Yes, we've all heard of the women who crave pickles and chocolate sauce or ketchup and ice cream during their pregnancies... and many people have stated that this is because there is a real nutritional need that requires those odd combinations: this is not exactly true. In fact, there is no scientific evidence that these cravings reflect real physiological needs.
The few things your body might crave during pregnancy based off of nutritional needs, but you still need to watch out for, are salt and carbs, and maybe some fruits high in vitamin C. Yet many women develop "pica" during pregnancy, where they crave to eat things of no nutritional value that can actually be dangerous or toxic (eating clay, laundry starch, ice cubes, coffee grounds, etc.). These things are not developed because of a nutritional need, yet women have convinced themselves that there must be something in these things that their body needs.
Now, we as women LOVE excuses to eat what we want. But when you're reaching for the marshmallows to dip into your ranch dip, know that it is most likely NOT due to nutritional needs.
Upon pregnancy, our senses change, along with our emotions. We react differently to certain smells and textures. We also have a stronger desire of feeling understood and nurtured, so when we ask for our significant other to retrieve us our "pregnancy craving", we mostly just want to be feel listened to. When we give in to eating something, we love the excuse of "because I'm pregnant" and get a sense of comfort from that.
However, it is all too common to be talked into overeating while pregnant and giving in to every craving. When we crave candy, there are 5 people behind us telling us that we can just have it because we're pregnant, or that we NEED to have it. Now for me, I don't crave things any more or less than I did prior to pregnancy. I will say in my first trimester for two weeks, I HAD to have fast food, but it was the most soothing option for my nausea (people can respond to nausea by eating tons of carbs and fats or by not eating at all!). Since then, however, I have not had a single craving that I would call a "pregnancy" craving. I've misused this term a time or two as an excuse to give in to an unhealthy craving, but I honestly craved those things when I wasn't pregnant.
Women are told to eat a couple hundred calories more a day during pregnancy, but since this is talked about SO MUCH I almost think it needs to not be advised. Don't assume you need to eat more, your body will take care of that naturally. In fact, most people already eat at least 500 calories a day more than they should. When advised to eat more calories, it is because your body needs more NUTRITION. Therefore, adding an ice cream sundae to fulfill those calorie "needs" isn't doing your body good. Your nutritional requirements, not simply calorie requirements, are in greater need during pregnancy.
Now, your body does have the ability to cue you in on what you need, but this usually happens if you have a large deficiency. So if you happen to be craving tons of dairy, do not use this as an excuse to eat tons of dairy, but instead ask your doctor what the recommended calcium intake is, and see what sort of things your blood tests say you need.
Pregnancy nutrition tips:
Find a chart comparison of nutrient need differences among non-pregnant, pregnant, and lactating women. You will find that most need difference is actually when you're lactating! The difference when you are pregnant is not as huge as we might assume. The three main nutrients that you need more of during pregnancy are:
1. Iron (you're doubling your blood supply!)
Other nutrient needs are protein, zinc, thiamin, riboflavin, Vitamin B6, vitamin C, and Iodine.
Again, check with your doctor on your own PERSONAL nutritional needs. For me, I was low in iron, meaning I had to take iron supplements. THIS MIGHT NOT BE TRUE FOR YOU. Do NOT take more supplements if you have not been advised to, because this is not only toxic for you, but very toxic for the baby.
Pregnant mamas: eat 2 cups of fruit, 2-3 cups of veggies (make 2 cups of that leafy veggies), 6-8 ounces of grains, 6 ounces of protein, and 3 cups of dairy (low fat choices!). What does this look like? Here's a breakdown menu:
Breakfast: 2 egg veggie scramble with sprinkled cheese
Snack: Cup plain greek yogurt with diced apple and cinnamon, sprinkle of granola
Lunch: Whole wheat turkey sandwich with leafy greens
Snack: Carrots and 2 tbsp hummus
Dinner: 1/4 cup brown rice, chicken or salmon, salad with lowfat dressing
Post dinner snack: homemade fruit and yogurt bars OR cup of fruit OR 1/2 cup dried oatmeal (then cooked!) with fruit and cinnamon.
*NOTE: 3 cups of dairy does NOT mean 3 cups of cheese. 8 oz of lowfat milk, 8 oz of lowfat yogurt, or 1 1/2 oz of cheese counts as a cup.
Drink at least 10 glasses of water a day, and more if you are working out! (Add a cup for every 15 minutes of working out).
Mamas, I cannot tell you what taking care of your body during pregnancy will do for you and baby! Besides providing the best you can for baby, you will also help your body bounce back faster, maintain a healthy weight gain which in turn helps your body produce less stretch marks, and set yourself up in the future for having no excuses not to eat healthy.
I wish you luck! I am here for support or further questions, or a personalized nutrition plan!