How to Deal with Cravings During Pregnancy

What are Cravings? 

One of the old wife tales is that cravings during pregnancy gives us a clue of the gender of your baby! They say if you have more of a sweet tooth craving where you crave more chocolate, cakes and sweets, your baby is probably a girl whereas if you have a craving for more salty foods like pizza, fries, potato chips and nuggets, your baby is probably a boy. However, research has shown no link between cravings and gender. 

One fun fact though is that pregnancy cravings can sometimes lead you to like eating foods you may previously have disliked eating during pre-pregnancy. 

Causes of Cravings

1. Hormonal Changes

Researchers have been unable to find definitive reasons as to why there would be such cravings in mothers. Based on expert opinions and hypotheses, the probable cause for food cravings during pregnancy could be caused by hormonal changes during pregnancy. There are studies that mothers’ taste and smells tend to be altered compared to pre-pregnancy, especially salty and sweet tastes. It tends to start during the 1st trimester, peaks during the 2nd trimester and reduces after. Besides that, the stress and anxiety that comes with mothers trying to juggle work, household chores and keeping a pregnancy can easily be overwhelming to many. Thus, without sufficient support from family and healthcare providers, this vicious cycle can increase the tendency among mothers to become emotional eaters as part of a coping mechanism. 

2. Nutrient Deficiencies

The other possible reason as to why a mother would have strong food cravings during pregnancy would be due to nutrient deficiencies. One of the theories to explain these cravings is if a mother has more appetite for sweet foods, it is probably because the body needs extra energy due to increased energy requirements in the second trimester onwards and mothers are not eating enough. On the other hand, if a mother craves for more salty flavoured foods, the body is in need of water, having more salty foods can increase thirst and subsequently be led to drink more water. Another example is if a mother craves more for steaks or red meat, then probably it is the body’s way of saying that there is not enough iron in the body so on and so forth. With all that said, unfortunately there is so far no evidence of this association. 

In extreme cases where it is medically recognized as a medical condition called “Pica”, mothers can have tendencies to want to eat non-food substances such as paint, chalk, dirt, laundry detergent and many more. This eating habit can be harmful to both the mother and unborn baby. Researchers are unsure why mothers would have such a craving since these non-food substances are non-nutritive and do not contain anything that would help improve nutrient absorption. Some say the root cause of it could be an underlying iron deficiency but it is not definitive. If you find yourself having non-food cravings, speak to your health provider about it and see what you can do best to manage it to keep you and your baby safe and healthy. 

Management of Cravings

So for food cravings, what do we do? How do we keep our cravings at bay? 

Firstly, our top priority should be to stick to a healthy, well balanced diet as part of our daily routine. We should also ensure that we are eating adequately during meal times. This means not cutting off your carbohydrate intake unnecessarily and ensuring you eat sufficient amounts of vegetables, fruits and protein too!

If you do give in to your cravings more often than not, try to identify if these cravings are satisfied by texture, creaminess, or if it is just a need for a kick of sweetness or savoury flavours at that point of time. These will help you find a more suitable and healthier substitute for you. Here are some of the examples below that are healthier substitutes: 

Sweet Tooth1 to 2 small squares of high quality dark chocolate1 serving of fruit1 serving of fruit with yoghurt
Salty Food1 cheddar cheese stick1 apple (cut into slices) with peanut butter.A medium bowl of homemade popcorn with a little salt ( controlled and at least you know how much additional salt you’re having)

At Tian Wei Signature, each of our confinement meal come with savoury confinement soups. We also serve logan red date tea to give healthier options to possibly satisfy these cravings. Logan red date tea is rich in vitamin C to help your body form collagen and improve your postpartum wound healing.

If substitution does not work on you and the cravings are too intense at times, it is okay to give in to it. You can still have these cravings within reason. There is no harm in having a slice of cake once a week, a piece or two cookies throughout your day if it keeps you sane. Just eat mindfully. Take simple steps by reducing frequency or even reducing portion sizes by sharing them with your loved ones. 

All in all, what we’re trying to say is that cravings are common among pregnant mothers. There is no one right or wrong way to deal with it. So at the end of the day, in order for mummies to have a good healthy pregnancy and mindset is to ask ourselves: 

  1. Will this sustain me with energy throughout the day?
  2. Will this provide essential nutrients for me and my baby?
  3. Will this make me feel good?

On a side note, do check out MumChecked to discover a wide range of mom and baby essentials to help you and your baby embark on this new journey in life with ease, especially tools to make your breastfeeding journey a little easier.