Your belly grumbles.
Now that could mean any number of things these days with the baby in there and all. Right? Wrong.
Your stomach is calling. You have a deep desire for a salty snack. But not just any salty snack.
The snack you want - no, need - is sitting in the fridge, marinating in a pool of brine, swimming in its dark, glass abode. Perhaps the jar is decorated by a label featuring a friendly stork, the animal symbol of maternity.
“Why am I craving pickles and pickle juice,” you may wonder, “when I’ve never even wanted pickles before?”
Oddly enough, you’re not alone (not your distaste of pickles - you’re in a clear minority there). In fact, a considerable majority (between 50-90%) of pregnant women experience food cravings at some point during their pregnancy. While that may be a healthy majority, these cravings might not always be the most healthy foods items.
Nonetheless, weird pregnancy cravings are a fun part of your pregnancy, especially once you realize you’re not crazy for craving eggs in the middle of the night. There are truly good reasons why you may be itching for those eggs - but we’ll talk about that shortly.
When do pregnancy cravings start?
Pregnancy is a time when your body is going through many changes, including your appetite. While many pregnant women can face a loss of appetite and food aversions, many pregnant women experience cravings ... But how early do pregnancy cravings start?
Pregnancy cravings tend to start in your first trimester. They could actually start kicking in before you even know there’s a baby kicking in your body! That’s anywhere between the third and eighth weeks of your pregnancy. It is not uncommon for these cravings to accompany your first bouts of morning sickness.
You may be feeling peckish for some spicy foods, or maybe a cold glass of chocolate milk (which would actually be an effective combination). However, it’s not until your second trimester that your cravings start to peak.
Fortunately, the madness begins to regulate by the third trimester. Postpartum cravings definitely exist, but you can expect them to ease up significantly after your birth.
What causes pregnancy cravings?
Food cravings during pregnancy are due to a combination of your changing hormones and nutritional deficiencies. Often, your body knows what it needs nutritionally, and it’s simply communicating that message to your brain. With cravings, however, a lot of the time it’s more psychological than gastrointestinal.
Whether it is emotional or physical, your needs are valid and should not be dismissed. Just recognize that you are not a slave to your biology: it is frequently in your best interest to avoid certain craved foods, especially if you know better that it’ll make you feel sick in the long run.
Here’s a list of the most common pregnant women cravings:
11 Most Common Pregnancy Cravings
Here’s a list of the most common cravings women report during their pregnancy:
#11 - Peanut butter
Unless you’re allergic or arachibutyrophobic, peanut butter is a beloved spread by many (and a beloved snack for those of you that eat is straight off the spoon). Beyond its taste and texture, the best part of peanut butter is its caloric content: it’s a rich protein source, low in carbs, and high in healthy fats.
Tip: As comforting as peanut butter may be, overindulgence can be mitigated with the help of some sweet strawberries. This winning combo is a super healthy snack that’ll be sure to satisfy your craving.
#10 - Red meat
Craving red meat tends to be a response to nutritional deficiency in protein and iron. Maintaining strong iron levels is necessary for the proper growth and development of your baby, and you get that in red meat. It is also vital for you, mama, to boost your energy and combat pregnancy fatigue, especially if you have iron deficiency.
Tip: Too much red meat can be dangerous for you and your baby. Make sure to get some good vegetable proteins as well, like tofu or lentils.
#9 - Baked goods
Who doesn’t want cookies? Baked goods like chocolate chip cookies and muffins, even bread, are very common cravings because they make great comfort foods. Especially with shifting hormones and lower dopamine levels, you may find yourself searching for a few high-fat, feel-good calories.
Tip: Eating lots of white bread and empty carbs will make you tired. Pastries are real yummy, but they can quickly add some unwanted gestational weight gain.
#8 - Fruit
People often crave fruit when they’re not pregnant, so imagine how being a pregnant woman will do you! Melons and cold, juicy fruit are great sources of vitamin C and water. Craving fruit is usually your body wanting more natural, healthy foods.
Tip: The natural sugars found in fruit (especially commonly craved fruits like mangoes, watermelon, and cherries) should be balanced with adequate protein.
#7 - Chocolate milk
Craving chocolate milk might mean you’re needing calcium or vitamin D. Chocolate milk is a refreshing and tasty beverage that also doubles as a comfort drink.
Tip: High in sugar, chocolate milk is great after a workout to restore and recover. Although it may be disguised, it is still very much milk, so be careful, lactose-intolerant moms!
#6 - Lemon stuff
Lemons, lemonade, lemon ice. Lemon and citrus flavours are classic palate cleansers. The craving for tart and sour foods is very common with the hormonal shifts you’re going through. Lemons can also help alleviate nausea and morning sickness.
Tip: Eating actual lemons has been known to hurt people’s stomachs, so why not drink some lemonade or drizzle some lemon juice on your salad!
#5 - Spicy Foods
If being hot wasn’t enough for you and you’re actually craving spicy food while pregnant, you’re not crazy. Though it seems counterintuitive, spicy foods are a neat, natural remedy for your body to cool down via perspiration.
Tip: Indulge in hot peppers in very limited quantities. Unless you want heartburn and stomach issues, maybe settle on hot pepper flakes to satisfy your taste buds.
#4 - Eggs
Eggs are one of the most popular and nutritious sources of protein. This craving is usually a sign of your body requiring more protein as you’re nourishing a growing baby.
Tip: Cook your eggs very well. You don’t want to develop an unfriendly case of salmonella, which can potentially be dangerous while pregnant.
#3 - Ice cream
Talk about comfort food. Not only is it the preferred dessert of 41% of Americans, but it’s also loaded with calcium, sugar, and fat. That cone of soft serve is sweet, cools you down, and makes you happy. No wonder you're craving ice cream.
Tip: Excess fat and the addictive nature of ice cream can be rough on your stomach. Try low-fat frozen yogurts or low-sugar to satisfy that sweet craving.
#2 - Pickles
Perhaps the most classic craving of all, pickles pack the sour, the salty, and the crunchy all in one sensational bite. More blood volume means you need more sodium, and pickles are a great and healthy way to compensate for that salt. However, the craving for pickles is likely more of an American cultural rite than anything else.
Tip: While you may be craving the pickles, going after the brine might not be the best idea. It is also commonly known that pickles help with nausea but drinking brine might lead to adverse results.
#1 - Chocolate
Craving chocolate? Perfectly reasonable. Chocolate is a sweet way to supplement the calories you need to support you and your little one. Like ice cream, dark chocolate also boosts your serotonin, and it boasts numerous benefits for your heart.
Tip: Chocolate makes you happy in small dosages. As with all these cravings, overdoing it on the chocolate will be injurious to your health, certainly in the long run.
A Final Word
While hormones and nutritional deficits do play a role in pregnancy cravings, recent studies point to the strong sociocultural influences that shape our pregnant appetites.
Regardless of where they come from, whether they’re sociocultural, psychological, or biological, your weird food cravings are fine to indulge in from time to time, so long as they are satisfied in tasteful moderation in order to stay healthy.