, pregnancy increases your blood volume. The increased blood volume could be one of the reasons you crave salty food (3).

Some of the foods you may crave in pregnancy are French fries, popcorn, different sauces, mixed nuts and chicken tenders with extra salt added.

[ Read: Salty Food Cravings During Pregnancy ]

2. Sweet cravings:

Chocolate, ice cream sugars, sugary sweets, and doughnuts are among the favorites. You will be more responsive to insulin because of the low blood sugars during pregnancy. This is when it makes you crave for sweets to regulate the dropping blood sugar levels (4).

3. Spicy and hot foods:

Though not as popular as sweet and salt cravings, spicy food is also in the cravings list. You may desire for hot wings, curries, and red peppers. Old wives’ tales say that women carrying boys crave for spicy foods whereas those carrying girls crave for chocolates.

[ Read: Spicy Food During Pregnancy ]

4. Unique and weird combinations craving:

Sometimes, pregnant women also crave for some strange food combinations such as marmite on ice cream, pickle with ice cream, sponge cake with tomato sauce, fried eggs with mint sauce, pickles with peanut butter, or tuna with bananas.

5. Cravings for citric foods:

Craving for citric acid foods could be a sign of low stomach acids. Stomach acids help sterilize the food by breaking it into proteins. The desire for citrus can indicate your body’s requirement of some vitamins contained in these foods such as vitamin C, vitamin D, and some essential microelements. Lemon, lime, vinegar, and pickles are some of the citric food cravings.

6. Craving for non-foods:

Some women crave for things which are not food. This form of eating is known as pica, and it will cause problems for both the mother and the baby. This condition usually indicates iron deficiency or lack of any other essential nutrient or mineral. They also give a feeling of fullness and keep you away from consuming healthier foods (5).

The inedible items that you may crave for include clay, ice, wax, starch, dirt, coffee grounds, and more. You should immediately contact your healthcare provider if this is your case.

7. Unhealthy cravings:

You may even crave for a lot of unhealthy foods such as coffee, alcohol, pizza, potato chips, fast foods and more. The desire for such foods is more when you have had a strong liking for them before you conceived.

8. Healthy cravings:

If you are lucky, you might crave for healthy foods. You would mostly crave for fruits (apples, watermelon, pears, grapes), vegetables (leafy greens, legumes, garlic), meat (red meat, lean ground meat), seafood (crab, fish), juice (orange, grapefruit), and dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese). Try including more of these foods in your diet.

[ Read: Craving For Cheese During Pregnancy ]

Food Cravings During Pregnancy And Gender Prediction:

As mentioned earlier, old wives’ tales related to food cravings help people guess the gender of the baby.

Sweets and girls:

If a pregnant mom primarily feels like having sweets such as chocolates, candies, cookies, ice creams, and other dairy products, she is likely to have a girl. However, there is no evidence to support this. There are still chances of you having a boy.

Salty, sour, and boys:

Food cravings differ when pregnant with a boy. If the mom craves for salty, sour, spicy or protein rich foods, she may be carrying a boy. They enjoy eating pickles, sucking on lemons, munching on meat, even if they did not like it before. However, there is no scientific evidence to support this.

Consider:

You can only predict the baby’s sex correctly by undergoing prenatal ultrasound testing after the 20th week of pregnancy.

How To Control Food Cravings During Pregnancy?

The ultimate trick to overcome food cravings is to outsmart them. These following tips will help you manage and control the unhealthy food cravings during pregnancy.

  1. Do not skip breakfast: Start your day with a proper amount of nutrition so that you will have enough energy and do not have any hunger pangs later.
  1. Eat at regular intervals: Do not wait for the hunger pangs. Plan small meals at regular intervals throughout the day so that you will not binge on junk foods. Eat about four to six small meals a day.
  1. Exercise regularly: Physical activity would put you in a good mood and would control your hormonal levels. This is one surprising way to beat those cravings and curbing emotional eating as well.
  1. Control food portions: If you cannot fight the urge to eat, try controlling your portion intake. Go for a small plate of snacks instead of eating from the whole packet. If you crave for chocolate during pregnancy, just take a little piece of it.
  1. Choose healthy snacks: Buy healthy snacks and keep them handy. If you are hungry, you are most likely to reach this healthy stuff. Keep nuts, fruits, and other nutritious delicacies ready for munching.

[ Read: Healthy Snacks During Pregnancy ]

  1. Keep the junk away: The best way to stay off from junk food is to keep it away from your reach. You are less likely to eat them if they are not available at home.
  1. Go for healthy recipes: Plan every meal delicious and exciting by trying new recipes. The more you enjoy your food, the less will you feel hungry.
  1. Healthy alternatives: Make sure you substitute unhealthy food with healthy options. If you crave for sweet or cake, then have a fruit. If you crave for beverages, drink fruit juice. You can choose dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate.
  1. Get your essential fatty acid requirement: Flax oil or fish oil supplements are believed to reduce food cravings significantly.
  1. Distract yourself: It is often the best way to tackle a food craving. Indulging in the cravings could be harmful to both you and your baby (example, alcohol, cigarettes, etc.).

Pregnancy Cravings And Associated Risks For Mother And Baby:

While some pregnancy cravings are harmless, some others could pose a risk.

Craving for non-food items (Pica)

Dirt and clay contain lead, and consuming them could result in developmental problems, such as impaired hearing, motor skill development, and low verbal IQ scores. They would also be weak in learning and would have attention deficit disorder.

Craving for high-calorie foods

Cravings for sweets, chocolates, and other high-calorie foods could lead to excess weight gain in the mother. If you are already at the risk of gestational diabetes, taking in high-sugar foods could cause more complications.

[ Read: Calories During Pregnancy ]

What you eat will have an impact on your health and your baby. You should try making healthier choices and eating the best and nutritious foods. Did you experience any cravings while you were pregnant? Or are you yet to conceive? Do share your experiences and about how you managed to control your typical cravings during pregnancy.

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Rebecca Malachi

"I believe words have power. They are a powerful tool for a creative soul. Being a 'word addict', I express my thoughts and contribute articles on health, wellness and beauty. Apart from writing, I love listening to gospel music and enjoy observing nature in silence."