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