Like morning sickness and food aversions, food cravings are one of the more common “symptoms” experienced during pregnancy. One exciting thing about this typical side-effect of gestation is that food cravings tend to be different for every expectant mother. While some crave simple salty or sweet snacks, others may crave a particular fruit, cereal, or even food they enjoyed in childhood.
There has been quite a bit of research conducted on the cause of food cravings. Ultimately, the consensus is that these cravings could stem from various reasons. For example, cravings may be due to the heightened sense of smell and taste during pregnancy, hormonal changes, and nutrition deficiencies. Some desires are nostalgic or even have no rhyme or reason at all, too!
In light of this, today, we’re talking about the most common food cravings, what they might be telling you about your body, and how to deal with them healthfully. Remember, cravings are, for the most part, completely normal, and it’s okay to listen to your body.
Please note that if you have cravings for non-food items like laundry detergent or dirt, it is not recommended to indulge in these cravings, and please talk with your doctor or dietitian as soon as possible.
15 Common Food Cravings During Pregnancy
Do you have a constant urge to chew on ice? You’re not the only one! Ice is an extremely common craving during pregnancy. An intense desire to eat ice during pregnancy is considered a form of pica. Pica is a term used to describe the craving for non-food items such as clay or dirt and is usually caused by a nutrition deficiency. Some studies show that an ice craving is also a sign of low iron and early stages of anemia.
While ice isn’t an unhealthy craving, it can certainly put some wear and tear on the teeth and cause gum sensitivity. So, the best way to overcome this urge is to focus on eating a well-rounded diet with plenty of iron-rich foods. And, to help prevent anemia, be sure to check out these 13 vegetarian sources of iron! Also, discuss this craving with your doctor and regularly test iron levels during pregnancy.
Yummm…who doesn’t love ice cream? Ice cream is a common pregnancy craving not only because it’s so sweet and delicious but because it’s also chock full of calcium and a good source of iodine.
During pregnancy, the body requires calcium to help keep the mother’s bones and muscles strong. Plus, calcium is a building block of your baby’s bones, muscles, and teeth. It’s also essential for developing your baby’s heart, hormones, and nerves. But, milk and ice cream cravings are usually due to iodine, not calcium! Iodine needs significantly increase during pregnancy, and dairy is a great source.
Are you searching for a healthier alternative to satisfy this craving? Try one of these healthy sweets for pregnancy. Seaweed snacks are also a good source of iodine for those that do not consume dairy.
To support a growing baby, blood volume in the body increases during pregnancy. This increase in red blood cells helps ensure that your body is producing enough blood for both you and your baby. And it helps ensure the proper distribution of vitamins and minerals throughout the body and the baby. Sodium helps keep an appropriate balance of fluids, including blood, in the body – hence the craving for pickles! (Oh, and if you’re craving pickles and ice cream – this is normal. This sweet and salty combo is ubiquitous throughout gestation.)
Pickles are excellent to incorporate during pregnancy! Some types of pickles are even a good source of probiotics too. Trail mix, pretzels, and electrolyte drinks may also help satisfy this craving. Walnuts can make a great addition to trail mix and are especially beneficial during pregnancy. To read more about walnuts and their benefits, click here!
Like pickles, your insatiable appetite for potato chips could be coming from a lack of sodium. Your body needs more salt to perform essential physiological functions during pregnancy. And as mentioned above, it’s an essential nutrient to help maintain the proper balance of fluids in the body. To satiate this craving, consider opting for a baked version of potato chips, making homemade potato or sweet potato chips, or trying one of the healthy salty snacks mentioned above. Once your body gets the sodium it needs, those salty cravings should diminish.
Citrus fruits are a common pregnancy craving, and research has yet to explain why. It’s been speculated that it could be due to a vitamin C deficiency or an extra need for folate, but no link has been proven yet. Either way, citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and limes are a great source of many nutrients and are super hydrating!
Lemon, in particular, may be beneficial when dealing with morning sickness and nausea. Even just smelling a lemon scent may help nausea. Want some citrus fruit? We say go for it! Eating fruit is an excellent addition to your pregnancy diet!
There are a few speculated reasons why you might be craving some spicy foods while pregnant. The first is that when the immune system is down, we often crave spicy foods. A second reason may be hormones produced during pregnancy that can drastically affect mothers’ sense of taste and smell. Thus, those spicy foods that were too hot for your liking might be your new favorite food. Rest assured, spicy foods are safe to consume during pregnancy!
However, spicy foods are a common reason for an upset stomach and heartburn during pregnancy for some individuals. Again, these foods aren’t harmful but may produce unwanted side effects for some people. If they don’t negatively impact you, spicy foods such as peppers and fresh seasonings like cumin, turmeric, and cayenne pepper are all options to include!
Fruit and fruit juice
Got a desire for a big glass of OJ? Or how about a plate full of watermelon? Craving fresh fruit and fruit juice are widespread during pregnancy. Fruit is honestly not a bad food to be craving. They are rich in vitamins and minerals and can help keep you hydrated. Remember to follow all of these food safety recommendations for pregnancy when chopping, cutting, and preparing any fresh fruit.
As one of the more healthy cravings on this list, veggies might be one of the best cravings during pregnancy. If you’re craving veggies, it could be due to a vitamin or mineral you lack in your diet or even because many veggies are also a hydrating choice!
Are you craving some dark leafy greens? Maybe you could use a boost of iron or folate. Are you just dying for some carrots? When it comes to veggie cravings, indulge yourself! Not only will you satisfy your taste buds, but you’ll also gain plenty of nutrition along the way. Be sure to wash vegetables before consuming them!
The body’s primary source of energy is carbohydrates. During pregnancy, fatigue is a common symptom, so this may be one reason carbohydrate cravings happen. Additionally, bland carbohydrate choices are often well tolerated when first-trimester “morning sickness” symptoms hit. This is one reason you might find yourself craving starchy carbs like potatoes, pasta, and bread.
While indulging in these carbs is fine in moderation, overindulging in this craving can make it hard to maintain a healthy weight gain during gestation. Don’t forget to focus on including fiber-rich and nutrient-dense carbohydrate choices like oatmeal and beans.
Most people love chocolate. So it’s no surprise that this is a common craving throughout all trimesters of pregnancy. But why? Well, it could be that we are just craving sugar. And that’s totally fine! But, another reason pregnant people may crave chocolate is that it is rich in many essential and beneficial nutrients, dark chocolate that is!
The next time you’ve got a hankering for chocolate, remember to watch added sugar and caffeine intake. Opting for dark chocolate will give you an excellent nutrition bang for your buck. Consumed in moderation, dark chocolate may have many benefits for pregnant women. It contains iron, magnesium, and antioxidants and may help to lower blood pressure. Dark chocolate can be the perfect post-meal sweet treat!
Similar to ice cream, cheese is a common craving during pregnancy. It’s possible it could be a sign your body is searching for calcium. The good news? This craving could be a good one! Consuming certain cheeses during pregnancy can be very beneficial. Hard cheeses like cheddar and parmesan contain protein, calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus. All of which are essential to your baby’s proper growth and development.
Cheese is a great option to pair with fruits and vegetables. For example, cheese stick and orange for a snack! During pregnancy best practice is to choose a pasteurized cheese option. Most cheeses in the United States are pasteurized, especially in the grocery store. Unless you’re regularly shopping at the farmer’s market, this favorite, you can bet your cheese is likely to be pasteurized and excellent to choose from!
Peanut butter cravings may stem from the hormonal changes experienced by expecting mothers, but more research is needed. And despite the common misconception – peanut butter is safe to eat during pregnancy. Peanut butter is a very healthy snack to consume during pregnancy. It’s a great source of protein, delicious, and an excellent fat option to pair with carbohydrates at snack time to keep blood sugars balanced with gestational diabetes – what’s not to love?
Like some other foods on this list, it’s essential to remember that not all peanut butters are created equal. Peanut butters with added sugars and vegetable oils are ideal to avoid. Instead, opt for peanut butter or other nut butter (almond, walnut, cashew, etc.) with minimal ingredients like dry roasted peanuts and salt.
Are you craving some steak? Don’t worry – this is very common. Pregnant people may crave red meat when they are amid an iron deficiency. And, like many other food items on this list, red meat is safe and recommended to consume during pregnancy. In addition to iron, red meat is also great zinc, vitamin B12, and a source of protein.
If you’re craving some red meat, feel free to incorporate it into your diet. Best practice recommends cooking red meat, like beef, to an internal temperature of 145 F. Not a big fan of red meat? We’ve got you covered. Try incorporating more beans, spinach, cooked oysters, and chicken to get the iron your body needs.
Craving something fishy? Reports show that fish is a very common craving during pregnancy. Most speculate this craving stems from our body’s need for omega-3s during pregnancy. This is because the body requires more of these fatty acids throughout gestation. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for a healthy pregnancy to support the proper growth and development of your baby’s brain and retinas.
For some, fish is an aversion during pregnancy. But rest assured, indulging in low mercury options is super beneficial if you crave fish during pregnancy. Remember, certain types of seafood are recommended to avoid during pregnancy. Click here for more information on which kinds of seafood are safe and which to avoid.
Last but not least, we have fast food. Many pregnant people report having an intense craving for fast food at least once during pregnancy. Remember, it’s a great thing to listen to your body and indulge in your desires in moderation. However, it is ideal for keeping fast food intake to more occasional to make room for more nutrient-dense food choices in your pregnancy diet.
We would even recommend experimenting with making your favorite fast food dish at home when possible. Making a batch of oven-baked or air-fryer french fries at home will allow you to be in control of all the ingredients. You can pick healthier oils to cook with than you’ll find at fast-food restaurants. Avocado oil is a great example!
Your cravings may be a sign – listen to them!
We at The Prenatal Nutritionist hope this article helps you better manage all your future cravings. Just remember, cravings are, for the most part, completely normal. They can be a way your body tells you that you need more of a specific vitamin or mineral.
So, in a way, some cravings can be very beneficial to your pregnancy diet. There are also cravings in pregnancy that we can’t explain. If you have any additional questions, feel free to drop them below! Head on over to The Prenatal Nutrition Library for more tips and strategies to manage other common pregnancy symptoms like nausea, fatigue, and headaches! Until next time, wishing you a happy and healthy pregnancy!