Pregnancy cravingsThere’s a stereotype about pregnancy cravings, the most common being the combination of pickles and ice cream. So, is it just a stereotype, or is there something fundamental about a pregnant woman and the (often) crazy things she craves?

Pregnancy Cravings Are Definitely “A Thing”

While we still don’t know exactly what causes cravings, there is a general consensus that pregnancy-related cravings are real. Of course, this comes as no surprise to women who’ve been pregnant, especially when the foods they crave involve flavors or ingredients they may not ever choose in their non-pregnant state.

It could be morning sickness.

In many cases, pregnancy cravings or noticeable changes in appetite occur before a woman even knows she’s pregnant. Odds are, the cause of your cravings resulting from hormone fluctuations and dietary needs your body signals to you by what you crave. Morning sickness may also drive cravings because the shorter your list of “things you want to eat” becomes, the more likely you are to crave the limited amount of things that sound good or stay in your tummy.

Are you getting the nutrients you need?

Some researchers hold firm that there is a direct correlation between what a woman craves and the nutrients she needs at that stage of the pregnancy. For example, some studies have shown women who crave chocolate are deficient in magnesium or that cravings for salty foods may signify other forms of mineral depletion or a need for fluid balance. Some of the most common pregnancy cravings are:

● Milk or chocolate milk
● Meat or animal protein (especially for vegetarian/vegan women)
● Ice cream
● Sweets
● Spicy, sour, fatty, or salty foods
● Comfort foods (mashed potatoes, cereal, toast, and other carb-rich offerings)

Start asking women what they craved during pregnancy, and you’ll be amazed at what you find, such as the juice from the pickle jar, nothing-but-bacon, only cup-o-noodles, etc., etc.

Beware of pregnancy cravings that spread into non-food items.

Pica is a condition where a person craves non-food items. While it can affect anyone, pregnant women are the most likely to experience pica, more proof that pregnancy cravings are a reality! In addition, people with pica often experience great shame around what they eat and may sneak it to avoid detection. 

Don’t let that happen to you. If you start craving non-food items, let your OB know ASAP. You may have a higher-than-normal deficiency that needs attention and TLC. Some of the most common things craved by individuals with pica are:

● Dirt or clay
● Ice cubes/chips (a little is fine, especially if you have morning sickness, but ice can’t be a mainstay as it lacks calories and nutrients)
● Ashes
● Fabric
● Soap or laundry detergent
● Coffee grounds
● Plants
● Ashes
● Metal objects

As you can imagine, some of these cause minor irritation, while others can do severe damage to the soft lining of your digestive tract and can be toxic. 

Everything in moderation.

The good news is that, for the most part, pregnancy cravings don’t pose any real threat to you and your baby (excluding the pica scenario highlighted above). The best way to think about it is using the mantra, “everything in moderation.” Feel free to indulge in your cravings, but do your best to balance them by ensuring a more significant percentage of your caloric intake is from healthy, nutrient-rich foods.

● Start your day with a nutritious breakfast such as oatmeal, yogurt, and granola with fruit, high-fiber enriched cereal with low-fat milk, or a smoothie.
● Drink plenty of water to make sure your cravings aren’t the result of dehydration
● Limit your snack items to whole-grain or fruit/veggie-based options to resist the urge to overindulge in high-fat or high-sugar options
● Treat yourself to a small treat at least once or twice a day
● Limit the amount of “less-nutritious cravings” available in your home so you can’t get to them as easily

And, of course, make sure to exercise regularly.

Do you have questions about your pregnancy cravings? Then, please schedule an appointment at Overlake OB/GYN. We’ll ensure you have all the information you need to eat your way through a healthy pregnancy.