When Do Pregnancy Cravings Start and How to Deal With Them

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It is a known fact that expecting mothers develop strong and unusual cravings during their pregnancy. No one can determine how crazy they will be for the food. No one can predict what they will demand. Thus, your best preparation is knowing when do pregnancy cravings start.

Some pregnant women develop pregnancy cravings in their first trimester, peaking in the second trimester. But even with that expected onset, many doctors claim it is unpredictable and may differ from one pregnancy to the next.

You can expect it two to three weeks into your pregnancy. Wait, that early? Yes! That is why you better be prepared if you are not used to the craziness that comes with it!

Pregnancy cravings continue to gain momentum over time; it is essential you know how to manage it once it is in full swing. Will you crave pickles? Mangoes? Waffles?

Learn all about the proven ways to handle these odd pregnancy cravings.

What Does Craving Mean?

A food craving is an intense and unmanageable desire for a particular food. It is eminently different from normal hunger because psychological or physical needs cause cravings. Hunger, on the other hand, is the natural way your body tells you it has a real need for food.

There are no definite causes for cravings, but research suggests a couple of different explanations:

Diet or Nutritional Deficiencies

Many people believe that food cravings arise when you need to fill a nutritional need. If your body lacks a particular nutrient, it will naturally and instinctively look for food rich in that nutrient. One good example is when someone has iron deficiency. It is common to vegetarians as well as women in their pre-menopausal stage. The scent of meat, grilled burgers, or even fish and chips may draw them.

Stress and Anxiety

Humans sometimes lose their restraint when they are under extreme pressure or stress. According to a researcher on taste and food preference, Adam Drewnowski, Ph. D., food cravings “arise to satisfy emotional needs.” That is right. Food can naturally calm stress and reduce anxiety.

If you have a heavy workload, you may recognize this as “comfort eating.” You do not ask yourself questions like, “What does craving mean?” or “Why do I want to eat this?” Your mind asks for food to deal with the anxiety, and you keep eating. Some comfort foods include pizza, burgers, and donuts.

Happy Hormones

Foods containing high levels of sugar glucose are much better than those with lower sugar glucose. Chocolate, a typical craving, has neurotransmitter phenylethylamine, which regulates the body’s release of endorphins or “happy hormones.”

Some want to feel a sense of relaxation when they are eating, and they find that in the sweet treats. The more they eat these cravings, the more their mood is elevated, and the more euphoric they become! It also has a triggering and addictive effect that conditions the consumer to consume more.

Difference Between Normal Craving and Pregnancy Craving

When you experience normal cravings, it may mean you’re stressed out, or you need to supply your body with nutrients. On the other hand, pregnancy cravings are a bit more complicated and bizarre than that. According to theories, pregnancy cravings occur to serve a social function, rather than a nutritional one.

Different pregnant women have different cravings, and more often than not, they are hard-to-obtain and odd. It is unbelievable.

They will find satisfaction in simple food such as pickles, ice cream or peanut butter.


They will demand eclectic food combinations usually gross to their pre-mommy stage regular tongue. It can be mustard paired with Oreos, hotdogs with yogurt or rice with mayonnaise.

Expecting moms can even crave (and eat) non-food things or pica such as crayons, dirt, or ice scraped from the freezer. These non-food cravings are dangerous, and you should immediately check with the doctor if you have them.

The desire felt in pregnancy cravings is a special kind of urge, and will be overwhelming. According to experts, there is a higher hormone level present during pregnancy which affects a woman’s sense of smell and taste. This different sense will then cause certain foods to appeal more enticing and delicious more than they initially are.

Pregnancy Cravings in Different Cultures

Here are a couple of different traditions and superstitions of pregnancy cravings:

For Hmong women (or the ethnic groups in East and Southeast Asia): Following the pregnancy cravings will guarantee that the baby will come out healthy, without any deformity.

For the Maltese women (or those living in Malta): Satisfying the cravings for specific foods will keep the unborn child from having a representational birthmark.

For the Filipino women (or those living in the Philippines): A pregnant woman who consumes her cravings will have the best qualities of that food imparted to the child. For example, one may crave squid balls. Her child will possess a white complexion, similar to the color of the squid ball.

How Can You Tell that You are Craving for Something

You already know the answer to the question, “What does craving mean?”

Now, how can you tell if you are craving? Do not you get all jittery once you try to think about “When do pregnancy cravings start?”

There is no need to look for clues because pregnancy cravings are difficult to resist.

You will have a hard time working against the food you desire. You will feel weak just thinking about eating and consuming it. You will drool over it and feel more than satisfied once you eat it. You will give in without any hesitations. You would throw a full-blown temper tantrum if you could not have it.

Simply put - you will not care about what is causing your strong urge for a specific food. You want to deal with it, pronto.

Food Cravings vs. Food Aversions

Pregnancy indeed spurs a particular reaction all on its own. Pregnant women will find they have extreme taste turn-offs, just as they have extreme taste turn-ons.

You will experience food aversion - which means thoughts of food you previously liked will repulse you. It often comes with morning sickness and nausea and will make you very uncomfortable. Your mind will feel as if you hate the taste or you will have trouble swallowing and stomaching it.

The strong urge to avoid foods you loathe is a big nutritional challenge. Given your pregnancy, you need to supply and maintain your body’s nutrition for your sake and the baby’s. Gravitating towards pregnancy cravings or their alternatives become particularly helpful here.

Ways to Deal with Cravings

It is entirely understandable to have pregnancy cravings. But you need to be careful with what you eat so that you do not derail your or your baby’s proper nutrition! Certain foods may result in weight gain. Others may increase the risk of diabetes or unhealthy blood pressure levels.

There is no need to feel confused or scared. Here is how you can stay on track.

Eat a good variety of healthy foods to have a balanced diet.

A balanced diet includes fruits, vegetables and, starchy foods like bread, rice, grains, pasta, and potatoes. It also contains non-dairy protein such as meat, fish, eggs, and nuts. Lastly, a balanced diet consists of milk and dairy products, not to mention, sugar.

A healthy mix of food choices will also definitely help with the baby’s nutritional needs.

Indulge, but never over-indulge.

One second you are thinking, “when do pregnancy cravings start,and the next thing you know, you are indulging in a feast. Women will have different pregnancy cravings - from sweets to salty snacks to sour food.

It will be hard not to act on the desire to consume a particular food, but there should be limits. Too much sugar may lead to excessive weight gain, high blood pressure, or dental problems. That’ll be bad for because it will also affect the baby. You can indulge, but just never over-indulge.

Try to get lower-calorie alternatives for your pregnancy cravings.

Pregnant women usually crave sweet treats, but these aren’t exactly good for the body when consumed excessively. You may need to try and get lower-calorie alternatives for occasional days. Instead of having full premium ice cream, mix and match between low-fat fudge bars or frozen yogurt. Also, try to indulge in sorbet or fruit bars.

Who knows? Maybe you’d develop a bigger craving for lower-calorie foods!

Nibble on food instead of bingeing it.

Eating small amounts of food is preferable to excessive consumption. Pregnancy cravings are one thing, but gluttony? That’s something else. When you need to satisfy your sweet urge, get a fun-sized chocolate bar instead of a big one. When you need lots of chips to dip into your special weird sauce, get a small bag to limit fat intake.

Get your kitchen stocked with your pregnancy cravings and nibble it in between meals. If it helps, you can divide up your food into specific quantities or amounts during different times of the day.

Remember to be physically active.

It will help if your doctor permits you to include regular physical activities in your day to day life. There may be moments when you couldn’t control your pregnancy cravings at all. You will have unhealthy choices, and that may take a toll on your overall fitness.

Exercising will also benefit you by strengthening your muscles, and helping your body cope with the pains of pregnancy.

Be open to the doctor about unhealthy cravings.

Some women have bizarre and harmful cravings such as dirt, chalk, or clay. If you start to crave substances like these with no nutritional value, you need to talk to your doctor ASAP. Resisting the urge to eat it may be hard, but you’ll be putting your precious baby at risk if you don’t seek help.  

Ways to Avoid Cravings

We sometimes see cravings as a dieter’s worst enemy. But for a pregnant woman, it’s more intense! You can’t just indulge in everything that you like. It is a big NO-NO!

Even if it’s one of the most potent forces in life, you need to get a handle on what you eat. Or at least - when you eat it. Here’s how you can avoid your uncontrollable pregnancy cravings:

Get substitutes for the unhealthy cravings.

You may be conscientious about taking care of your body, but you won’t be able to do anything once you’re pregnant. You will want food even if it isn’t good for you. No questions asked. However, if you continue to give in to every craving, health problems may arise.

An excellent way to avoid these cravings is to get substitutes. If you find yourself craving for doughnuts and sweet pastries, eat a regular bagel or a toast with jam instead. If you’re drooling over chocolates, why not just drink chocolate milk? You can also eat popcorn to avoid overeating potato chips.

These may not be the healthiest substitutes for the treats you crave. But it will help you eat less of what will make you unhealthy while satisfying your hunger.

Distract yourself by doing different activities.

You don’t have to be the slave of your cravings all the time. You can do pretty much anything so that the food doesn’t cross your mind and you’re busy the whole day. The key is to distract yourself in whatever way possible.

Take a long, relaxing bath, and set the mood with candles, scents, and music. Avail massage services to soothe your pains. Breezewalk in the park or your village when the weather is nice. Binge-watch your favorite TV show together with your best friends. Stock up on your motherhood knowledge by reading a book. Have spontaneous sex with your partner if you both feel like it.

Distract yourself. Do other things instead of giving in to your food cravings.

Eat low-glycaemic-index (GI) foods.

By including healthy, low glycaemic index (GI) foods in your meals, you are sure to achieve a balanced diet. It will also keep you full for a more extended period. Some of the healthy low-GI foods you can eat are whole grain foods, fruits, vegetables, and baked beans.

If you’re not motivated to eat these foods to get rid of your cravings, think about your child’s future health. It is a safe and effective way to ensure your baby grows at a healthy rate!

Get a restful sleep.

A human being’s appetite is said to be primarily affected by hormones that fluctuate throughout the day. If you become sleep-deprived, that may well lead to poor appetite regulation and intense food cravings.

An effective way to put off cravings is being in a position where you don’t have to avoid it at all.Get enough rest by taking naps during the day and embrace a restful sleep come night time.

Remember to take proper meals every single day.

This one is a basic rule you probably know even before getting pregnant.

Never skip on proper meals so that you don’t get hungry. Hunger, including the lack of certain nutrients, causes specific food cravings. You are only putting yourself in a tougher spot every time you skip on your meals. If you’re not too hungry, you should at least have a snack in hand to keep you busy.

Get the help of your family in creating a healthy eating plan if you want a balanced diet. It will also be good for you if you have someone constantly reminding you to take your meals.

Do your groceries only when you’re full.

Getting hungry and being in a grocery store is an unhealthy combination. It is unlikely you’ll leave without carrying a basket full of your pregnancy cravings.

You have temptations all around you. You can pretty much get any food you can think of because everything’s at eye level.

It’s ideal to get someone else to do the groceries. But if you’re not that kind of person, then you should probably eat before going to the supermarket. If you come to the store feeling full, you can control your unwanted cravings and impulse buying. At the same time, you get to avoid spending all your money.

Alternative to Most Common Cravings

Maybe you’re avoiding a specific craving because it’s already a health risk. Or perhaps you don’t have access to it, and you badly want to eat food which tastes the same.

Whatever your reason, you can still satisfy your pregnancy cravings without abusing and overeating a particular food.

According to nutritionist Liz Lipski, Ph.D., CCN, you can give in to healthful cravings. But if it lacks beneficial nutrients, look for alternatives. Before automatically reaching for the food you crave, take a few seconds to understand what your body is telling you. Do you need something sweet, greasy, or salty?

Here are the best alternatives to the most common cravings to keep you going in the right direction:  


TRY: Fresh fruits, fruit-juice popsicles, sparkling water, dark chocolate, yogurt

Sweets are said to be the most common pregnancy craving. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner – all you can think about is dessert. If the need for sugar kicks in, you’ll find satisfaction in fresh fruits and cold treats. These good substitutes are sweet and flavorful energy-filled foods. It’s also best if you choose food with fewer calories and high nutrient content.



TRY: Frozen yogurt

A bowl of ice cream is harmless. But to a pregnant woman who’s badly craving it, that might spell disaster. If you are craving something sweet and cold, it’s better to eat frozen yogurt. You can be creative with it by adding sliced bananas, corn flakes, and chocolate syrup.

WHEN YOU’RE CRAVING: Potato chips or pretzels

TRY: Popcorn

Salty cravings are way too common. But you don’t always need to feed your body sodium. The next time you want to grab some chips or pretzels,  try popcorn instead. Three cups of oil-popped popcorn contain 120 calories and are less than three cups of chips, which has 450 calories. You can even enjoy it unbuttered and lightly salted so that you have the satisfaction of the salty kick.


TRY: Sparkling water (optional: with a dash of fresh fruit juice)

Yes, there’s a good alternative to sweet, cold, and carbonated drinks. Try sparkling water with a slice of lemon - it’ll give you the refreshing energy hit without the excessive sugar.


TRY: Whole grain cereals

You may prefer whole wheat pasta over regular pasta made of flour. But even if that’s the case, it should only be eaten in moderation. Carbs are comforting but will bring havoc on your blood sugar if you don’t control it.

Forget about the pasta. Try delicious and healthy whole grain cereals instead.


TRY: Nuts and beans or hummus

If you’re craving greasy foods like a cheeseburger, you can turn to protein. Try eating nuts or grains, or whole wheat bread dipped in hummus or nut butter. It’s not as flavorful as the burger, but it’ll also give you satisfaction.

What Are Extreme Pregnancy Cravings?

Some pregnant women may want to indulge in dangerous food and non-food cravings. These extreme cases need the intervention and consultation of the doctor to avoid harming the baby. Some of the prohibited cravings include:

  • Alcohol
  • Uncooked or undercooked eggs, fish, or meat
  • Fish with high levels of mercury
  • Unpasteurized juices or dairy products
  • Pica (clay, dirt, paper, and chalk)
  • Baking soda
  • Cigarette ashes
  • Toothpaste
  • Mothballs

Don’t even think about getting alternatives for each of these bizarre cravings. You better stick to the healthy food options, or at least, the real edible ones.

Pregnancy cravings give such mysterious and intense food fantasies you never knew you’d have. The seemingly unquenchable and irresistible longing for specific food may be a crazy ride, especially for the first time expecting mothers.

But don’t worry! As long as you know how you deal with them (now you do), you’re pretty much set for satisfaction and happiness.

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