There are cravings — and then there are pregnancy cravings.
Yes, it sometimes seems like pregnancy cravings are dramatized and blown out of proportion in movies and commercials for entertainment value, but the reality is that these cravings are no joke — and they really hit 50 to 90 percent of pregnant women. That deep, insatiable hunger is very real, and there are actually biological reasons that it hits. So the next time you wake up with a burning desire for a Big Mac or a chocolate Frosty, give in. Because... science.
Here are some explanations behind those insane hankerings for random things like raw meat and lemons.
Pregnant women love to chew on ice. Seems strange, since it's not really a food and doesn't seem in any way satisfying to those of us not with child, but for some reason pregnant women just can't get enough. Those with anemia are more likely to be seen chewing on ice, since it can relieve inflammation of the mouth and tongue (a common symptom of anemia).
Chocolate — or any sweet, for that matter — is something pregnant women can't get enough of. This could be because chocolate makes you happy, and since there's no drinking for pregnant women, chocolate is literally the next best thing. An old wives' tale states that if you crave sweets, it means you're carrying a girl.
Tip: If you're worried about indulging too much, satisfy your chocolate craving by drizzling low-fat chocolate syrup onto fresh fruit.
3. Spicy foods
Spicy foods, such as curry or hot red peppers, are yet another common craving among pregnant women. Interestingly enough, it's because hot foods make the body sweat, which cools off the body. If you're currently expecting, then you know it's almost impossible to stay cool. Try adding some spice to your next meal to see if it helps cool you down.
Women who crave pickles could be low in sodium, but there's no real proof of this. Some like the crunch, some like the vinegar, and some like the refreshing taste. Whatever it is, pickle cravings are nothing to be too concerned about. They're low in calories, easy to get and inexpensive.
5. Potato chips
Potato chips, like pickles, are loaded with salt. Again, you could be low in sodium, but more than likely you're just desiring something salty and crunchy, and potato chips are what comes to mind. Since they're high in fat and calories, try reaching for these alternatives instead.
Pregnant women don't crave just junk food (surprisingly!) — they crave fruit as well. You (and your body) want a healthy baby, so sometimes it needs extra-healthy foods to make sure that happens. Fruits, such as watermelons and grapes, are cool and refreshing, all while providing your body and baby with a boost of vitamin C.
It's not unheard of to see a pregnant woman eating a straight lemon or adding a ton of it to their water. Pregnant women crave sour foods. The reason? Your taste buds change, and typically you like to "shock" them with super-sour or super-spicy foods.
8. Ice cream
Ice cream is sweet, it cools you off, and it's rich and creamy. With so many flavors to choose from, a pregnant woman could literally spend hours in the ice cream aisle. For a healthier version, buy low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt, and top with fresh fruit. You might kill two cravings in one sitting.
If you've experienced or are experiencing morning sickness, then a fizzy, carbonated soda might be just what you need. Carbonation settles the stomach and may take away that queasy feeling you've had all day. Try ginger ale or Sprite, as caffeinated beverages should be avoided during pregnancy.
Even though some doctors say it's a no-no, coffee is commonly craved by pregnant women, especially those who drank it before conceiving. Coffee makes you more alert and decreases headaches and depression. Check with your doctor before deciding to partake in a cup o' joe, though.
Next up: Sugary sweets
Originally published July 2016. Updated June 2017.
11. Sugary sweets
A craving for sweets and candy is one of the most commonly reported among pregnant women. This can sometimes be a sign of gestational diabetes, but most of the time it can be chalked up to hormonal changes that affect your scent and taste perception. Try eating fruit or having a glass of freshly squeezed juice to satisfy your craving — or just stick to one small piece of candy a day.
12. Beans and greens
Some women crave healthier foods, like leafy green veggies, legumes and whole grains, that provide the body with tons of essential nutrients, including magnesium and fiber. Feel free to indulge in these foods as often as you like.
13. Red meat
Red meat is full of protein and iron, which many pregnant women crave. The key here is to skip the fattier cuts like rib-eye and go for round or sirloin cuts. Or choose your favorite lean ground beef to make burgers.
Most fruit juices are full of vitamins, and growing a baby inside you can be thirsty work! That's why many women report craving juice when they are pregnant even if they used to drink only water before. As long as you stick to no-added-sugar juices, feel free to guzzle an 8-ounce serving when the craving kicks in.
It's not uncommon for women to crave salty foods as their pregnancy goes on. The reason? An increase in blood volume can change your dietary need for sodium. If salt is what you crave, then stick to the shaker — the sodium in processed foods can far exceed the needs of even a pregnant woman and often contain extra unsavory ingredients.
Sometimes a pickle craving escalates, and it turns out that vinegar is what a pregnant woman really wants. Some women lust after sauerkraut or salt 'n' vinegar chips, while some even admit to drinking the stuff straight up! Try unfiltered apple cider vinegar, which you can mix with seltzer for a refreshing drink — just watch out for heartburn.
Milk, yogurt and cheese, oh my! Lots of pregnant women get the urge to eat dairy after their first trimester (when dairy can cause some tummy trouble). Calcium- and protein-rich, low-fat dairy foods, like string or cottage cheese, skim milk and Greek yogurt, are great choices to satisfy these cravings.
18. Crazy combinations
Ever heard of moms-to-be dunking pickles into peanut butter or putting olives in their ice cream? No one knows exactly why some women crave unusual combinations of food when they're pregnant, but some theorize that it's the body's way of making sure the growing baby receives a broad range of nutrients. So feel free to ignore the strange looks from your family and friends, and mix it up however you like in the kitchen.
19. Comfort food
If you find yourself craving your mom's mac & cheese or a dish you have at Christmas every year, it might not have any relation to your body's physical needs. Pregnancy can be tough, and it's totally normal to crave foods that make you think of cozy, calmer times. So don't stress — let yourself indulge in an old favorite if it makes you feel better.
20. Nonedible food
If you're craving chalk, dirt or any other nonfood item, then go see your doctor. Pica — a condition in which one craves and eats nonfood items — can be very dangerous, especially if you give in to the craving. It's thought that pica can indicate an iron deficiency, but even if that's not the case, you should consult your physician to figure out what your body is trying to tell you.