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Pregnancy and Food Cravings

Learn how to manage pregnancy cravings from pickles to ice cream.

iced donut with sprinkles

From pickles to ice cream, many women have food cravings during pregnancy. Though no one knows for sure why, experts do have suggestions for managing these cravings.

Why curb cravings?

While it may be fine to give in to some of your food cravings, it’s important not to go overboard. Eating too much of certain foods could cause problems such as heartburn or too much weight gain.

Most healthy women at normal weight before they’re pregnant need about an extra 300 calories a day when expecting one baby. .As long as the foods support a healthy eating plan, you can satisfy your cravings once in awhile. However, you may have problems if you eat only a few types of foods for long periods of time. When you eat foods you crave, be careful not to neglect the rest of your diet.

Here are some tips:

  • Eat a balanced diet. Include fruit, veggies, low-fat or fat-free dairy, lean proteins and whole grains. Your doctor will most likely prescribe a prenatal vitamin. Eating regularly throughout the day may help you keep from getting famished.
  • Plan for snacks. Knowing when and what you’re going to eat between meals may help when a craving hits.
  • Use distraction. When you first feel a craving, go for a walk, call a friend or work on a hobby.
  • Look for healthier options. Craving potato chips? Maybe you really want something crunchy. Try carrots or an apple. Still thinking about chips? Choose a reduced-fat version.
  • Nix buying in bulk. Buy single-servings of foods you crave. For example, just buy one piece of chocolate — not a whole bag.
  • Include “crave” foods in everyday eating. If you regularly crave something spicy, add relish or salsa to your meals. If you regularly crave something sweet, include melons, citrus fruits and juices in meals. Just be sure to limit portion sizes of the foods you crave.

Talk to your doctor right away if you crave non-food items like dirt, clay or laundry starch. Eating these can harm you and your baby. This is a condition known as “pica” and it may indicate an iron deficiency.

By Lucy M. Casale, Contributing Writer

United States Department of Agriculture. Pregnancy & breastfeeding. Accessed: July 5, 2016.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. FAQ: Nutrition during pregnancy. Accessed: July 5, 2016.
March of Dimes. Cravings during pregnancy. Accessed: July 5, 2016. Food cravings during pregnancy. Accessed: July 5, 2016.

Last Updated: July 5, 2016