Managing Cravings

What to Know

  • Why do food cravings occur?
  • What to do when a craving occurs

Food cravings that strike during pregnancy are a common occurrence that most moms admit to experiencing at least once (pickles and ice cream, anyone?). Whether you have a small hankering for something specific or an insatiable desire for anything sweet and salty, cravings can happen at any point in your pregnancy.

The experts agree that there is really no definitive reason behind food cravings. More often than not, the foods being desired are high in fat, sugar and salt. While it’s true that pregnancy demands more nutrients, giving into too many cravings can interfere with healthy pregnancy weight gain recommendations, so it’s best for you and your baby to continue being mindful of what foods you are choosing.

Foods that are salty and foods that are sweet are two of the most common pregnancy cravings. If your sweet tooth just can’t be tamed, try satisfying it with some of these healthier, naturally sweet options instead of reaching for that candy bar: baked cinnamon apples topped with a dollop of low fat yogurt, banana “ice cream” (frozen bananas blended with almond milk), or low-fat plain yogurt or cottage cheese with sliced peaches. In place of salty snacks like potato chips, try these lighter swaps: roasted pumpkin seeds, roasted chickpeas or edamame, roasted seaweed or nuts.  

A great way to keep food cravings at bay is to consume a balanced diet, while varying food choices within each food group. It’s ok to give into an indulgence once in a while as long as you are making the best choices the majority of the time. If you find your cravings are getting stronger and more frequent, try subbing lighter options, like swapping low fat frozen yogurt for ice cream. If you ever find yourself with an urge to consume inedible and non-food items, reach out to your health care provider right away.

See the What to Do Section for more ways to manage cravings!

What to Do

  • Satisfy your sweet tooth with naturally sweet foods– If you’re used to reaching for something more indulgent, try these naturally sweet foods instead:
    • Fresh fruit
    • Baked cinnamon apples with a dollop of low fat yogurt and toasted oats
    • Low-fat plain yogurt or cottage cheese with sliced peaches
    • Banana “ice cream” – ripe, frozen bananas blended with almond milk
    • Greek yogurt berry drops- Mix berries with Greek yogurt and drop into dollops on a parchment lined baking sheet. Freeze until firm. Store in the freezer until ready to enjoy
    • Whole grain rice cake with nut butter and sliced strawberries or bananas
    • Whole grain waffle topped with 100 % fruit spread
  • If you’re craving something salty, try these:
    • Nuts
    • Roasted pumpkin seeds
    • Popcorn (skip the butter and salt and flavor with things like herbs or lemon-pepper seasoning)
    • Roasted chickpeas, edamame or seaweed
    • ½ whole grain pita with hummus and tomatoes
    • Homemade baked tortilla chips with guacamole and salsa (cut whole grain flour or corn tortilla into triangles and bake at 350 degrees until crispy, about 12 minutes)
    • String cheese
  • Vary your food choices-Choosing a variety of foods across all food groups keeps your taste buds more satisfied.
  • Hydrate well- Be sure to drink enough water and eat foods that have a high water content like fruits and vegetables. If you are drawn to sugar filled beverages like sodas and juices, try a more natural alternative like fruit infused water or seltzer. Fill up a large pitcher of water and add your favorite fruits, veggies and even herbs. Try cucumber and lime, watermelon and mint and basil and pomegranate.
  • Learn your triggers- What intensifies your cravings? Is it your reward at the end of the day? Identifying what heightens your desire for certain foods will make it easier to find ways to manage it
  • Eat regularly-Eating consistent meals can stop cravings in their tracks since regular meals provide your body with a steady stream of energy and carbohydrate
  • De-stress- Stress can cause us to reach for those feel-good foods. If you can relate your cravings to increased stress levels, find ways to lower your stress like deep breathing and meditation
  • Indulge just a bit- It’s perfectly OK to surrender to your cravings every once in a while. Make it count by truly savoring what you are having. If you are craving chocolate, but all that’s available is stale, leftover Halloween candy, perhaps save your indulgence for something you will more thoroughly enjoy later.
  • Get physical-Getting in regular physical activity can satisfy your brain’s feel-good receptors, leaving you less likely to satisfy them with indulgent foods
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