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Pregnant

How to Handle Pregnancy Cravings

Found yourself waking up in the middle of the night with an insatiable need for cake, or skipping dinner in favour of a family-sized bag of crisps? You’re not alone! Cravings affect many women during pregnancy, especially during the first and second trimester.

 

WHAT CAUSES PREGNANCY CRAVINGS?

Although there are a few theories about what could be behind your sudden hankering for pickles, there’s no definitive answer. It’s thought that the hormonal changes that affect your sense of taste and smell in early pregnancy could be the culprit, which might also mean that you find yourself suddenly disliking foods you previously couldn’t get enough of.

Another theory is that when you’re craving a certain food, it’s because you’re lacking in certain nutrients, so your body is trying to tell you what it needs. So, for example, if all you want to eat is vanilla ice cream, it could mean that actually your body needs more calcium or fat, and your body is just interpreting it as a craving for a specific food.

WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON PREGNANCY CRAVINGS?

As great as it’d be to only want to eat endless salads and healthy snacks, most women are all about junk food for the first few months. According to a survey, the UK’s top 10 most common pregnancy cravings are:

  • Chocolate
  • Fruit
  • Ice lollies
  • Cake
  • Fizzy drinks
  • Ice cream
  • Spicy food
  • Biscuits
  • Desserts 
  • Chips

Sweet treats and carbohydrates are top of the list, so if you’re craving those, join the club – but if you’re craving something a little more unusual, you’re also in good company. Other reported cravings include cold toast with Marmite and grated carrot with ketchup!

Although craving weird food combinations is usually nothing to worry about, if you’re craving non-food items such as ice, it's worth having a chat with your midwife or doctor to check if you have any potential deficiencies. 

HOW CAN I MANAGE MY PREGNANCY CRAVINGS?

Although it might be tempting to pull out the ‘eating for two’ excuse, you should be careful not to over-indulge. In fact, you actually only need 200 extra calories a day in your third trimester and should stick to a healthy calorie intake for the rest of your pregnancy. We know this can be tough, especially if you have morning sickness and are already struggling to find food that you feel like eating.

Giving in to your junk food cravings every now and then is completely fine, as long as you have an overall healthy, balanced diet – here are our top tips on dealing with cravings:

  • Swap your craving for a healthy alternative, such as blended frozen bananas or frozen yoghurt instead of ice cream.
  • Don’t go food shopping when you’re hungry! It can mean that you’re more likely to stock up on calorific foods.
  • Eat regular, filling meals to avoid sudden bursts of hunger. High-fibre foods such as whole grains will keep you fuller for longer.
  • If you really have to give in to your cravings, go for a smaller portion. A fun-size chocolate bar instead of a full-size one, or a single scoop of ice cream rather than a tub may satisfy your sweet tooth.
  • It’s surprisingly easy to mistake thirst for hunger, so next time you start thinking about grabbing a doughnut, drink a glass of water instead and wait for ten minutes to see if the craving has passed.
  • Boredom can lead to mindless snacking, so find something to distract yourself. Go for a walk, call a friend, do those chores you’ve been putting off – anything that’ll take your mind off food.
  • Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation has been linked to junk food cravings, so try your best to get your full eight hours a night.

Foods to avoid

During pregnancy, there are a few foods that should be avoided no matter how much you’re craving them. These include:

  • Soft cheeses with a white coating, such as brie and Camembert. Soft blue cheeses like Gorgonzola should also be avoided.
  • Raw or undercooked eggs that aren’t British Lion approved. Duck, quail and goose eggs shouldn’t be eaten unless they are cooked until the whites and yolks are solid.
  • Unpasteurised milk and cheese
  • Raw and undercooked meat, including liver, liver products and game meats
  • All types of paté
  • Marlin, shark, swordfish and raw shellfish
  • Alcohol

Caffeine is allowed in small quantities – 200mg a day – so if you can’t give up your morning cuppa, make sure to keep an eye on how much you’re having.

We know it’s hard when you feel like eating everything in sight, but sticking to a balanced diet as closely as possible will help to keep you healthy.

Have you been experiencing any surprising cravings? How have you been handling them? Let us know on Facebook or Instagram!