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Cravings and Food Aversions During Pregnancy

Teresa Shaw |30, May 2014


Cravings and Food Aversions During Pregnancy

Two sides of the same coin: you either are recoiled at the mere suggestion of certain foods, or you wake up at night drooling for a specific taste. What causes these opposite reactions to foods and what do they mean? How should you handle them?

According to a 2002 study, 61 percent of pregnant women experienced food cravings, while 54 percent had food aversions while pregnant. A whopping 80 percent of women dealt with nausea and vomiting at some time in their pregnancies. Researchers noted a link not between the onset of cravings and aversions, but the onset of morning sickness and food aversions. However, most women with cravings also experienced aversions as well, just not necessarily at the same point in their pregnancies.

Most doctors think the culprit behind these reactions to food is hormonally based. Progesterone and estrogen are quite elevated during pregnancy and are probably to blame. Stress can heighten the reactions, and improper diet can exacerbate symptoms as well.

Handling Aversions

Since this is highly linked to nausea and morning sickness, odds are you will see this symptom improve after the first trimester, or disappear completely by week 12. Most aversions are not permanent, so you should resume a normal taste for food post-birth. To avoid a trip to the toilet, avoid smells that you know will set off your gag meter. Ask hubby to avoid using raw onions when you are home, or wait until the eggs are cleaned up after his breakfast before going into the kitchen.

While you only need an additional 300 calories while pregnant, you do need to load all your calories with nutrient-rich foods. If you have an aversion to certain things, you may need to substitute something else to make sure there are no holes in your diet. If you have an aversion to:

  • Meats then opt for other protein sources such as beans and legumes, dairy products, and egg yolks. Or snack on fortified cereals.
  • Dairy then get your calcium from dark, green leafy veggies, or calcium-fortified orange juice.
  • Vegetables then drink vegetable juice, fruit juice or a combination juice.

Cravings: When to Give In

Many women crave general tastes, such as salty foods, or sweets. Others have very peculiar cravings such as dill pickles with onion bagels, or barbeque chips with chocolate ice cream. When you have a craving, and you know it's not a nutritious choice, think of something that may satisfy your craving that is an appropriate substitute. For instance if you crave:

  • Potato chips then opt for healthier things like pretzels, low fat popcorn, or baked chips or hummus and pita chips.
  • Ice cream then choose another healthier dairy food like frozen yogurt, or low fat yogurt with granola.
  • Hot dogs then get a healthier version such as a veggie dog, or a turkey dog.
  • Candy then buy some dried fruits, raisins, or dip apple slices in vanilla yogurt.
  • Soft drinks like colas then mix some seltzer with fruit juice for some healthier fizz.

When Cravings are Unsafe

Some women develop a craving for non-food items, like ice, clay, limestone, laundry starch, ice or other weird items. Don't think you're going crazy if it happens to you; call your doctor instead. This is a condition called pica, and your health provider can help you with this.

5 Tips for Handling Food Cravings

1. Don't let yourself get too hungry. Eat every few hours, but lightly. This will help with nausea and indigestion as well.

2. Buy healthy foods, and things you can grab and snack on without guilt. Keep the bad snacks out of the house. Have hubby eat his Krispy Kreme on the way home.

3. Keep things divided into appropriate portions. If you are buying in bulk, divide the items into snack sized portions and place in ziplock storage bags.

4. Find healthy condiments and add-ins for foods such as vanilla yogurt for sweet touches, plain for times you'd like sour cream, salsas, hot sauce, vinaigrettes, and low fat shredded cheeses.

5. Avoid bored eating or eating from habit. If you know you aren't really hungry, you just want to snack, distract yourself with another activity. Take yourself out of range of the refrigerator.

Related Articles

Food Cravings in Pregnancy: Imagined or Real?

Weird Pregnancy Cravings

Yes! You Can Eat Chinese Food During Pregnancy

Yummy Pregnancy Power Food Recipes

Calcium Needs in Pregnancy


Showing 1 - 10 out of 11 Comments
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Ash Aug 10, 2013 01:20:06 PM ET

I can't eat any meat. My husband loves meat. It sucks:(

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hayzie Jun 30, 2013 08:25:20 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 08:57:24 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 08:39:36 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 10:48:53 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 05:45:04 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 05:01:49 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 08:04:36 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 10:46:11 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 05:02:27 AM ET

Every food grosses me out! Ugh

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