One of the most frequently asked questions throughout my pregnancy was, “are you craving anything?” Maybe it’s because weird combinations of food are always associated with pregnancy, especially in the media. Or maybe because everybody nowadays is gluten-free, vegan, or on a mad diet of some sort and just interested in what others are indulging in?
After asking my group of mummy friends, I found out that they’re a bunch of pregnant weirdos! (surely that’s the best kind?!) One of them is due any day now and she is all about her favourite pregnancy craving: cold vegetarian pizza with Tabasco sauce. I usually cringe whenever she indulges in her strange feast, but rewind to last year and I would have loved to join her in her craving. These days, just thinking about eating that has me gripping my bottle of Gaviscon.
my pregnancy cravings
When it comes to pregnancy cravings, there is no rhyme or reason to it. You’ve heard old wives’ tales, such as sweet and fruity cravings mean you’re having a girl and salty and sour means you’re having a boy – or the other way around! But my pregnancy didn’t line up accordingly. I craved a mixture of all four: sweet/fruity/salty/sour. Although one thing was a constant – my distaste for any meat. I couldn’t stand the thought of meat, and I didn’t eat it until 3 months post pregnancy!
I also just couldn’t get enough of my childhood favourites; I think because during the time of turmoil and mega life changes, I needed those oh-so-comforting things! And could explain why our kitchen was suddenly stocked with cheese strings, turkey dinosaurs and super noodles!
But the crowing jewel on top of all my cravings was salt. I had to have it on everything, and I mean everything… ham sandwich, salt! Hobnob biscuit, salt! Salted crisps, you guessed it, SALT!
when do pregnancy cravings start?
Now I know that every pregnancy is different. Mix that in with the fact that apparently 20-30% of women don’t have cravings at all, you can imagine it’s hard to pin point when exactly pregnancy cravings start. For me they started when my morning sickness eased up which was around 12 weeks and lasted well into my second and third…maybe the Jaffa cakes followed me into my fourth trimester! Hey – having a newborn is hard work!
why we crave what we crave
I’ve looked into the science of it because I was intrigued (and have nothing better to do while my daughter naps…how many times is too many for clothes to do a spin cycle?) Anyway, the science says that the increase in hormones or your body’s need for nutrients can reflect what you’re craving! For example: if you’re craving ice cream, maybe you need more calcium, or if you've been drooling over that big juicy beef burger you may need more protein. Whether this theory really rings true or not remains to be seen.
Feeling a little like a superhero with a heightened sense of smell and taste? I know, worst superpower ever! Especially when that one colleague insists on using the communal microwave for his mackerel, my stomach churns just thinking about it! This albeit horrid superpower is actually pretty cool – it’s said that it’s to help a pregnant woman avoid foods that might make her and/or her baby sick.
weird pregnancy cravings
Strange food cravings are a kind of pregnancy hallmark, and yes, golden syrup on spaghetti really is as good as Buddy the elf says! But when your cravings leave you with a hankering for non-food items such as dirt, clay, ice, chalk etc, it could mean that something else is going on. It's important to not give in to these cravings and to contact your doctor.
It’s also a good idea to not follow in my footsteps and indulge in every craving you get (unless those cravings are the perfect amount of every food group – I know, unlikely!) But a balanced diet during pregnancy is more important than ever when doing the most important job of growing a baby.
Here are some sneaky tips on how to get that balance but still be a little naughty:
Portion control - If you’re craving sweet treats, get a small bowl that’s a single serving size and you can technically never go wrong! Your all-natural full fat chocolate ice cream can be
inhaled eaten nicely without the guilt. Never eat directly out of the tub – it’s a recipe for a calorie disaster!
Combine good and bad – If your sweet tooth is still getting the better of you and if, like me, it started first thing in the morning (even I draw the line at chocolate for breakfast), here's a tip. I used to mix a bland high in fibre cereal with my favourite frosted shreddies (I’m a real grown-up I swear!) It worked wonders for me especially with the common pregnancy nuisance constipation.
Yin Yang – This one's for when you’re craving the heat or mouth-watering salt like your favourite Chinese take away or a trip to the curry house. Now I know what you’re thinking; no I’m not going to suggest you mix in healthy or only have a tiny bowls worth! Just simply make sure you fill the rest of your day with low sodium options, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetable and always drink plenty of water. It does wonders for the bloating and swelling too much sodium can cause!
So whether it’s just a pinch of salt to every meal or dunking your biscuits into chili sauce, enjoy it while you can because after all… the baby made you do it!