Incessant, odd, and unexplainable cravings are one of the most common and well-known symptoms of pregnancy. The big question is: How are we supposed to manage these crazy cravings? The most common, broad categories of cravings pregnant women experience are red meat and comfort food, along with tart, salty, spicy, and sweet flavors. The best strategy to manage these urges are to find a healthy option which both satisfies your cravings and also fulfills your nutrient needs. For example, preparing some crispy and salty baked kale chips are a better option than potato chips, which are nutrient poor and full of empty calories. And, when you crave something tart and would normally turn to a bag of sour gummies, instead try a tart green apple drizzled with honey.
There is no clear medical explanation for why these cravings occur. It has been hypothesized that we crave foods rich in the nutrient we are lacking. For example, pregnant women might crave a juicy beef burger because they are lacking iron. There is no research supporting such theories, though. Some experts do suggest that if you are getting the optimal levels of nutrients you need, you may experience a reduction in the amount and intensity of your cravings.
There is nothing wrong with indulging and allowing yourself treats occasionally, but remember pregnancy is not a free pass to delight in every craving you desire. Below is a list of some of the top pregnancy cravings. And, for the not-so-healthy choices, we’ve included suggestions for healthier alternatives:
Surprise! Surprise! Chocolate is the number one most common pregnancy craving. Chocolate indulgences are okay as long as you don’t go too overboard! Dark chocolates are your best bet. Stick to those with at least 70% cacao. These provide heart healthy benefits and are rich in antioxidants. Try it melted over a frozen banana, or make your own chocolate covered strawberries to boost the fiber and nutrient intake of your nighttime snack.
There are not many people who don’t crave gooey mac and cheese or fried chicken every once in a while. If this is all you can think about while pregnant, put your own healthy twist on it to boost nutrients and reduce guilt. Increase fiber and nutrients by adding 2 cups of boiled cauliflower to your baked mac and cheese mixture, and also substitute full fat cheeses for reduced fat. As for fried chicken, use skinless chicken with your regular recipe, but instead of frying, bake it on a wire rack placed on top of a cooking sheet. This allows air to circulate around the chicken and give it the same crispiness as though it were fried.
Curry is another spice we support! It is a fat and calorie-free option to add flavor and depth to your dishes. Just be careful if ordering it on take out, because that can increase your calorie intake significantly accompanied by unwanted additives like MSG. When feeling energized, try to prepare meals at home for the most control over what goes into your body.
Ice cream is delicious, but it is also fat and calorie laden. For a healthier option, try a peanut butter and banana smoothie with flax seeds for additional omega-3s. Or, try banana ice cream! Add one frozen banana to a blender with a dash of regular milk or almond milk, vanilla extract, and blend until desired consistency. You can even sprinkle it with some of your favorite dark chocolate chips for some crunch.
Lemon and Chillies
Strong tastes like raw lemons, or hot chillies are popular among pregnant women. These foods are safe for your baby, but may not make you feel great. Hot chillies may aggravate heartburn, which you are prone to especially in the second half of your pregnancy. If experiencing heartburn, try to reduce the amount of spicy food you are consuming.
Also referred to as pica, non-food cravings is a disorder that can occur amongst pregnant women, causing them to crave non-nutritive substances such as newspaper, coal, dirt, sponges, and soap. If experiencing cravings similar to these you must talk to your healthcare professional. Consuming non-food substances can cause a number of complications with your own health and puts the health of your baby at risk. Ingesting non-food substances can result in bowel obstruction, anemia, and premature birth.
This category is a big time pregnancy craving. Pickled onions, olives and gherkins are among the main culprits. Pickles are low in calories and a reasonable indulgence. Fermented foods like sauerkraut are also a great option that are rich in probiotics, and great for you and your baby’s immune system.
Sweets and Sugar
To indulge your sweet tooth, attempt to replace your sugary cravings with healthy snacks like fruit. Freeze grapes to snack on, dip bananas in yogurt and granola and freeze them for another cold snack. Apples with peanut butter are a great combo of fiber and protein. Also, sweetening your meals with natural sweeteners like honey are a great option. Sweeten up your morning oatmeal or your apple slices with a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon.