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You used to love your morning omelets; now, even the sight of a frying pan can turn your stomach. On the flip side, you never had much of a sweet tooth, but now chocolate is the only thing on your brain. If this sounds like you lately, you are one of the 50-90% of women who experience pregnancy cravings. Seeing what food combinations are making are breaking your day can make for great punch lines. However, paying close attention to your cravings is essential to ensure they are not running away with your overall health.
The Chemistry of Cravings
The cravings and food aversions you experience throughout your pregnancy are much more than a growing appetite. Many women report that their cravings come on slowly during their first trimester, are strongest throughout the second, and taper off in the third. This pattern is due to the influential role hormones play throughout your body. During pregnancy, your human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) levels are rapidly rising. This hormone is a significant player in your appetite and nausea. With hormones at the helm, you may notice that you crave the same foods during pregnancy that you traditionally have during PMS.
Additionally, pregnancy alters your sense of smell and your taste buds. The change in senses explains why many women report food aversions to food with incredibly potent aromas. So foods you once loved may taste or smell different now, and wacky food combos you could have never imagined putting together may sound appetizing.
Some of the most popular pregnancy cravings incl de:
1. Choco te
2. Sweets, like cookies or ice cream
3. Salty snacks such as chips or pretzels
4. Starchy carbs like French fries
5. Pick es
6. Ice, and
7. Comfort foods·
But you may have utterly unique pregnancy cravings! You have heard of the classic pickles and ice cream, but some women have reported craving carrots with ketchup and apples with lime! It may sound disgusting, but hey, who are we to knock it until we try it?
Many women report having aversions to eggs, onions, fish, yogurt, and coffee. There is no clear precedent on these aversions, but people tend to lump them into categories such as "foods with strong smells" or "foods with distinct textures."
What Are Your Cravings Trying to Tell You?
Pregnancy cravings have been studied for years, and scientists have had several hypotheses, from cravings trying to tell us about our nutritional deficiencies to cravings being caused by the societies we live in.
While these theories have neither been proven nor ruled out, there are some distinct messages in our cravings and aversions. Depending on what you are craving or avoiding, your body may be trying to tell you:
1. You have an underlying medical condition
Ice is a fairly common craving for pregnant women. However, the yearning to chew on ice can be a telltale sign that you are low on iron or even anemic. If you find yourself constantly grabbing for the crushed stuff, your doctor may recommend a blood test or iron supplement to make sure you and your baby have all of the blood-producing iron you need. Also, while it is rare, some women report craving non-food items such as dirt, chalk, o soap. This indicates a condition called pica, and it can be very dangerous. Do not give in to any of these temptations and contact your medical provider immediately.
2. You're associating certain foods with morning sickness
If you have been or currently are pregnant, you know better than most that morning sickness is not regulated to just the morning; it can happen at any time of t e day. If you notice aversions to specific foods, it could be a sign that you are subconsciously associating those foods with nausea.
3. Your new chapter is making you nostalgic
Several women note that they have heavy hankerings for food from their childhood or cultural foods. You are thinking about entering this new stage of parenthood and parts of your culture you want to share with your baby during childhood. Since memories can be deeply rooted in food, just as they are in music, smells, and sights, it's normal to be brought back to those special times and crave the foods you associate with them.
Managing Cravings & Aversions
Pregnancy is a time for grace. You are growing an entire human, aft r all! However, be sure not to let your cravings and aversions throw your health off track. Malnutrition and too much weight gain during pregnancy both have negative consequences. Life is about balance. To help you balance your pregnancy cravings and aversions, we recommend:
1.Indulge in Moderation
Don't deprive yourself! The occasional indulgence is entirely acceptable and even encouraged. However, practice balance by showing some restraint. Instead of getting an entire sundae with all the fixings or a milkshake every time you're craving ice cream, keep pre-portioned ice cream cups in your freezer. It will be enough to take the edge off your craving without sending you overboard.
2.Keep Healthy Alternatives Available
When you know you will be craving your favorites frequently, you can get creative in the ways you satiate your cravings. Keeping healthy alternatives at your fingertips allows you to indulge without guilt. For example, if chocolate is your vice, having a chocolate protein shake instead of a milkshake or a protein bar instead of a candy bar gives you all the same satisfaction with the added boost of nutrients.
3.Keep Up Your Daily Nutrition
Avoid foods you have aversions to, of course. However, pregnancy is when you and your baby require extra nutrients to ensure you are both growing and staying healthy. Many foods you are avoiding, such as meat, eggs, and dairy, make up a significant portion of our daily doses of nutrients. Find ways to reincorporate those missing nutrients back into your diet. For example, if eggs make your stomach turn these days, add a handful of nuts to your smoothie to compensate for the protein!