You have reached the sixth month of your pregnancy and whilst you may be rid of most nausea and food aversions, you may also be experiencing food cravings. Food cravings are characterized by a longing for a specific food or combination of foods. These may be foods that you previously disliked or combinations of foods that you would never have thought of eating before. You can even have cravings for non-edible substances such as chalk, ice or soil (a condition known as Pica). The exact cause of food cravings during pregnancy is unknown but is thought to be largely due to hormonal changes which also affect your sense of taste and smell and can therefore change your food preferences.
Although it is yet to be proven, some scientists hypothesize that food cravings may be related to nutrients that your body is needing more of at various points during your pregnancy. But because you can’t just crave nutrients, your body will direct you to eat a food that your brain associates with a specific nutrient. For example, if you were needing more sodium, your brain might tell you to eat something salty like crisps or pretzels but not necessarily to eat salt. A craving for sweet foods could mean that you need more calories or more carbohydrates. A craving for milk or ice cream could mean that you need more calcium. Because most cravings tend to be for empty calorie foods, giving into your cravings can mean that you compromise your nutrition by eating less nutrient rich foods and can lead to excessive weight gain. Therefore, it’s important to figure out which nutrient you may be craving and then to make sure to satisfy this craving in a healthy way. For example, if you’re craving salt, you may be able to satisfy this craving by eating some avocado on toast with a bit of sea salt as opposed to eating a packet of crisps.
MY TOP PICKS FOR DEALING WITH FOOD CRAVINGS:
- Make sure to take your prenatal vitamins and to stay on top of your nutritional needs so that you don’t develop any nutrient deficiencies.
- If you are craving salt, try eating naturally high salt foods such as celery or try making yourself a healthy snack that has some added salt in it.
- If you are craving fresh fruits and vegetables or cold beverages, you may be needing more fluids. Make sure to drink enough water in addition to eating your fruits and veg.
- If you are craving sugary or fatty/ fried foods, you may be needing more calories. Add some healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, nut butter, hummus, avocado or coconut into your diet and make sure to eat frequent meals with sufficient calories and protein for fullness. Try this choc protein smoothie for lots of sweet chocolatey goodness, protein and healthy fats.
- If you are craving non-food items such as chalk, ice or soil, it is important to speak to your doctor as soon as possible. Pica is a serious condition that can cause harm to you and your baby if you succumb to these cravings. Your doctor can help you to figure out which nutrients you may be lacking in and supplement accordingly.