During your pregnancy you may feel a powerful urge to eat something that you would normally loathe. It could occupy your mind for days, or you may want to only eat that one thing. Welcome to food cravings.

For many women these include:

  • Dairy products
  • Hot, spicy foods
  • Salty snacks
  • Citrus fruits like lemons and oranges
  • Fast food like pizza

When do they start?

Food cravings generally occur at the end of the first trimester. They can peak and get intense during the second trimester but will then usually begin to fade as time goes on.

Why does this happen?

There is no exact reason why you get the urge for specific tastes, textures, or flavor combinations. It could be a need for comfort food, or special dishes that you associate with your childhood or culture. Or it could be the fact that your taste receptors and sense of smell are extra sensitive, dull, or generally out of whack during pregnancy. A bite of broccoli might trigger a run to the bathroom because your mouth is hyper-attuned to its bitterness. Or it may be down to the amount of hormones charging around your body, especially in early pregnancy. If you experienced a craving before your pregnancy particularly before your period you’re very likely to get the same urges now.

When to see a doctor

If you have cravings for a non-food item, then you may have a disorder called Pica. This is when your cravings have no nutritional value; some women have the urge to eat clay, cigarette ashes or starch, among other things. This disorder may indicate a lack of a specific vitamin or mineral and it’s important to tell your doctor as eating such items can be dangerous for you and your baby.

Maintaining a healthy diet in between your jars of pickles

Your cravings will come and go, and as you get further into your pregnancy you may find they get less intense. Be aware if you have gestational diabetes and you crave sweet foods later in your pregnancy, it can worsen the condition. Some food cravings will come with associated risks, for example, the craving for bacon will inadvertently increase your levels of salt.

Here are some tips for healthier options:

  • Dried fruit instead of sweets
  • Unsalted nuts instead of crisps
  • Wholegrain toast with jam instead of cake
  • Fruit based dessert instead of ice cream