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Pregnancy Cravings: Why Do We Have Them?

By KateTietje |

What are YOU craving?

There are days I sit here and all I can think is, “Ooh, I really want to eat…”  Sometimes these cravings get indulged, like when I was constantly craving fresh tomatoes, or now when I crave milk a lot.  Other cravings — like candy or that nasty jalapeno “cheese sauce” in a can (which has absolutely no actual food in it…sigh) — don’t get indulged, typically.  At least not often, lol.

But why do we have cravings in the first place?  And what do cravings really mean?

There are lots of theories on food cravings.  Some people think we just get them, but they don’t really mean anything.  Others think they can be a sign of something we’re specifically lacking — some nutrient.  Still others think they’re just for our special favorite foods!

I’d lean, most of the time, towards “nutrient lacking.”  Of course, if that’s the case, that doesn’t mean it’s always as simple as indulging your exact craving.  For example, if you really, really want to run down to DQ and grab some ice cream smothered in candy, hot fudge, and fake whipped cream…every night…that might not be the world’s best idea.  But maybe in that case, what you’re really craving is the creaminess of the dairy, and a glass of milk (perhaps with a small square of chocolate) would satisfy you just as well.

Most doctors do seem to think there is some validity to this theory, especially in pregnancy.  We tend to crave the foods we either need, or which will make us feel better (think morning sickness).  I know women who could only eat pancakes and macaroni and cheese for their first three months or so!  Who knows exactly why, since this varies from woman to woman, but it seems to have something to do with our body’s needs and hormones shifting.

There’s even been instances of women craving non-food items.  It’s a condition known as “pica.”  Women eat sawdust, ice, and even dirt.  It sounds really strange, but actually it is a sign of serious nutrient deficiency.  If you experience this (even just the craving itself, not actually doing it), talk to your doctor immediately.  Typically most doctors will recognize, based on what you’re craving, what your deficiency likely is and help you rectify that situation with food or an appropriate supplement!

So what do you do about “normal” cravings?

*If it’s a healthy craving (fruit, vegetables, meat, etc. ) — indulge!!  Have whatever you’re craving!  I could not get enough salads and smoothies in my early few months.  Then it was tomatoes.  Now it’s milk.  I don’t feel bad about having as much as I want of these healthy foods, and you shouldn’t either.  If you are craving healthy, I definitely think it’s because you really do “need” it.

*If it’s not-so-healthy, consider what you might really be craving.  Want a donut?  Try for a slice of whole-grain bread with butter and maybe a little cinnamon sugar (unsweetened apple butter is also really yummy for a healthy sweet treat).  Want to drive through Taco Bell (oh, I did, so many times…but did you know their “beef” is only 35% actual meat??  I couldn’t bring myself to actually buy and eat that)?  Make yourself some tacos or burritos at home!  And so forth.  It’s also possible that you simply haven’t eaten enough food overall, and once you have a good snack your craving will disappear.

*Still craving junk, even after you tried to satisfy it another way?  Indulge, but not too often.  Stopping for a small ice cream cone or picking up your favorite donuts here and there won’t hurt anything, as long it’s not becoming all or most of what you’re eating.  Just try to keep it in serious moderation, because you need excellent nutrition right now, not junk.

I so want a donut now…one with strawberry “frosting” and sprinkles.  Or just a can of rainbow chip frosting.  Oh, those things are so good…!  (But also seriously unnatural…lol.)   But I won’t.  Perhaps later I’ll bake some healthy lemon-poppy seed bread at home, or make some homemade ice cream instead. :)

What do you crave while pregnant?  Do you think pregnancy cravings are important or “real?”

Top image by o5com

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About KateTietje



Kate Tietje is a food blogger who focuses on natural food and cooking. In addition to Modern Alternative Mama, she has contributed her writing to the Parenting and Pregnancy channels on Babble.

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0 thoughts on “Pregnancy Cravings: Why Do We Have Them?

  1. Abby says:

    Last time cravings were sweet sweet and sweeter, this time SALTY and FATTY. I love anything coated in mayonaise or butter. Real butter. I loved your fats post.

  2. rachael giglio says:

    I craved ice like crazy with my second pregnancy. I didn’t realize that was weird! I used to drink huge glasses of water filled with tons of ice. I would also eat frozen blueberries by the cupful to satisfy my icy craving!

  3. Stacy says:

    rachel- isnt ice cravings usually a sign of iron deficiency? i start out craving cheese, fruits, crackers, salad. pretty healthy stuff. a lot of oranges. then at the end with my daughter, steaks. finally figured out it was my body trying to tell me i needed iron iron more iron! and the oranges(vit C) help absorb more iron. =) truly i think our bodies know what they need and try to tell us, if we’ll just take the time to feed it well and get to know the signs.

  4. chanda healton says:

    I have always, even not pregnant, enjoyed eating crushed ice. I suffer acid Reflux and have for years and found that when all else fails, the ice will smooth the burning that always seems to be there in the back of my throat. Ice is really just frozen water so I don;t think eating ice is really that big of a deal, and the crushed kind is easy on the teeth compared to ice chunks or chips. Most people really don’t drink enough water (it is all I drink as milk has always made me sick and pop or juice makes the acid reflux act up.) Even on the rare occasions I go for apple juice I freeze it almost into a slushee state before drinking it. Sometimes I think it is just what the person prefers more than a deficiency or lack of something, at least when it comes to ice.

  5. Valerie @CharmedValerie says:

    I think preggo cravings are very real. I’ve had cravings and aversions (the aversions are to some of my favorite foods–like Chickfila). My cravings are mostly for milk, fruit, cupcakes, cakeballs, or cobbler.

  6. Kate says:

    I craved anything cold or frozen, especially ice and snow (30+ weeks pregnant in the winter). My iron levels were fine, everything was peachy except for having high blood pressure (which had me on bed rest but that’s beside the point). It turns out I just needed more fluids (I guess my body was associating cold with water?).

  7. Annette says:

    My first pregnancy i couldn’t get enough pb&j sandwiches with a big glass of milk. With this one they have been sliced pickled beets, green olives, avacados, eggs, and cupcakes. i am trying not to indulge in the last one too often!

  8. Leah says:

    My first pregnancy …I craved ketchup….I would save those little packets from a restaurant ..tear the pack open and suck out the ketchup…put it on bread with onions…and eat it like a sandwich… my second pregnancy it was ice…ate it by the gallons and large glasses of water with crushed ice..I always loved ice anyways…but my nurse said …I have never seen anyone drink as much water and eat as much ice as you third pregnancy…was spicy things..didn’t matter what..tomato saucy anything…with my pregnancy now…it is grilled hot dogs…I don’t know why..but I love them and I can not help but eat the heck out of one when I give in and get one..we went to a fair this summer and I spent the entire night tracking down the hotdog stand and pigging need one right now.

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