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Paula Kashtan

Cravings During Pregnancy

What's up with those urges to eat certain foods during pregnancy? Check out what's probably causing them here.

That urge to eat (fill in the blank here) can be incredibly powerful when you're expecting. Food cravings during pregnancy are super-common, but it doesn't make them any less bewildering. Why is it that your new must-have pantry staple are pickles, and you just can't stop crunching on ice? Read on to learn what could be causing your cravings, what to do when they turn really strange, and how to control those cravings with healthier options.

What Causes Food Cravings In Pregnancy?

Studies show that about 90 percent of pregnant women have food cravings, particularly in the first trimester. Experts aren’t sure why, but one theory is that your body is simply asking for what it needs. The boost in blood volume increases your need for sodium—hence, you crave salty pickles. Why the sudden change in food preferences? Blame it on raging hormones, which are messing with your senses of taste and smell. Hunger, restlessness and difficult emotions can intensify cravings, so make sure to eat breakfast, exercise regularly and ask for support when you need it.

Non-Food Cravings During Pregnancy

If you’re craving stuff that’s not food, like dirt, charcoal or laundry starch, you might have a condition called pica. It’s important to seek medical attention for pica cravings because they could mean you’re deficient in certain nutrients, and because the cravings can be hard to resist—and actually eating non-food stuff could be dangerous.

How To Control Pregnancy Cravings

Moderate indulgence is fine (and totally inevitable), but watch your intake of empty calories—especially if they start to replace important nutrients. Here are some healthy alternatives to common junk-food cravings.

Pregnancy craving: Ice cream
Healthier alternative: Try sorbet, popsicles, low-fat fro-yo

Pregnancy craving: Doughnuts and pastries
Healthier alternative: Try whole-grain toast with jam

Pregnancy craving: Cookies, cake and pie
Healthier alternative: Try angel food cake, graham crackers and peanut butter, oatmeal with brown sugar and cinnamon, low-fat pudding, low-fat banana, zucchini or pumpkin bread

Pregnancy craving: Candy
Healthier alternative: Try trail mix

Pregnancy craving: Chocolate
Healthier alternative: Try low-fat chocolate milk, low-sugar hot cocoa

Pregnancy craving: Chips
Healthier alternative: Try popcorn (air-popped or light microwave), pretzels, whole-grain cereal

Plus, more from The Bump:

Pica During Pregnancy

Healthy Foods for Busy Moms-to-Be

Weird Pregnancy Cravings