Can’t stop thinking about ice cream, chips, and greasy fast food? You’re likely experiencing pregnancy cravings. At least half of women experience food cravings during pregnancy and it’s completely normal! I’m sure you’re familiar with stories of pregnant women wanting crazy combinations of food, but a lot of cravings actually tend to be comfort foods.
When do cravings start?
Cravings usually start in the first trimester, peak in the second trimester, and decrease throughout the third trimester. It’s common to crave a specific food today and a completely different one tomorrow. I remember always wanting something we didn’t have at home, but by the time I went out and got it I would already have moved on to desperately wanting a different kind of food.
What causes pregnancy cravings?
There isn’t a solid answer to this question yet, but some research suggests cravings are caused by changing hormones. Lower dopamine levels are sometimes found in pregnant women. Dopamine is the chemical that is released when you feel pleasure. It motivates you to find activities that make you feel good. One of those activities is eating comfort foods. So, pregnant women are searching for foods that bring them comfort and, therefore, raise their dopamine levels.
Another theory is that cravings are linked to nutrients that you’re missing. Expecting mothers have increased nutritional requirements. This theory indicates that women would hunger for nutrients that are lacking in their diets like folic acid, zinc, and iron. If this idea was true, cravings would be for leafy green vegetables, legumes, and lentils. The reality is that most women are craving sweets, high-fat foods, and fast food, which doesn’t strongly support the idea that cravings are caused by nutritional gaps.
A third theory is that pregnant women’s change in sense of taste and smell affect cravings. Your sense of smell might be overly active causing you to steer clear of certain foods, or you might have dull taste receptors causing you to crave extra salty or extra spicy foods.
Even though the cause of cravings is unknown, any woman who has been pregnant knows that urgently wanting certain foods is a real thing.
How do you cope with pregnancy cravings?
Here are a few tips to help you handle those cravings:
Don’t skip breakfast
Starting the day with healthy breakfast can set you up for making nutritious choices the rest of the day. Without breakfast, you might find yourself hungering for a cream-filled donut or a bag of Cheetos by 10am.
Stock up on healthy snacks
Having healthier snack options available makes it easier to avoid those unhealthy cravings. Some of my favorites are granola bars, Greek yogurt, and string cheese. If you need some ideas on healthy snacks there is a great list here.
Eating smaller meals with healthy snacks in between keeps hunger at bay which, in turn, can minimize cravings. Try planning your meals and snacks in advance, so you’re never wondering what to eat.
When you can’t stop thinking about what you’re craving, try going for a walk, doing yoga, or running an errand. Find something you enjoy doing to help you forget about that jar of chocolate chips cookies you’ve been eyeing on the counter.
You probably can’t completely stop the cravings. It’s okay to give in every once in a while. Just be mindful of how much unhealthy indulging you are doing. Opt for a smaller portion or just a couple of bites to curb that overwhelming hunger.
Are you experiencing any unusual cravings? I hope this helps you handle some of those intense hungers! I had a hard time not indulging when mine first started…just remember that it will get better!