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Food cravings during pregnancy

4-minute read

What are food cravings?

Food cravings are sudden urges to eat a certain type of food or non-food (pica). They are a real experience and affect many females during pregnancy.

Sometimes you might crave common foods such as chocolate cake or apples. Sometimes you might want to eat unusual food combinations or a foods that you normally don’t like.

Common food cravings include ice cream, chocolate, other sweet foods, fish, dairy products, and fruit.

Why do cravings develop?

No one really knows why food cravings develop. However, there is no evidence of a link between cravings and nutrient deficiency.

Many pregnant women also develop a sudden dislike for certain strong-tasting and strong-smelling foods.

Food cravings and sudden food dislikes may have something to with the effects of pregnancy hormones, which can change the way some foods taste and smell.

What to do about food cravings

It is OK to give in to the occasional food craving, as long as you continue to eat a good variety of healthy foods.

If you are craving a lot of unhealthy foods, such as sweets or chocolate, try not to over-indulge. Too much sugar can cause excessive weight gain and dental problems. Also, if you have gestational diabetes, it won’t help you manage your condition.

Your doctor, midwife, dietitian or maternal and child health nurse can provide more information about healthy weight gain during pregnancy. Generally, a healthy weight gain during pregnancy is 5kg to 12kg, depending on your starting weight.

Some tips for managing cravings

The following suggestions will help you to manage your food cravings:

  • eat regular, healthy meals, to help prevent sudden feelings of hunger
  • keep your pantry stocked with healthy snacks
  • don’t do the grocery shopping when you are hungry
  • choose healthy, low glycaemic index (GI) foods that keep you full for longer (such as unsweetened rolled oats (porridge), wholegrain breads, baked beans, and fresh fruit)
  • get plenty of sleep (research has shown that people who are sleep deprived tend to crave junk food more often than healthy foods)
  • remain physically active
  • drink plenty of water
  • clean your teeth regularly

If you would like to learn more about nutritional needs during your pregnancy you can see a dietitian.

What foods should I avoid?

When you are pregnant, there are a few foods that you should avoid.

Things like:

  • raw or unpasteurised dairy products
  • soft cheeses e.g. brie, goats cheese
  • sushi
  • raw eggs
  • pate, meat spreads and smoked seafood
  • ready to eat sliced deli meats
  • undercooked food – especially meat

These can contain harmful bacteria, including salmonella and E. coli. and lead to harmful illnesses such as listeria or toxoplasmosis.

Make sure you prepare and store foods safely.

Read more about the foods to avoid during your pregnancy.

Alcohol

There is no safe level of alcohol that you can drink during your pregnancy. Alcohol can harm your unborn baby.

Whether you are planning a pregnancy, already pregnant or breastfeeding, not drinking is the safest option.

Non-food cravings

Some pregnant women develop a craving to eat substances that are not food, such as chalk, clay, laundry starch or soap. This is a condition called pica.

Pica may indicate a mineral deficiency or severe anaemia. Pica is rare in well-nourished women from developed countries such as Australia.

See your doctor, midwife, or nurse if you develop cravings for non-food items.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: June 2022


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Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

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