When it comes to pregnancy food cravings, the old wives' tale of pickles and ice cream is one that people look out for right away. Pickles and ice cream may never be one of your food cravings in pregnancy, but many pregnant women do report craving certain foods more often during their pregnancies.
Key Points of Pregnancy Cravings & Aversions
- Every woman is different and what they crave or dislike will be different. Generally, it's wise to be ready for anything like greasy burgers in the middle of the night or the smell of cinnamon makes you want to throw the jar across the room.
- Both aversions and cravings can be both long-lasting and very short. One week you find that candied oranges are a gift from the universe above and the next you'll be obsessing over artichoke dip.
- Most cravings are generally present around the end of the first trimester. Some women find them earlier and some later, it simply differs from person to person.
Some women even crave foods they once didn't care for or weren't previous favorites. Sometimes cravings are short-lived, and other times they last throughout an entire pregnancy. Some pregnant women also describe strong aversions to particular foods. They can be foods that were once favorites but now are very unappealing. Sometimes even the smell of these foods will make a pregnant woman nauseous.
Food aversions can ebb and flow, or disappear altogether at some point during a woman's pregnancy. Almost all cravings or aversions to foods are completely gone after delivery and while they can be one of the longest-lasting symptoms of pregnancy, they are completely harmless.
Pregnancy can be a miraculous time, but it’s also unquestionably a weird and wonderful time too. There’s all sorts going on, and in and amongst all of the wackiness comes a mad craving for seemingly the most random of foods, while also a sudden hatred for others.
For centuries we’ve been trying to get to the bottom of exactly what’s going on when we start to develop sudden food cravings and aversions, and while we’re still not close to being 100% of the way there, modern science has at least developed some kind of an understanding.
Pregnancy Food Cravings
Everyone’s aware of food cravings during pregnancy, but not everyone fully appreciates what to expect, or why it’s happening. Throughout the pregnancy period, the body is changing in all sorts of ways, and that goes down to hormones and senses too. There are all sorts of things going on that can suddenly lead you to pregnant food craving for anything from pickles to spicy foods to even, god forbid, mud. Wanting to eat mud or non-food items is called Pika. It affects roughly 47.5% of pregnant women according to Healthline. It is generally not advisable to eat mud or clay but if they mud or clay is clean and free of pathogens or parasites, there's nothing seriously wrong with the practice.
When Do Pregnancy Cravings Start?
Typically, cravings during pregnancy begin to show themselves around the end of the first trimester, before peaking and intensifying during the second, before then beginning to subside. Food aversions can start to pop up at this time too, with many women suddenly finding themselves repulsed at something they previously loved. But more on that later.
Typically, cravings tend to be caused by factors such as changes to hormones and senses, nutrition signals getting crossed, and a need for comfort food. And while you obviously don’t want to satiate your cravings too steadfastly, you needn’t necessarily fight them. As long as it’s not something that’ll be harmful it should generally be okay. After all, you are growing a new human inside you.
What Are Common Pregnancy Cravings?
People can start to crave all sorts of foods when they become pregnant. Might be sweet things like chocolate or ice cream, a pickle craving, or craving fruit. Some can seem totally natural, and others altogether outlandish, with many even craving foods they never previously liked.
A study in the U.S. estimated that around 50% to 90% of all pregnant women experience some kind of food craving, so with that in mind, here are a few of the most common culprits.
1. Spicy foods
One of the most commonly found foods for pregnant women to crave is spicy foods like chilies, for example. One of the main theories behind this is that pregnant women need some cooling down, which is what happens when we eat spicy food and sweat (hence why those over in India eat so much spicy food). Even those who are typically averse to spicy food can find themselves desperately craving something hot, although be sure not to overdo it. Spicy foods are generally safe for pregnant women, although you won’t want to be going and getting yourself heartburn or some other digestive issue.
2. Ice cream
Ice cream often pops up on the lists of things pregnant women have said they’ve had cravings for. Most likely, this is because it’s sweet and sweet things are one of the most common things to crave. Its high levels of calcium may also be a contributing factor too, many believe. If you’ve been going a bit overboard with the ice cream cravings recently, perhaps try some low fat frozen yogurt as an alternative instead?
Since just like ice cream chocolate is sweet, it can be another commonly found item on the long list of a pregnant woman’s food cravings. If, like with the ice cream, you are concerned about going a bit overboard on the sugar, perhaps try dark chocolate instead. Typically it should have far more reduced sugar content and contain far more flavonoids.
While it is yet to actually be confirmed, one common belief towards the reasons why pregnant women may crave pickles is due to the sodium. If your pickle habit is due to a craving of salt, pickles are one of the healthier options for sure.
5. Red meat
Iron deficiency can be a common thing for women to suffer during pregnancy, although it isn’t necessarily believed to be the reason why women develop such a craving for red meat. A study undertaken on the topic of pregnancy cravings has suggested that it could be something to do with pregnancy hormones changing your senses of taste and smell. Either way, by eating red meat you can help to deal with any iron deficiency you may have developed.
6. Peanut butter
This will most likely be the case of craving some itch for comfort food.
What Are Some of the Best Foods for Pregnancy?
Keeping up a healthy diet while pregnant is incredibly important. Your body will need additional nutrients, minerals, and vitamins, and you may even need to be consuming as many as 500 additional calories per day.
Some of the best pregnancy foods that you could be eating while you’re pregnant include the following:
- Dairy products
- Sweet potatoes
- Lean meats
- Fish liver oil
- Whole grains
- Dried fruit
Pregnancy Food Aversions
Much like any pregnancy food craving, food aversions will pop up too, again most likely due to the hormonal changes of pregnancy. They’re most likely to pop up during the first trimester, although they can really appear at any time during pregnancy.
What Are Common Pregnancy Aversions?
Just as seemingly random cravings come along with your pregnancy, so too do food aversions. The following are some of the most commonly found food aversions that women report during their pregnancy:
- Spicy foods
Some, like spicy foods, for example, are often reported as cravings too. What you crave or hate during your pregnancy will obviously come down to each individual. It’s incredibly common for pregnant women to suddenly crave something they previously hated and hate things they previously loved.
What Are Some of the Worst Foods for Pregnancy?
Obviously, there’ll be some foods that you’re going to want to be avoided during your pregnancy if you want to keep yourself and your baby healthy and safe. The following you’ll want to avoid completely, having been noted as unsafe foods to consume during pregnancy:
- Seafood high in mercury
- Raw milk and juices
- Refrigerated meats
- Deli salads (unless steaming hot)
- Undercooked or raw meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, and eggs
- Raw sprouts
- Unpasteurized cheese
- Energy drinks
- Excessive amounts of coffee
- Unripe papaya
In addition, you’ll want to ensure that you go easy on the following. While not strictly unsafe, they’re still not great.
- Foods with trans fats
- Sodas and sweetened beverages
- Foods with high sodium levels
- Overly sugary foods
Disclaimer: It's important to exercise due diligence when obtaining relevant information in matters pertaining to your health. Always consult with your healthcare provider with any and all serious questions. This article is meant to be educational only and not meant to diagnose anything.