Maybe you can relate: you have always ordered mildly seasoned food and now seemingly out of nowhere you’re having spicy food cravings early in your pregnancy. What’s going on?
Throughout the pregnancy stages, your body is sending you all sorts of new signals and sensations. A lot is going on inside, after all! Some of the signals – like your expanding belly – are easy to explain. But others, like your new craving for hot sauce on potato chips, are harder to understand. You never liked hot sauce before, and now you can’t stop thinking about what you’ll put it on next!
So how soon do pregnancy cravings start? In general, food cravings when pregnant are totally normal – and you CAN eat hot sauce on potato chips in moderation if you want to. Many expectant mothers (and their partners) laugh about the foods they crave during their pregnancy. Every pregnancy is unique and it’s also normal to not have cravings during pregnancy. Read on to learn more about pregnancy cravings and what causes them.
What do different cravings mean?
You may be wondering when do pregnancy food cravings start? Food cravings and food aversions (tastes or smells you cannot tolerate) can be early signs of pregnancy, appearing in the first few weeks of your pregnancy. While there are no scientific links between pregnancy craving combinations, two possible reasons for food cravings are:
- Changes in your body’s nutritional needs, like a deficiency in certain nutrients. For example, pickle craving and iron deficiency tend to be related.
- Surge in pregnancy hormones, which can cause a wide range of physical and emotional changes throughout your pregnancy
It’s fine to indulge your cravings now and then as long as most of the time you’re eating healthy. Remember, just because your body is craving dairy during pregnancy doesn’t mean you need to finish off that pint of chocolate gelato!
Eating a healthy and balanced diet is important for your health and the health of your growing baby. Many pregnant patients only need an additional 300 calories a day, but that can vary from person to person. Learn what weight gain during pregnancy is healthy for you by talking to your health care provider regarding any questions you have with cravings or nutrition.
Why are some pregnancy cravings weird combinations
Expectant mothers far and wide have reported a long list of weird pregnancy cravings. Combinations like pickle sandwiches (with the pickles as the “bread”), Hot Cheetos dipped in strawberry yogurt, sauerkraut on peanut butter toast and pulled pork on vanilla ice cream aren’t even the weirdest cravings that have been reported.
Some women crave non-food items like dirt, paint chips, chalk, clay and laundry detergent. Definitely don’t eat these things! In fact, if you find yourself craving any of these non-food items, you might have a condition called “pica.” It’s usually a sign of a nutritional deficiency, possibly iron, and you should contact your health care provider right away. Eating these non-food items could harm you and your baby.
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Most common pregnancy cravings list
Most of the time, the top pregnancy cravings are familiar foods that will satisfy your increased appetite. For example, craving meat during pregnancy or craving dairy during pregnancy might happen because your taste buds are in the mood for those things. But it’s also good to pay attention to the frequency you’re craving certain items. Food cravings can also be a sign your body is deficient in an important mineral or vitamin that’s needed to keep you and your baby healthy.
On top of providing your body with much needed nutrients and satisfying cravings, some of the foods fight nausea during pregnancy. Foods that are high in protein like chicken or peanut butter, and some citrus fruits or high water level fruits like watermelon can alleviate some of these symptoms as well.
Craving meat, eggs, or other proteins
Many women crave meat, especially red meat, when they’re pregnant. This craving is often an indication your body needs more protein and iron (red meat has high levels of both). Craving eggs while pregnant is also a common sign that your body needs more protein. Iron and protein are needed for the formation of red blood cells which is critical while pregnant. During pregnancy, your blood volume increases by almost 50%, so it’s important to support this big change with the right levels of iron and protein.
Low iron levels can lead to anemia, with symptoms like breathlessness, fatigue, pale skin and feeling faint, among others. You definitely want to make sure your health care provider knows if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms.
Other healthy sources of protein during pregnancy include beans, peas, nuts and soy products. Seafood that is low in mercury, like salmon, canned tuna and white fish like tilapia and trout are also good sources of protein when eaten in moderation. When the cravings start, make sure to avoid all raw and undercooked meat, poultry, eggs, fish and shellfish. If you like an occasional hot dog or luncheon meat, make sure they’re steaming hot or avoid them completely. Foodborne illnesses like listeria are rare but you don’t want to risk food poisoning when you’re pregnant.
Ice cream might be the top pregnancy craving of all time. Cold, creamy, sweet ice cream checks most of the boxes for a delicious pregnancy treat. Also, during pregnancy your core body temperature can rise as you’re gaining weight, so a cold treat can be refreshing.
Craving ice cream, milk, cheese, or other dairy products can be another sign of a calcium deficiency. When pregnant, the calcium stored in your body is given to the growing baby. Craving dairy might be a result of your body needing even more calcium to compensate for this change. If you’re craving a lot of ice cream, cheese, or milk, talk to your health care provider.
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Craving fruits and vegetables
What could be wrong with craving fruits and vegetables when pregnant? Eating a balanced, varied menu of fruits and vegetables is wonderful for you and your baby as long as you can avoid an upset stomach.
Craving citrus during pregnancy may be because the vitamin C found in citrus fruits supports your baby’s bones, teeth and other vital tissues. Most commonly, craving pineapple during pregnancy or craving lemons during pregnancy is to provide your body with much needed vitamin C. Potassium from bananas, avocados, broccoli, and spinach help maintain the fluid in your body to reduce swelling and leg cramps.
Many expectant mothers crave cold, crunchy apples. Apples have a lot of dietary fiber, which can support your overall digestion (yay!) and give you an energy boost by raising your blood sugar. And if you decide to put hot sauce on your apple, well that’s your right and you’ll probably laugh about it later.
Craving cereal, wheat and other forms of gluten
Fluctuating hormones might have you craving cereal during pregnancy. Your elevated estrogen levels have you reaching for high fat, sugary cereals, which is OK to enjoy in moderation. Cereal that’s high in fiber, folic acid, vitamins and minerals that your body needs (and low in sugar) is actually a really great food to eat during pregnancy.
Whole grains like whole wheat, oats, barley and rice are packed with iron, magnesium and B vitamins, which are terrific for your growing baby.
Craving peanut butter
Even if you’re not combining it with hot sauce or sauerkraut, you still might be eating a lot of peanut butter during your pregnancy. Many women have a serious peanut butter craving throughout their pregnancy and it’s easy to understand why: peanut butter is sweet and salty and one of the ultimate comfort foods.
It can taste like an indulgence, but many brands of peanut butter are also packed with valuable nutrients. Craving peanut butter while pregnant is common because it’s a great plant-based protein, high in antioxidants, low in carbohydrates and a good source of healthy fats and fiber.
Feel free to indulge this craving (in moderation) – and make sure to jot down the weird food combinations you tried so you can tell your baby about them someday.
Craving spicy foods
Some expecting parents claim it was spicy food cravings early in pregnancy that was most noticeable. Seemingly out of the blue, they crave literally everything with some heat and a kick.
Once again, hormones are likely to blame for this craving. Craving spicy food while pregnant is because your taste buds often change. If eating spicy foods now sounds good, go for it! But remember, spicy foods can cause heartburn, indigestion, and GI distress, so if you’re not used to eating spicy foods, start slowly.
Pregnancy craving for spicy food is safe for your baby, so you don’t have to worry too much. In fact, some research has shown you could be influencing your baby’s taste buds with the foods you eat during your pregnancy, and they might show a preference for certain familiar flavors later.
Find expert care for every stage of pregnancy from prenatal to postpartum at The Mother Baby Center.
When do pregnancy cravings start
Cravings can occur at any point during your pregnancy. If you’re going to have cravings, it’s common for them to start in the first trimester around the fifth week. It is even possible you get cravings at 1-week pregnant! The cravings might lighten up by the second trimester or continue right up until your baby arrives.
Most expectant mothers say their weird pregnancy craving combinations are done by the third trimester. Every pregnancy – and the cravings that go along with it – is different!
Are Cravings Different When Carrying a Boy or Girl?
Do girls like buffalo nachos with a scoop of chocolate ice cream? Do boys prefer peanut butter toast with sardines? Despite the myths written about in baby books and shared by your sweet Aunt Judy, there is no current research that links food cravings when pregnant with a girl or a boy.
Food cravings during pregnancy are assumed to be caused by hormonal changes and sometimes nutritional deficiencies. Gender predictor myths and games can be fun, but if they end up being correct, it’s purely a coincidence.
Ensure a healthy pregnancy with The Mother Baby Center
Nutrition is a focus of conversation in childbirth classes and with your health care provider throughout your pregnancy. Besides eating a balanced diet, a healthy pregnancy includes numerous other factors that are vital to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of your baby.
Find expert care for every stage of pregnancy at a Mother Baby Center location near you. Whether you’re week one into your cravings or postpartum with a newborn and enjoying the foods you missed, there is a team of specialists waiting to assist your family on this exciting journey.