Pregnancy Cravings: Why You Have Them and How to Manage Them
Are you dreaming of popsicles, pickles, or other foods you might not normally obsess over? Pregnancy cravings are common. In fact, more than half of all women have them. Sometimes these cravings are for foods you wouldn’t normally crave and often they’re for unhealthy foods. Studies show that you’re more likely to yearn for junk food and sweets than you are broccoli, apples, or other “good for you” foods. Yet, pregnancy cravings are often culture specific. In some cultures, it’s more customary to crave healthier fare. However, one study showed ice cream, cookies, pizza, and chocolate topped the list of most crave-worthy foods during pregnancy. You may even discover you crave foods you previously didn’t like.
What causes cravings during pregnancy? No one knows for sure, but as with many things pregnancy related, hormones probably play a role. However, this time, it’s appetite hormones, the ones that control your desire to eat. Changes in these hormones increase hunger and cravings for particular foods, especially foods high in sugar or fat. Plus, your body requires more energy since it’s supplying two people with calories and nourishment.
What’s harder to explain is why it’s so common to crave foods that aren’t healthy for you or your growing baby. Cravings often begin toward the end of the first trimester and peak during the second. Fortunately, they usually become more manageable during the third trimester.
Now that you know WHY you have pregnancy cravings, here are some tips to help you control them. Although its’ tempting to give into those urges to nibble, research shows it’s best to reign them in. According to one study, yielding to cravings can lead to weigh gain. That’s a problem because the more weight you gain during pregnancy, the harder it is to take it off after delivery. So, try these tips for jettisoning those annoying cravings:
- Purge your kitchen and office of unhealthy stuff that might tempt you to nibble
- Keep healthy snack options nearby as a substitute for what you’re cravings. For example, low-sugar yogurt is a good substitute for ice cream.
- Make a list of things you enjoy doing and get busy doing them. Activity helps fight cravings.
- If you give in to a craving, keep the portion size small – a bite of a doughnut, not the whole thing.
- Make sure you’re getting enough quality sleep. Lack of sleep can increase your appetite and worsen cravings.
- Add physical activity to your day. Take a brisk outdoor walk. Doing so helps tame pregnancy cravings and prevent excessive weight gain.
Although cravings during pregnancy are usually normal, some women develop cravings because their blood sugars are out of control. A small percentage of women develop gestational diabetes – high blood sugar during pregnancy. If you have this problem, you might crave sweets. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after pregnancy but it’s important to follow your blood sugar closely. If your sugars aren’t controlled, you have a higher risk of premature delivery or delivering a baby with a high birth weight. Be sure to see your obstetrician regularly to make sure your blood sugars are normal and that you’re healthy.
The Bottom Line
Pregnancy cravings are quite common and are usually nothing to worry about. However, it’s important not to give in to the cravings too often to avoid gaining too much weight. Keep these tips in mind.
Live Science. “Why Pregnant Women Shouldn’t Give in to Food Cravings”
Psychology Today. “What Really Causes Pregnancy Cravings?’
Mayo Clinic. “Gestational Diabetes”