A craving for certain foods during pregnancy has been recognised as one of the symptoms of pregnancy for years. We don’t know much about the whats and the whys of food cravings during pregnancy, but it may be due to hormonal changes, physiological changes or even the emotional rollercoaster you’re currently going through. Pregnancy can be an overwhelming time for some, and you may find yourself seeking things that make you feel secure and comfortable. For some people, that may very well be food. For some lucky women, they may only have ‘healthier’ food cravings during pregnancy, but for many more, it’s the less healthy options that often catch their eye!
What do women crave during pregnancy?
Research by Baby Centre found that most women seemed to have cravings for sweet foods during pregnancy (40%), followed by salty foods at 33%. Interestingly spicy foods were also often craved with 17% of their study’s participants saying this was what they were after during pregnancy and, lastly, citrus foods and more sour tastes were craved by around 10% of participants.
Eating well during pregnancy
We know from a wealth of research that nutrition during pregnancy (and before) is important for the health of a mother and her growing baby. The food and nutrients that you consume will ultimately go towards helping your baby to grow and develop to their best potential. On top of that, later on in pregnancy the foods that you eat will also flavour the amniotic fluid and even influence your baby’s food preferences! That’s why during pregnancy it’s more important than ever to try and stick to a healthy balanced diet.
Why do I get food cravings during pregnancy?
We really don’t know why some women get cravings during pregnancy. There may be a psychological element to it but there has been talk previously about women ‘needing’ certain vitamins and minerals and therefore craving foods that contain them. However, it’s unlikely if you have a craving for less healthy options, that your body is craving them for a nutritional need. Additionally, if that were the case, it’s likely that your body would be craving foods such as fish, broccoli and wholegrains – the foods we often don’t eat enough of in the UK – rather than the nutrient poor foods that we already eat too much of.
So it’s good to be aware of what your body is telling you, but it’s also important not to always give in to food cravings, as your diet during pregnancy needs to be varied to provide all the nutrients that your growing baby needs every day.
Dealing with food cravings during pregnancy – A nutritionist’s perspective
Of course it’s not to ever say that you shouldn’t satisfy your food cravings during pregnancy. Something I took a fancy too during early pregnancy was dark chocolate digestives dunked in tea! However, I did watch how many I ate and didn’t have them regularly as I tried to focus on nutrient-rich foods instead.
Have regular meals:
One thing that really helped me to deal with cravings, was trying to eat my meals very regularly.
I’ve always eaten fairly regularly, but during early pregnancy I made sure that I had my meals at similar times each day and planned them in advance, so I would know what and when I was eating each day. This helped me stay much more in control of my hunger levels and therefore, also in control of any cravings.
Stock up cupboards:
I was also careful to stock up my cupboards with good foods, choosing things that I really enjoyed, but trying to stick mainly to healthy options. See my pregnancy pantry blog for more information on how I did this.
Having good foods available and easy to access makes it more likely that you’ll eat them, in place of less healthy options. Yogurt was a big favourite of mine as you can have it with breakfast, as a snack or even make it into a dessert. I also used plenty of fresh and dried fruits and ALWAYS had a portion of nuts to hand.
Grab healthy snacks:
If I felt peckish in-between meals, it was therefore easy to reach for some natural yogurt some nuts and some chopped/dried fruits to keep hunger at bay and also top up nutrient stores at the same time. You can also check out my blog on Healthy Snacks During Pregnancy for more inspiration.
Try eating mindfully:
Another thing that helped me was to make more of my mealtimes. Previously I was very guilty of eating whilst tapping away at my laptop, whilst rushing out the door or sometimes reading a book/research paper. But during pregnancy I made a decision to take more time for eating and put into practice my own advice to try and eat mindfully. This may help you to register more of the foods that you’re eating, and therefore aid in digestion and absorption of those all important nutrients. Eating Mindfully also helped me to feel fuller for longer after a meal – potentially because I was more aware of the food that I was putting in my mouth and feeling fuller towards the end of the meal.
The above are my experiences when it came to fighting food cravings and getting all the foods I needed. See below a quick summary of my top tips to beating food cravings and let me know if you have any of your own! For more information you can read about food cravings at Baby Centre’s website or visit my Pregnancy Nutrition Blog for all the ins and outs of pregnancy nutrition.
Top tips to beating food cravings during pregnancy:
- Eat regularly and try and include plenty of balance in your meal times
- Stock cupboards with healthy foods that you really enjoy and have them easily accessible
- Top up in-between meals if you’re hungry with healthy, nutrient-rich but enjoyable snacks
- Allow yourself some of the foods you’re craving, but if they are less healthy options, be mindful of how often you’re eating them
- Take time out for foods so you have time to register the food, nutrients and calories your body is digesting
- Get your partner or family around to help you by trying to also eat really well at the same time