Understanding Food Cravings in Pregnant Women

What Pregnant Women Crave

Studies show that pregnant women mostly indulge in sweet (40%), salty (33%), spicy (17%) and sour (10%) foods. Some of the common food cravings in pregnant

What Pregnant Women Crave

women are ice cream, tomatoes, pickles, chocolates, cheese, and lemon. Though it is common for expectant mothers to crave a single food like candied apple, pickles, cucumber, or peaches, they have also been known to crave for weird food combinations like black olives on cheesecake, caramel and cheese sandwiches, eggplant on pizza, and pickles sprinkled on ice cream.

Most of the foods they want are surprising foods they would not normally crave for when not pregnant – some even to a point of aversion. There’s also this strange indulgence called “pica” or craving for non-food items like laundry detergent soap, coal, dirt, chalk, paint chips, cigarette butts, and toothpaste. Pica cravings are dangerous to both mother and baby when indulged. Consult your obstetrician when this becomes bothersome as some experts say that pica is usually an indication of iron deficiency. These unquenchable longings thankfully disappear after pregnancy.

Why Pregnant Women Experience Food Cravings

ice cream

While there is no exact explanation why food cravings in expectant women occur, some researchers try to put some light on this subject by exploring possible answers:

Hormonal changes: pregnant women go through hormonal changes and this could change their sense of smell and taste making them crave food they would not normally enjoy. The same explanation goes for menopausal women and their food cravings and food aversions.

Nutritional deficiency: While this can explain the need to eat, this, however, does not explain the need to eat a certain kind of food. However, the desire for chocolate could indicate low vitamin B levels; longing for pickles may be prompted by inadequate sodium; need for peaches may indicate lack of beta-carotene; and craving meat might be a sign of protein deficiency in their body.

cake

Emotional needs: This explanation is not only true for women carrying a child but for overall food binging. Emotions and food intake are connected – consciously or subconsciously. Pregnant women long for foods that are nostalgic and give them comfort – it may be food that is reminiscent of their religion, culture, or childhood.

Controlling unwanted pregnancy symptoms: Food aversions (fried food = nausea) and food cravings (baking soda = calms digestive discomfort) might be a way to minimize pregnancy symptoms like nausea and morning sickness. This can explain pica cravings during pregnancy.

How to Deal with Food Cravings

sherbet

Expectant mothers, like any human being, almost always crave unhealthy food that can ruin a healthy pregnancy diet. To remain healthy during the course of pregnancy, it is important to make sure your nutritional needs are being met and have healthy foods on hand. Here are some healthy alternatives that will not only satisfy desires but are nutritionally balanced as well.

Healthy Substitutes for Popular Cravings:

pretzels

Ice creamNon-fat frozen yogurt or sherbet with fresh fruits

ChocolateFresh fruits with non-fat chocolate syrup

CandiesDried fruits

Salty snacks (chips) – Pretzels or bread stick dipped in spicy mustard or popcorn dusted with herb blends.

Doughnut or pastryWhole grain bagel or wheat bread with fresh fruit jam

ColaWater with lime or any fruit juice

Sour snacks (sugary lemonade)Squeeze lemon in salad or fish

fruit

Sugar coated cerealOatmeal or whole-grain cereal with brown sugar

Sour creamNon-fat yogurt with herbs

Cake – Low-fat zucchini or banana bread

Whipped creamWhipped non-fat milk (ice cold)

Conclusion

Food cravings in pregnant women can differ from day to day. What they hungered for yesterday may repulse them today. Again, never indulge pica cravings. Also, veer away from undercooked meats, eggs and seafood, unpasteurized milk, cheese and juice, herbal teas, raw vegetables, and alcohol. Maintain regular exercise and eat a nutritionally balanced diet for pregnant women to compensate for any cravings that are indulged. Obstetricians encourage women to give in to their cravings occasionally, but choose healthier options and keep everything in moderation whenever possible.

Disclaimer

This is not medical advice and is not meant to treat, diagnose, prescribe or cure any ailment. Check with your obstetrician first before following any advice you have read on BrightHub.com. Consult your obstetrician before you start, stop or change anything that has been previously prescribed to you.

Image Credits

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References

Pregnancy Nutrition – www.nutritionforpregnantwomen.info

Food and Pregnancy – Diet for Pregnant Women – www.pregnancychildbirth.suite101.com

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