Managing Pregnancy Cravings and Staying Healthy

Managing Pregnancy Cravings and Staying Healthy

Intense cravings for food are experienced by the vast majority of pregnant women (90%). It can be as ordinary as a platter of chicken wings or as outlandish as ice cream topped with pickles. Intense cravings for particular food can drive some women to wake their husbands or partners in the wee hours to go out and get it. Is it healthy and can anything bad happen if you don’t get what you want? In this post, let’s discuss pregnancy cravings and how you can have a healthy relationship with food during pregnancy. 

What Are Pregnancy Cravings?

Cravings during pregnancy can feel like an irresistible want to consume a specific food or drink, just like any other sort of craving. But why is it often talked about? Pregnancy cravings are a hot topic in part because some women experience quite typical cravings throughout their pregnancy while others experience more unusual ones. But even though it happens to most pregnant women, there is no known reason for the exact cause. However, there are some theories why this happens: 

  • A woman's senses of smell and taste may be affected by her hormone levels that change during pregnancy. That may be the reason why some pregnant women develop aversions to foods they used to enjoy. It's also possible that this is why your pregnant cravings feel even more intense than usual. 
  • It can also be due to nutritional deficiencies. 
  • Cravings may be due to a heightened sense of taste and smell as well. 

Common Pregnancy Cravings

It's okay to reach for something that gets some strange looks from your loved ones! A lot of moms-to-be are known to choose the strangest food combinations. Let's take a look at some of the typical food cravings during pregnancy and what each one possibly means:

  • Ice Cream - Cravings for dairy products like yogurt drinks and ice cream can be due to a calcium deficiency. Or you’re just a huge fan of ice cream. 
  • Chocolate - An unusual urge to eat huge amounts of chocolate can indicate issues with your mental health. You may be depressed or feeling low. Chocolate contains tryptophan, a naturally occurring chemical that produces serotonin in your brain. It’s why eating chocolates can make you think happy thoughts! 
  • Pickles - Low sodium levels may be the reason you keep eating the pickles in your pantry. 
  • Fruit - Find yourself reaching for mangoes more often? Craving for fruits may indicate your body levels are low in vitamin C. 
  • Red Meat - Hungry for steak? Red meat is commonly craved by pregnant women who have iron or protein deficiency because it provides them with the minerals they need.
  • Ice - Though not necessarily considered as food, ice is a common craving among moms-to-be. An iron deficiency, the most common cause of anemia, may be to blame if you find yourself craving ice. Pregnant women with anemia often crave ice because it soothes the swelling of their mouth and tongue.
  • Spicy Food - It may sound strange, but craving for spicy food could mean that you’re overheated and your body is telling you to eat spicy food to make your body sweat. Sweating brings down your body temperature. 
  • Strange Combinations of Food - There’s no other explanation for weird food combos like pickles and peanut butter or tuna and chocolate. It’s normal and again, we can only attribute it to pregnancy symptoms like hormonal changes and nutritional deficiencies. 

How to Manage Your Pregnancy Cravings

Many women want to know if it’s safe to give in to cravings. The answer is yes, but there’s a huge BUT. As with any desires and cravings, moderation is key when satisfying food cravings during pregnancy. Pregnancy cravings, especially for junk food, may play a role in weight gain for the mom-to-be. Women who are expecting should be aware that they need to watch their calorie intake closely in order to stay healthy. 

One thing you should watch out for is craving for non-food substances like ash and chalk. It’s called pica and symptoms include an insatiable need for substances with no nutritional value. These cravings can indicate deficiency in vitamins, according to the Journal of American Dietetic Association

Additionally, women who are expecting should resist cravings for unsafe foods that are harmful during pregnancy. Seafood, meat, eggs, and dairy products that have not been pasteurized are examples of these. 

Wondering how you can manage pregnancy cravings? Here are some tips: 

  1. Get enough sleep. Now, you may be wondering how adequate sleep can help stave off cravings. Lack of sleep has been linked to an increase in ghrelin, the appetite-stimulating hormone and an increase in leptin, a hormone that plays a role in regulating energy and hunger. If your leptin levels are high, you might not feel full from a meal and keep reaching for more food. If you’re having trouble getting some much needed zzz’s due to discomfort, consider a maternity pillow to help you rest more comfortably. 
  2. Switch to healthier options. The way you feel can be improved by making a few dietary changes or discovering healthier ways to fulfill a sweet tooth. If you’re craving for chocolate, for instance, opt for one that's 70% dark chocolate. 
  3. Don’t shop while hungry. If you go food shopping on an empty stomach, you'll be unable to make good decisions and end up with a cart full of junk, easy-to-prep food. Snacking before going to the grocery store can help curb  unhealthy food cravings! 
  4. Indulge yourself. Being too hard on yourself and forcing yourself to stick to an unattainable, “strict” diet can result in more food cravings. Eat chocolate, but don’t eat the whole bar in one sitting. Save it for a mid-week reward! 
  5. Hydrate! Drinking water can help keep cravings at bay and help reduce pregnancy fatigue. Feeling hungry is often a sign that your body needs water. It's crucial to drink plenty of water but you should make it a habit, especially during pregnancy. To increase water intake, opt for some fruit-infused water. 
  6. Eat a balanced meal. Pregnancy cravings can be avoided in part by eating healthy, balanced meals. The most important thing is to not skip breakfast.

In conclusion, it’s okay to indulge in a small amount of pickles or chocolate if you continue to crave them. Just remember that the key to a balanced diet during pregnancy is moderation. However, a visit to your doctor is in order if you find yourself wanting anything other than food. A nutritional deficiency could be to blame for non-food cravings. Changes in your appetite is inevitable, but make sure that your pregnancy cravings will not hurt you or the baby. 

Medical disclaimer: The information provided is not meant to be a substitute for expert medical advice, diagnosis, or care. Always ask your doctor or another qualified health provider for advice if you have any concerns about a medical issue. Never dismiss or put off getting expert medical advice because of something you read on Bub’s Blog. babybub does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on this site.
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