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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.

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.

Ahead we have everything you need to know about all of the food cravings and aversions you could suddenly develop while you’re pregnant.

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’s all sorts of things going on that can suddenly lead you to a pregnancy food craving for anything from pickles to spicy foods to even, god forbid, mud.

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 to steadfastly, you needn’t necessarily fight them. As long as it’s not something that’ll be harmful, then everything in moderation, as they say.

Once you reach the 4th month your cravings should start to subside.

What Are Common Pregnancy Cravings?

People can start to crave all sorts when they become pregnant, be it craving sweet things like chocolate or ice cream, to 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?

3. Chocolate

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.

4. Pickles

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.

7. Pica

If you’re wondering what this strange, delicious, exotic-sounding food is, well… it’s not food. It’s literally not food. From time to time, pregnancy cravings can start to get a little weird, and pica is the name for strange cravings for non-food items. Pica is a condition usually found in children but also sometimes in pregnant women where you’ll start to crave substances that simply aren’t food. Anything from dirt to laundry starch and even burnt matches have come up, so if you start to get these cravings be watchful and talk to your doctor.

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
  • Legumes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Salmon
  • Eggs
  • Broccoli
  • Lean meats
  • Fish liver oil
  • Berries
  • Whole grains
  • Avocados
  • 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:

  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • 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 avoiding during your pregnancy if you want to keep you 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