When Beverly Blair Harzog of Johns Creek, Georgia, was pregnant with her daughter, she craved Green Apple Jolly Ranchers. For Megan McWilliams of Boonton, New Jersey, the desired food was Fluffernutter sandwiches. And Jennifer Melick of Maplewood, New Jersey, ate a lot of oranges when she carrying her first child — but had to have apples with her second.
It’s OK for women who are pregnant to give into their cravings, said Michelle Aristizabal, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in New Jersey. “For me, it was salt and vinegar chips,” she admitted. “It was the only food that appeased the nausea in my first trimester.”
Aristizabal, who is also head of Wombkeepers, an obstetrics, gynecology, and maternity wellness center in Montclair, New Jersey, has collected a great deal of anecdotal evidence that pregnant women get cravings for certain foods and strong aversions to others.
“It has to do with our heightened olfactory system, hormonal changes and an increase in blood supply,” she said. “When a woman is pregnant, the body manufactures a greater amount of blood, which means there is more blood throughout the body — including the tongue. That along with hormones that fluctuate can increase or decrease desires for certain foods.”
Aristizabal has seen meat eaters shun meat, and vegetarians crave hamburgers and bacon. “I encourage people not to resist their cravings,” she said. “Go for it, but honor it in the healthiest way possible. If you want something sweet, make it a smoothie. Eat one scoop of ice cream, not a bowlful. That one scoop can satisfy the craving.”
The trick is not to overdo it. “The average woman can expect to gain between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy,” Aristizabal said. “She will eat an extra 300 calories per day.”
Look for healthy alternatives, suggested Aristizabal. “If you crave bread, eat whole grain fiber rich bread instead of white refined bread.”
Other healthy options include organic popcorn, dried fruit, fresh fruit, dark chocolate, and mineral water with fresh lemon, lime, or orange slices. If there’s any confusion about what you should or should not be eating, talk to your doctor.
Weird, Wacky and Wild
A cause for alarm is when the craving is for non-food substances. “Some women have an unhealthy craving called pica,” noted Aristizabal. “They crave substances like dirt, clay, and laundry starch.”
A study in the Journal of American Dietetic Association said pica cravings may be linked to an iron deficiency. “These cravings may be our body’s attempt at getting vitamins or minerals that are missing in our diet,” she explained.
If you have unusual substance cravings, talk to your doctor, as some of these non-food substances can be toxic to you and your baby. “Eating non-food substances may interfere with the nutrient absorption of healthy food substances and actually cause a deficiency,” says the American Pregnancy Association.
Also make sure to include exercise in your routine. But don’t take up running, for example, if you’ve never done so before. Walking is always recommended and “you should discuss your exercise routine with your doctor,” Aristizabal said.
Friends shared some of their wild food cravings during their pregnancies. See any familiar ones?
- Beer: Though she craved this, Betty Fivecoat, of Kansas City, Kansas, never drank beer before she was pregnant. Her doctor advised she have just one sip to satisfy the craving.
- Vanilla frozen yogurt with fresh strawberries: Beverly Blair Harzog of Johns Creek, Georgia, craved both this and cantaloupe.
- Eggs and cheese: Elaine Durbach of Maplewood, New Jersey, a vegeterian, craved these two foods. She also developed a strong aversion to chick peas, which had been her staple.
- Caviar and watermelon: Stacy Mantle’s mom, Carla, of Salt Lake City, Utah, craved both of these. The daughter, in Arizona, today hates caviar and loves watermelon.
- Chocolate milk: Kimberly Brockett, of New Haven, New York, couldn’t get enough of this sweet drink.
- T-bone steak: This was the craving of Andrea Frayser, a devout vegetarian in Hagerstown, Maryland.
- Mustard and onion sandwiches: Susan Willard of Lake Jackson, Texas, craved these and ate between eight and nine of them each day. But she couldn’t stand the smell of fried lunch meat.
- Bacon, pork and ham: Vegetarian Lisa Romeo of Cedar Grove, New Jersey, had to have these meats.
- Scrambled eggs and bacon: Beth Giordano of Highland, Califiornia, had two months of morning sickness. The only foods she could keep down were these.
- Peanut butter: Lisa Tabachnick of Toronto, Ontario, couldn’t get enough of her peanut butter.
- Liverwurst, chopped liver and beef, washed down with orange soda. Andrea Lynn of New York City enjoyed this mix during her pregnancy. “Oddly, these along with crackers and rice were about the only things that would consistently stay down,” she said.
- Cheese grits: This food comforted Echo Garrett, who lived in New York City during her pregnancy.
- Lobster and scalloped potatoes: Jennifer L. Stuart of Churchville, Maryland, had to have these!
- Quiche: This was the food of choice for Linda Childers of El Cerrito, California.
- Baby carrots and canned tuna fish: Brenda Ward Serrano, Portland, Oregon, ate baby carrots and canned tuna until she learned that too much canned tuna could be harmful to the baby. She stuck with baby carrots.
- Mixed fried rice and watermelon: Yep, these were the cravings of Barbara Borkhuis of Shirley Long Island, New York.
- Hamburgers: Roberta Wax of Los Angeles craved burgers. She rarely ate red meat before her pregnancy and rarely eats it now. With her second child, she downed McDonald’s vanilla milkshakes and French fries.