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You are here: Home - Pregnancy - Pregnancy Nutrition - Cravings and Food Aversions During Pregnancy

Cravings and Food Aversions During Pregnancy

by Teresa Shaw

Cravings and Food Aversions During Pregnancy

Pregnancy can bring on strange changes in a woman's body, both inside and out. Swelling, hair loss and general feelings of detachment are quite normal, but the most common (and most commonly referenced) change is in a pregnant woman's appetite. Suddenly, she will crave a food she's never liked in the past, hate a food that used to be a favorite or crave something to eat that isn't a food at all!

So what do these cravings mean? The truth is, no one is really sure. Some experts have said that cravings, and their counterpart, food aversions, are protective, even if there is no scientific data to back up that theory. However, others think a pregnant woman's preference for certain foods such as a big piece of steak is nature's way of helping her meet a dietary deficiency. No studies have actually shown evidence of a link between cravings and nutritional requirements.

Food Aversions

Like most other symptoms of pregnancy, these dietary preferences can be blamed on hormonal changes ' especially in the first trimester, when hormone changes are at their most dramatic. Common food aversions in pregnancy include most potent smelling items, such as ethnic foods, fish and garlic, but can also be everyday items, including coffee or even cereal.

If you are experiencing aversions to certain foods, try to avoid them. In addition, tell anyone you share a home or office with about your aversions so that they might be more amenable to keeping certain foods away from you.

The Up Side to Food Cravings

Food cravings aren't all bad, however. Many pregnant women crave items that are actually good for them, such as dairy products, fruits and whole grains. If your cravings lean toward the healthy, then indulge, but in moderation. Be sure that you are still getting foods from the basic food groups and that your diet is varied and balanced.

Keeping Cravings Under Control

It is possible to experience food cravings and still give your growing baby the nutrients he or she needs. Here are some tips to keeping the cravings in check and you and your baby healthy.

Eat a balanced diet, rich in whole grains, lean protein, reduced-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables, and legumes. Then, if a less than healthy item creeps into your diet, it's not crowding out the nutrients that your baby needs.

Distract yourself. Craving a hot-fudge sundae or a bag of potato chips? Try going for a walk or distracting yourself in some other way ' the craving will probably go away on its own.

Foods to Avoid

A balanced diet is important to everyone, regardless of whether they are pregnant. However, during pregnancy, there are certain foods that pose health risks and should always be avoided:

When Cravings are Dangerous

Sometimes pregnancy cravings stretch beyond food. A condition called pica is when a person craves substances with little or no nutritional value. Most of these cravings involve non-food substances, such as dirt, chalk, mothballs, toothpaste, soap, sand, plaster, cigarette ashes and coffee grounds.

It is not known why some women develop pica cravings during pregnancy. No cause has been identified; however, the Journal of American Dietetic Association says that they might be connected to an iron deficiency. Others have speculated that pica cravings are the body's attempt to obtain vitamins or minerals that are missing in one's diet, and that they may even be related to an underlying physical or mental illness.

Pica cravings can be detrimental to your baby's and your health, as consuming non-food substances may interfere with the nutrient absorption of healthy food substances and actually cause a deficiency. In addition, non-food items may contain toxic or parasitic ingredients.

Don't panic if you are experiencing pica cravings; however, you should notify your health care provider to learn more about the specific risks associated with your cravings.

Teresa Shaw is a professional editor and freelance writer with a degree in English and journalism. She writes about motherhood, travel, and cooking, among other topics, for a variety of print and online markets. She enjoys spending time with her husband, daughter, two cats, and dog. Visit her online at

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Showing 1 - 10 out of 11 Comments
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Ash Aug 10, 2013 09:20:06 AM ET

I can't eat any meat. my husband loves meat. it sucks:(

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hayzie Jun 30, 2013 04:25:20 AM ET

I'm having food aversions to all foods my husband loves and it terrible. i want to feel my normal self again with a healthy baby growing.

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Amanda Oct 24, 2012 04:57:24 PM ET

I'm extremely grossed out by meat...cooked or not. and sweets don't appeal to me. all i want are pickles and salt and vinegar potato chips. ughhh

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Jodi Oct 7, 2012 04:39:36 AM ET

I haven't been able to eat chicken anything since week five! lame! chicken is everywhere!

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T Oct 3, 2012 06:48:53 AM ET

I can't stand broccoli or most veggies now and i used to live them. love my meat but had my favourite pork meal tonight and tasted terrible i couldn't stand the taste or smell. husband swore it was not off and was cooked properly but now i can't think to eat any meat or veg. so tried some chocolate which was always my weakeness and it tasted dull and bitter. i'm 10 weeks today i presume i am still pregnant then!

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heather Apr 17, 2012 01:45:04 AM ET

I cant stand the smell of meat cooking and even when its fully cooked it smells awful!

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Dana Jan 15, 2012 12:01:49 PM ET

I can't seem to eat any dairy or egg product, which sucks because i already don't eat meat. i can't chocolate, soy milk, tea, peanut butter makes me gag instantly, or anything unnatural it seems. now coffee is getting to me (i've only drank decaf for over two years anyway). it's pretty much fruits, nuts and seeds. i can eat an entire pineapple in a siting, but a lindt truffle sends me gagging.

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Sophie Aug 30, 2011 04:04:36 PM ET

Is anyone else really put off by cheese?? expecially melted greasy cheese ?? yuk!! and i am so craving fruit such as strawberries which i never ever used to eat!

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patsy May 9, 2011 06:46:11 AM ET

Im having aversions to all meat, poultry and fish! i've literally turned veggie! all i want to eat is cheese!!!

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3osa Dec 23, 2010 12:02:27 AM ET

Every food grosses me out! ugh

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