Pregnancy cravings – what do they really mean?

As soon as you fall pregnant, apart from questions about morning sickness and whether you’re going to find out ‘what you’re having’, have you had any cravings yet?, is one of the top questions that people ask.

As a nutritionist and mum of two, I have come across many different pregnancy cravings, but it’s not necessarily the flavour combinations or feeling like you need something sweet that is worth paying attention to. Our bodies are very clever and signalling with cravings is its way of making sure that you and your baby are getting the nutrients you need.


Pregnancy cravings - Pregnancy image 1


A sweet tooth

Longing for something sweet is one of the most common cravings during pregnancy, but it actually means that your body is low in blood sugar or that you’ve gone too long between your last snack or meal. Before reaching for that pack of high sugar sweets, try eating a banana, which is a great source of naturally occurring sugars, vitamins and minerals and will give you a healthy energy boost.

If you find you’re desperately craving a bar of chocolate, this can also be an indication that your body is low in magnesium. You can balance this out by eating magnesium-rich foods such as whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and pulses.


Pregnancy cravings - Pregnant woman in kitchen eating a salad smiling


Give me meat

During pregnancy, even the most unswerving vegetarians can surprise themselves by yearning for steak or burgers. Meat is high in zinc and protein and red meat is especially high in iron, so if you’re craving lots of this meat it’s likely that your body is low in these vital nutrients. Eggs are an excellent source of protein and contain all the essential amino acids, key for supporting the growth and development of your baby.

Dried apricots are also exceptionally high in iron, which promote the production of red blood cells needed to maintain a healthy pregnancy.

If you’re struggling with nausea then even the look and smell of your favourite foods can be hard to stomach at times but, when you can, try to make sure you are eating as varied and balanced a diet as possible. In addition to the foods I have recommended above, also try and incorporate as much of the below as you can to ensure that you and your baby get the best out of this amazing period of growth and development:

  • Spinach – high in folic acid to help keep the genetic codes intact.
  • Brazil nuts – only two – three a day as these contain high levels of selenium needed to protect against birth defects.
  • Sweet potato – excellent source of beta-carotene, essential for ahealthy pregnancy.
  • Salmon – contains essential fats, vital for the development of your baby’s brain and vision.
  • Beans and pulses – high in fibre and nutrients, low in fat, aids the digestive system and helps alleviate constipation.
  • Live natural yoghurt – this contains ‘friendly’ bacteria, essential for your immune system and digestion, combined with a good shot of calcium. There is some evidence to suggest that having good levels of ‘friendly’ bacteria during pregnancy helps to reduce allergic conditions such as eczema in babies.
  • Ginger – helps reduce nausea and sickness.
  • Brown rice – replace any white grains with whole grains to increase your nutrient intake. Brown rice is great for energy as it contains many minerals including manganese, potassium, magnesium and B-vitamins.

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