Whether it’s marshmallows on nachos, dill pickles and ice cream, or triple-fudge brownie mix (straight from the bowl of course!) — there’s no denying that pregnancy cravings can be a little surprising.
For most folks, these bizarre pairings may not exactly be their idea of gourmet fare, but if you have a bun in the oven, they can seem like heaven on a plate, regardless of how crazy it may sound.
From chocolate to veggies to fried chicken to fruit, it can be tough to predict the foods your body will crave while growing a tiny human. But what are pregnancy cravings exactly, and what causes them? We’ll tell you.
Read on to discover everything you need to know about pregnancy cravings.
What Are Pregnancy Cravings?
Simply put, pregnancy cravings are seemingly unquenchable longings to eat certain foods or combinations of foods. Many seasoned mamas will tell you that they are just like PMS cravings — only more intense.
Though cravings often seem to come out of nowhere, sometimes they can be triggered by a stimulus (like seeing an ad for a cheeseburger and suddenly feeling consumed by the urge to have one).
When Do Pregnancy Cravings Start?
There’s no magical time when all pregnant women will start to experience food cravings.
In fact, some women may never experience pregnancy food cravings during any time of their pregnancy. But, if you start having cravings, it’ll probably be during early pregnancy in your first or second trimester, with some ladies getting them as early as five weeks into pregnancy.
Cravings come in all different shapes and sizes. Some pregnant women crave sweet treats like cookies and pastries, whereas others get unusual hankerings for things they didn’t like before getting pregnant.
What Causes Pregnancy Cravings?
No one really knows for sure what causes pregnancy cravings, but there are a few theories — here are some of them:
During pregnancy, you have more hormones circulating throughout your body than usual. Similar to what happens when you’re expecting a visit from your dear Aunt Flo, this influx of fluctuating hormones might change the types of cravings you experience.
This is because hormones can affect your sensory experience of food, your sense of smell, and your mood — all of which play a part in what type of foods you crave.
When growing a tiny human being, your nutritional requirements of specific nutrients — like calcium, folic acid, zinc, vitamin A and iron — can double. As a result, you may find yourself yearning for foods rich in these essential nutrients. It is your body’s way of trying to get your nutritional needs met.
Though it’s important to give your body what it needs, sometimes it might take its “need” for calcium, for example, and cause you to have an intense craving for desserts, like a banana-split sundae topped with fudge, which isn’t exactly the healthiest option.
Of course, eat the sweet foods! But don’t forget to add more nutritious sources of the nutrient you’re craving to your diet. In addition to that well-deserved sundae, calcium can be found in dark leafy greens, fish, and almonds.
Another possible culprit behind pregnancy cravings simply has to do with comfort. As you may already know (or will soon enough!), pregnancy is one of the most intensive transformations your body will ever experience.
To cope with the changes and soothe tension, many moms-to-be find comfort in special foods and dishes, such as a bowl of homemade mac and cheese or grandma’s world-famous curry and rice.
Generally speaking, comfort foods are rich, full-fat dishes that are often high in calories and carbohydrates. Although these soul-warming foods are not recommended to eat regularly, as long as you practice moderation, it’s A-OK to indulge from time to time.
What Are Some Common Pregnancy Cravings?
Pregnancy cravings are very different from hunger due to fluctuating hormones or a nutrient deficiency. In fact, it might even be completely unrelated to your usual hunger pangs.
Cravings can be an obsessive desire for a particular taste or smell that ultimately doesn’t go away until the cravings have been satisfied.
Pregnancy cravings can vary from person to person according to a few things like culture and geographic location, but according to a recent study, the most common cravings include:
- Starchy carbs
- Fast food
- Red meat
- Spicy foods
- Peanut butter
In addition, many expecting moms crave rather peculiar food combos, such as:
- Peanut butter and pickles
- Crisps and chocolate spread
- Sugar on spaghetti
- Dill pickles and ice cream
- French fries dipped in a milkshake
- Avocado and jam
- Marshmallows sprinkled over nachos
- Tuna and ice cream
- Pickled garlic and yogurt
- Bacon and Nutella
- Orange on toast
What Is Pica?
By now, you know that weird food cravings are pretty much on par for the course — hankerings for non-food items, on the other hand, are not.
A condition that creates cravings for non-food items, pica refers to when an individual eats or craves non-food items. The eating disorder can happen to anyone but is most common during pregnancy.
Why? Researchers aren’t really sure, but it’s thought to be a sign of a nutritional deficiency, particularly of zinc or iron (iron-deficiency anemia).
Like pregnancy cravings, pica cravings can vary from person to person, but some of the most common non-food items pregnant women crave include:
- Ice chips
Pica itself won’t cause harm to your growing sprout, but if you eat non-food items, there is the potential for toxicity, complications, and malnutrition. So if you discover that you have a compulsion to chew on ice, an urge to eat “mud pies,” or an itch to gnaw on chalk, talk to your healthcare provider right away.
What Are Some Tips To Help Curb Pregnancy Cravings?
Pregnancy cravings are super common and shouldn’t be any reason for concern. That said, if you’re trying to calm your cravings, these tips and tricks listed below might be able to help:
Tip #1: Eat a balanced diet that includes fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean sources of protein.
Tip #2: When an unhealthy craving strikes, take a relaxing bath with our therapeutic bath salts to divert your attention.
Tip #3: If sweets are calling your name before it’s time for bed, try sipping on a soothing cup of tea (like our Organic Bedtime Tea) with a dash of honey instead.
Tip #4: Practice portion control, and remember, balance is key!
What Are Pregnancy Food Aversions?
During pregnancy, you may find yourself craving a number of odd things — from fried chicken dipped in jam to french fries dunked in ice cream and just about everything in between. But in contrast, you may also discover that certain once-favorite foods now make you nauseous. What gives?
Known as food aversions, this not-so-wonderful pregnancy symptom is the strong desire to avoid certain foods. In general, the most common food aversions that pregnant women tend to experience include eggs, onions, fish, garlic, meat, and dairy products.
Most pregnant women say their food cravings and aversions peak during the second trimester, with their appetite and taste buds returning to normal by the end of the third trimester.
Pregnancy cravings can be unusual, from pickles and ice cream to oranges on toast. But regardless of how weird your cravings may be, don’t worry because you’re certainly not alone.
According to research, about 50 to 90 percent of pregnant women experience some kind of specific food craving during pregnancy. So if you’re suddenly yearning for red meat, spicy food, or pickle-everything, join the club!
Food aversion during pregnancy and its association with nutritional status of pregnant women in Boricha Woreda, Sidama Regional State, Southern Ethiopia, 2019. A community based mixed cross-sectional study design | Reproductive Health