Cravings and Eating During Pregnancy: How to Handle Them


One of the most common issues that come up while eating during pregnancy is the subject of cravings. Cravings are usually an issue that first surfaces during three to six months into your pregnancy; therefore, it’s an issue that is of particular interest to second trimester nutrition.

Most women wonder, should they give in to cravings? Or ignore them altogether? It depends on what you’re craving as well as any underlying causes beneath your needs for certain foods.

Common Pregnancy Cravings

In a recent study among pregnant women, 40% preferred sweets, 33% craved salty snacks, 17% craved spicy foods, and 10% desired sour foods. Cravings are experienced by over half of pregnant women at some point during their pregnancy, though it most commonly surfaces during the second trimester, as mentioned above.

Though the most cliché pregnancy craving is pickles and ice cream, women can crave anything from eggplant to Cheez Whiz to ice and even cigarette butts. Sweets are definitely the most commonly desired treat, and among sweets, chocolate leads the pack as the most commonly-desired indulgence.

Salsa, jalapeno peppers, chips, and citrus fruits are also common pregnancy indulgences, reflecting some pregnant women’s desire for spicy, salty, or sour foods.

What Do Cravings Mean?

Sometimes the urge to eat certain foods during pregnancy can become overwhelming. So what causes these strong urges? Is it merely hormonal, or does a craving point out a nutritional deficit? Studies are mixed on what may or may not contribute to cravings.

Hormonal changes during pregnancy can have a profound effect on your senses of taste and smell, which could cause a woman to desire certain foods. Some nutritionists believe that certain cravings can signify a nutritional deficit. Cravings for ice, cigarette butts, and even dirt—a pregnancy condition called pica—can be caused by an iron deficiency.

Cravings for red meat can signify a need for protein, while cravings for chocolate may alert a practitioner to a deficiency of magnesium. Cravings for certain fruits may signify a need for beta carotene or vitamin C.

Other studies state that there is no real link between cravings and nutritional deficiencies. However, if you are having an overwhelming craving for a certain type of food, it’s wise to consult with a nutritionist or your OB/GYN or midwife, who can check for nutritional deficiencies.

How to Handle Cravings

While cravings cause no harm, indulging in them too often can cause you to gain weight if you are craving too much of the wrong kind of thing. So, for example, what should you do if you are craving ice cream? You might try indulging in a more healthy treat that could give you the same emotional payoff as consuming the real deal.

If your passion is ice cream, maybe you could try a little frozen yogurt on occasion. If your passion is chocolate, you might try eating a little bit of high quality dark chocolate every day. Chocolate does have caffeine, so make sure you keep your overall caffeine consumption below 150mg per day.

Studies show that increasing your intake of Omega-3 fatty acids can actually help to suppress your passions for certain foods. You should be taking 250mg of Omega-3 fatty acids throughout your pregnancy. Try eating foods high in these fatty acids, such as leafy greens, walnuts, flaxseed oil, and organic eggs

Get Emotional Support

Stress can also contribute to cravings, particularly for sweets or foods high in saturated fats. So seek out ways to get the emotional support you need and reduce your stress levels. Exercise, meditation, and spending time emotionally connecting to those you love can be excellent ways to reduce stress and with that, reduce your cravings.