January 24, 2022 6 min read
Have you had hankerings lately for food you typically don't eat? Are you suddenly adding syrup or mustard on everything? This is likely a sign that your pregnancy cravings have begun.
They're likely to go unnoticed at first, but once you reach a certain point in your pregnancy, food cravings can hit hard. Your initial pre-pregnancy planning may not have included research on the subject, so you wouldn't be the first pregnant woman to ask:
How early do pregnancy cravings start?
Before you indulge, learn what causes craving during pregnancy, what foods you'll have an appetite for, and how to deal with it all.
How Early Do Pregnancy Cravings Start?
For most women, pregnancy cravings begin around the same time as morning sickness. Typically, they both show up at the end of the first trimester, or 12 weeks into pregnancy. Cravings often increase throughout the second trimester and eventually ease up by the third. Once the baby is delivered, they will disappear altogether.
Not everyone suffers from food cravings, though. A study performed byFrontiers in Psychology found that between 50 and 90 percent of American women experience food cravings during pregnancy. Unfortunately, with cravings often comes food aversions.
What Are Food Aversions?
Food aversions are feelings of unease caused by the taste and smell of certain foods, often leading to nausea and vomiting. They tends to start at the same time as cravings and are separate from morning sickness.
The most common food aversion pregnant women complain about is the smell of cooked or raw meat. Some researchers believe this is a survival instinct, as meat can contain bacteria that is harmful to unborn babies. The body may have a natural intuition to reject it during pregnancy.
What Causes Pregnancy Cravings?
You may also be wondering what causes pregnancy cravings While the question seems simple, the answer most certainly is not.
Doctors don't have a definitive cause for pregnancy cravings, but research has linked it to pregnancy hormones. Fluctuations affect the sense of smell, taste, and appetite, which can cause cravings for unusual food items. Hormones may also be causing cravings to alert the body what nutrients the baby needs.
Pregnancy cravings may also be a way to keep your energy up as your body creates new life. More calories lead to increased blood flow, which aids in fetal development. As your body undergoes the stress of pregnancy, consuming more food can prevent nutritional deficiency and provide comfort.
What Are The Most Commonly Craved Foods During Pregnancy?
Whether you're looking to stock your home with goodies before the serious cravings hit, or you're simply wondering if other women have had any of the same cravings you're experiencing, here's a list of the most commonly craved foods during pregnancy.
One of the most common cravings during pregnancy is sugar. You may find that you're having more soda, iced tea, ice cream, pastries, candy, and chocolate. Often our cravings are caused by nutrition deficiencies.
If you're craving chocolate, your body may be lacking vitamin B. For this reason, it's best to opt for dark chocolate over milk chocolate, as dark chocolate contains more antioxidants. Research has shown that a shortage of antioxidants during pregnancy can cause stress on the placenta, leading to complications.
Sugar and sweets are common cravings during pregnancy, but it's not always candy and junk food you'll want. Some women crave fresh fruit, as it is a refreshing and sugary treat. However, too much fruit can cause a spike in your blood pressure, so it's recommended you maintain a balanced diet with protein.
If you're craving melons and strawberries, your body may require vitamin C. Craving bananas or apricots can be a sign you're lacking potassium.
If you find yourself craving dairy, it's likely because most dairy items contain both much-needed calcium and sugar. While ice cream may be the most appealing treat, you may want to opt for lower-calorie options if your cravings are frequent, such as frozen yogurt and yogurt smoothies.
Other dairy cravings may include milk, yogurt, cream, and cheese. If you find yourself reaching for dairy items most often throughout your pregnancy, your body may be low on calcium. Try eating vegetables that are high in calcium instead, as many kinds of cheese are fatty and unhealthy in excess.
Pregnancy tends to drain the body's energy, leading to cravings for starchy carbohydrates. This includes bread, potatoes, rice, and pasta. Indulging in these cravings can help power your body and increase energy levels.
Women who weren't fans of spicy foods before being pregnant are more likely to crave these types of meals. Often this includes chili peppers, salsa, curry, and hot sauce. While strange, it's not uncommon for pregnant women to add something spicy to their ice cream or yogurt to fulfill more than one craving.
If you're craving spicy foods, try to indulge in moderation. Pregnant women are more prone to severe heartburn, and these kinds of foods can exacerbate your symptoms.
While many pregnant women develop aversions to meat, others will crave it. If you find yourself craving red meat, you're likely suffering from low iron levels. In moderation, red meat can be okay to consume during pregnancy, but it's best to discuss these types of cravings with your doctor.
Most healthcare professionals suggest pregnant women avoid undercooked and raw meat, eggs, poultry, and seafood. Peanut butter, however, is a safe protein that many women enjoy during pregnancy. Excessive cravings, however, may indicate a vitamin B or protein deficiency.
How Can Food Cravings During Pregnancy Be Dealt With?
While food cravings are a normal part of pregnancy, eating an excessive amount of anything is unhealthy. It's essential that you retain a balanced diet so that when you choose to indulge in junk food, it won't take away from the baby's nutritional needs. If you're struggling with keeping your cravings under control, consider these tips for dealing with them.
Divide Your Meals
Instead of eating three main meals per day, split them into six smaller meals. This allows you to eat more often and maintain your blood sugar levels, making cravings less frequent.
Reduce Snack Portions
When you're craving something unhealthy, try reducing the portions so that your diet remains balanced. For example, if you're craving ice cream, order one scoop instead of two. If you're craving potato chips, buy a small bag instead of the family-sized bag.
As long as what you're craving is approved by your doctor, you should be able to enjoy indulging now and then. Moderation is critical, as too much of anything is never a good thing.
Some women find that distracting themselves when cravings hit can sometimes do the trick. You can try going for a walk, calling a friend, running errands, watching a movie, or partaking in one of your favorite hobbies. You must still eat regular healthy meals and only distract yourself from cravings that involve junk food and sweets.
Come up with healthy substitutes for the things you crave the most and keep them in the house. For example, if you crave milkshakes, keep nonfat frozen yogurt in the house and the ingredients to make your own. Plenty of recipes online can help you find healthy substitutes for nearly anything you crave.
Taking care of yourself can help keep your hormones balanced, which ultimately means fewer cravings. Consider preparing healthy snacks in advance so that when those cravings hit, you have something to satisfy them. Practice self-care by drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep, and having a well-balanced diet.
What Are Signs Of Pica Or Unnatural Cravings?
Now that you've learned how early pregnancy cravings start, you should know that not all cravings are normal. Some can be dangerous and may be signs of a condition called pica. Possibly caused by an iron deficiency, pica leads to cravings for non-food and potentially toxic items.
Women who experience the symptoms of pica will have cravings for dirt, clay, soap, burnt matches, or ice. Some women may also crave drinking alcohol and taking drugs. If you find yourself experiencing these cravings, you should speak to your doctor right away.
Trust Your Body
When it comes to your pregnancy cravings, trust your body and trust your instincts. Cravings will only become a problem if you replace your healthy eating habits with sweets and junk food. Occasional indulgences are okay, but your meals should focus on the nutrients both you and your baby need.
Moderation is the key to keeping your pregnancy cravings under control and maintaining a healthy diet.
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