Health and Wellness
December 26, 2022
Pregnancy is a time of change, growth, and some surprising cravings. From pickles and ice cream to seemingly odd combinations, pregnancy cravings can leave expectant mothers both amused and confused. In this blog post, we'll explore the science behind pregnancy cravings, bust some common myths, and provide helpful tips and recommendations for managing your cravings in a healthy and satisfying way.
Understanding Pregnancy Cravings
Pregnancy cravings, or the strong desire to eat certain foods, are a common phenomenon experienced by many women during pregnancy. While they can vary greatly from one person to another, common cravings include sweets, salty snacks, and sour or spicy foods. Although the exact cause of pregnancy cravings is not fully understood, some theories suggest that they may be the body's way of signaling a need for specific nutrients or a response to the increased caloric demands of pregnancy.² However, more research is needed to better understand the complex relationship between pregnancy, cravings, and nutrition.
While pregnancy cravings are often portrayed as whimsical or humorous, they can be a source of frustration for some women, particularly if they crave unhealthy or unusual foods.⁶ It is important to remember that pregnancy cravings are normal and do not necessarily indicate a specific nutrient deficiency. In fact, research suggests that pregnancy cravings are not significantly different from cravings experienced by non-pregnant individuals.⁶
Nevertheless, pregnancy is a time when a woman's nutritional needs are increased, and it is important to make sure that your diet is well-balanced and provides all of the nutrients your body needs to support the growing baby.⁶ If you are experiencing pregnancy cravings, you should do your best to make healthy choices and incorporate a variety of nutrients into your diet, rather than relying on a single food or food group.⁷
Dispelling Myths About Pregnancy Cravings
Myth 1: Cravings indicate the baby's gender
There is no scientific evidence to support the belief that pregnancy cravings can predict the gender of the baby. This idea is simply an old wives' tale with no basis in fact.
Myth 2: All pregnant women have cravings
While pregnancy cravings are common, not all pregnant women experience them. In fact, some women may notice a decrease in appetite or food aversions rather than cravings³.
Myth 3: Cravings are an excuse to indulge in unhealthy foods
For as many pregnant women that crave unhealthy foods, there are many others that crave the opposite and cannot stand the sight of unhealthy foods.
The Role of Hormones and Nutrients in Pregnancy Cravings
Hormones play a significant role in pregnancy cravings. For example, an increase in progesterone during pregnancy can slow down the digestive process, which may lead to cravings for specific foods⁴. Additionally, the hormone ghrelin, known as the "hunger hormone," can increase during pregnancy, potentially causing cravings for calorie-dense foods⁵.
Nutrient needs also change during pregnancy, and cravings may reflect the body's attempt to obtain necessary nutrients. For example, a craving for red meat may indicate a need for more iron, while a craving for dairy products could signal a need for additional calcium⁶.
Managing Pregnancy Cravings: Tips and Recommendations
Eating a well-rounded diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats can help keep cravings at bay by providing your body with the nutrients it needs⁴. Make sure to consult with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian to develop a pregnancy meal plan that meets your specific needs.
When cravings strike, consider satisfying them with healthier options. For example, if you're craving something sweet, reach for a piece of fruit instead of a candy bar. Or if you're craving a salty snack, try air-popped popcorn or lightly salted nuts instead of potato chips.
When indulging in your cravings, be mindful of portion sizes. It's okay to enjoy your favorite treats in moderation, but overindulging can lead to excessive weight gain and other health issues during pregnancy.
Sometimes, cravings can be a sign of dehydration rather than hunger. Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day, aiming for at least 8-10 glasses⁶. Staying hydrated can help curb cravings and support overall health during pregnancy.
Discuss your cravings and concerns with your healthcare provider, who can offer guidance and reassurance. Additionally, consider joining a pregnancy support group or connecting with other expectant mothers who can share their experiences and offer tips for managing cravings.
Instead of three large meals a day, try eating five or six smaller meals throughout the day⁶. This can help keep your blood sugar levels stable, reducing cravings and helping you feel more satisfied.Fiber-rich foods, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, can help you feel fuller for longer and may help to curb cravings⁶. Incorporate high-fiber foods into your meals and snacks to support a healthy pregnancy diet.
Starting your day with a nutritious breakfast can set the tone for the rest of the day and help prevent cravings later on. Choose a breakfast that includes a balance of protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats to keep you feeling full and energized.
Sometimes, cravings can be linked to emotions rather than hunger. If you find yourself turning to food for comfort or stress relief, consider exploring healthier coping mechanisms, such as deep breathing, meditation, or gentle exercise.
Keep nutritious snacks on hand to satisfy cravings when they strike. Stock your pantry and fridge with wholesome options like fresh fruits, yogurt, whole-grain crackers, and nuts.
As always please consult with your healthcare provider on any nutritional concerns and additions or substitutions in your diet.
Pregnancy cravings can be a quirky and sometimes challenging aspect of pregnancy, but with a better understanding of the science behind them and some helpful strategies, we hope you will find it easier to navigate your cravings in a healthy and enjoyable way. Remember to prioritize a balanced diet, opt for healthier alternatives when possible, and consult with your healthcare provider for personalized guidance and support. Embrace this unique aspect of pregnancy, and enjoy the journey towards welcoming your little one into the world.