Pickles and ice cream? Sauerkraut with a side of Easy Mac? Pregnancy cravings may seem cliché, but there's no doubt that they happen. (Note from the author: For me, it's all about string cheese and strawberries. That's right—at six months pregnant, I crave the diet of a two-year-old.) To find out what other weirdness is being craved these days and why, we chatted with a few experts and a bunch of real-life pregnant ladies.
What do we crave?
Everyone's different, of course, but according to a study from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the top contenders were sweets (like fruit, candy or chocolate) and dairy (like ice cream and milk). Lots of moms-to-be had an urge for fish, meat or poultry too. Check out a few of our faves from the message boards:
Rice with brown sugar, barbecue sauce, and butter. I thought it was soooo good and my husband looked at me like I was crazy. Now I would get sick if I ate that — gross! —ahartzle
Brownies with mustard or mac and cheese mixed with lo mein. —Scooter 359
McDonald’s sweet tea, garlic-stuffed olives, and salt — my husband walked in on me drinking the pickle juice straight from the jar. —t.bird
Jarred spaghetti sauce laced with about four tablespoons of sugar. I think it's got something to do with the sugar cutting the acid in the tomatoes, but it's been delectable to me on my pasta! —Flowr4246
Sometimes, I put pickles on Oreo cookies. You know those little round pickles for sandwiches? They're the perfect size for an Oreo. —blissfullycaffeinated_
I had a craving for chalky things like TUMS and chewable vitamins. —scubaspot
Onions and mustard. I don't even like onions, but I would crave chopped onion drenched in mustard. —Morrison4319
I've been dipping cheese in ketchup! So gross but so good. —aerobaby
Salt! I have been eating it by the spoonful. I even went as far as having the hubby hide everything from garlic salt to table salt. —kasslynne
I have craved sour items throughout my pregnancy. For a few days, all I would eat was sour cream right out of the container. It was the only thing that appealed to me. —mbear511
Goldfish crackers dipped in strawberry ice cream. My husband had to hide the crackers because it was grossing him out! —Celtic Ember
Pickles in cream cheese wrapped with pepperoni. —katieriedel
Why are we craving?
Why ice cream? Why pickles? Well, no one is 100 percent sure, but it turns out your overwhelming urge for Swiss steak might not be so weird after all. “Pregnancy cravings are basically evolutionary,” suggests Dr. Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. “The reason for a bizarre craving for anchovies or charcoal is because there's something deficient in a woman's system that she needs.” Craving sweet potato fries? Maybe it's your body's cry for potassium or vitamin A. But why do you NEED it to be sweet potato fries? “People tend to crave something that has the highest amount of that stuff [they're lacking]...with something that they can tolerate eating.” In other words, your body's sending signals of what it needs, and your brain/taste buds might spin that into something that you naturally find yummy. And if you're getting a totally balanced diet? According to Dr. Wansink, you probably aren't craving much.
Can this explain your need for chocolate milkshakes? Sure—that's a big helping of calcium. But the midnight run for Fritos is a little tougher to chalk up to nutrients. Julia Hormes, a doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, studies premenstrual cravings and thinks her findings apply to some pregnancy cravings as well. Her explanation: Some cravings are (dare we say it?) big fat excuses. For example, you want Twinkies because, well, you WANT Twinkies. When you wanted Twinkies before, you might have grabbed a banana and ignored the unhealthy desire for goo and sugar, or even totally denied the fact that you desired them. But now you're pregnant. Your body's going through a lot and — darn it — you're going to have a Twinkie if you want one. “I think pregnancy may well be a situation where our culture acknowledges a woman's right to indulge herself. Our culture sort of gives you permission. Women give themselves permission,” she explains. A few Bumpies agree that cravings can go both ways (nutritional and absolutely not):
“I haven't craved anything weird. I've mostly allowed myself to indulge in things that I normally don't allow myself to eat and write it off as a craving.” —browneyes24b_
“[I craved] Hardy's Thickburgers and cheeseburgers in general. I think it was my body's way of demanding that I feed it more iron. Oh yes, and any form of cake. I think that was my body's way of telling me that cake is delicious.” —7miles
(Note: If you start craving nonfood stuff like dirt, charcoal, clay or laundry starch, don't eat it! This is a disorder called pica, which some scientists think may be related to iron deficiency or other dietary needs. Resist the urge and call your doctor ASAP—they should be able to help you stick to eating real food.)