Why Do Pregnant Women Have Food Cravings?

Many ask themselves –  why do pregnant women have food cravings?  I know I’ve wondered about this. While there’s no exact answer to why this happens, theories exist that pregnancy hormones elevate your sense of taste and smell, leading to both food aversions and cravings. Another theory suggests that it is your body’s way of reimbursing deficiencies. For instance, a calcium deficiency often leads to craving ice cream.

During pregnancy, your body changes to prepare for birth, and one of the most intriguing aspects of pregnancy is the occurrence of food cravings. Some women experience rather peculiar cravings like ice cream with pickles. When I was pregnant, I had severe morning sickness during the first trimester, so there weren’t many food options that I could enjoy and keep down. I did crave orange juice, which was strange because it’s not something I normally drink a lot.

During my first trimester, I mainly survived on orange juice, toasted cheese sandwiches, and American fries (oven-baked). Did you have any weird food cravings? Let’s delve deeper into the phenomenon of pregnancy cravings and some of the most common food cravings women reported.

Why Do Pregnant Women Have Food Cravings?

why do pregnant women have food cravings

Here are some of the reasons behind food cravings during pregnancy:

1. Hormonal Changes

While expecting, hormones play a pivotal role, and the body undergoes substantial hormonal fluctuations. Hormones like progesterone and estrogen can affect smell and taste sensitivity, causing a change in food preferences. In many cases, pregnant women unexpectedly have a stronger desire for some foods.

2. Psychological and Emotional Factors

During pregnancy, your hormones and emotions are all over the place, and your body undergoes psychological changes. I remember having an emotional breakdown the one day when my doggie didn’t want to pee when I took her outside. It sounds totally ridiculous, I know, but it happened. Food is often a source of comfort emotionally. The anxiety, stress, and mood swings that go along with pregnancy can cause food cravings that help your body cope when you’re feeling emotional.

3. Nutritional Needs

During pregnancy, your body needs more nutrients to help support your growing baby. This elevated demand for particular nutrients like vitamins, calcium, and iron might cause food cravings that contain these essential nutrients.

4. Social and Cultural Influences

Social and cultural factors can also lead to food cravings. Cultural practices, family traditions, and social expectations can impact a pregnant woman’s food preferences. In addition, during pregnancy, you might be bombarded by advice from family, colleagues, friends, and even strangers about what you should or shouldn’t eat while expecting.

Top 10 Pregnancy Cravings

Here are some of the most common pregnancy food cravings reported by expectant mothers.

Ice Cream With Pickles

This craving is one of the most common and iconic pregnancy food cravings. The contrasting flavors may be caused by hormonal changes, with the pickle satisfying a craving for acidic foods, while the sweet ice cream may provide a comforting contrast.

Related: Tomato craving during pregnancy – is it good or bad?


Let’s face it—chocolate is one of the most popular cravings—even for women who are not expecting, so it comes as no surprise why it’s included in this list. A craving for chocolate during pregnancy might also be due to magnesium deficiency in the body. This delectable snack is packed with magnesium, essential for nerve and muscle function.

Related: 10 Benefits of dark chocolate for pregnant moms

Spicy Foods

Spicy foods are generally not recommended because they might exacerbate heartburn, often experienced during pregnancy. However, hormonal fluctuations that elevate smell and taste sensitivity frequently result in a craving for spicy foods.


If you have a vitamin C deficiency, you might crave citrus fruits like lemons and oranges. Not only are these fruits delicious and refreshing, but they are also packed with excellent nutritional value. So, go ahead and include them in your eating plan.

Red Meat

When I was expecting my son, the smell of meat cooking made me extremely nauseous. However, some women crave red meat because of an iron deficiency. Red meat is a good source of heme iron that is quickly absorbed by your body, supplementing the added demand for this vital nutrient.

Sour Foods

Craving for sour foods like vinegar or sour candies might be blamed on the fluctuation of taste perception when you’re pregnant. The tangy flavor can offer a satisfying and refreshing taste sensation.


Cravings for unhealthy carbs like bread and pasta may be associated with your body’s increased need for energy during pregnancy. Remember, you are growing a little human. When I asked my doctor what foods I should or shouldn’t eat during pregnancy, his advice was that it might signal a deficiency if my body craves certain foods. There were no strict rules about what foods I should avoid.

I just followed my instincts and steered clear from obvious no-go’s like fish (which could lead to mercury poisoning), deli foods (salmonella poisoning), etc. Carbohydrates are excellent sources of energy, that’s why you might crave them while expecting to replenish your energy levels.

Salty Snacks

Craving salty snacks during pregnancy might be linked to fluctuations in blood volume and your body’s effort to maintain a healthy electrolyte balance.


Cravings for dairy products like ice cream or cheese could signal a calcium deficiency, a vital nutrient during pregnancy. As your little one’s teeth and bones develop, your body will need more calcium, which could result in a craving for dairy.

Junk Food

Psychological or emotional factors often lead to junk food cravings, especially during pregnancy when you experience mood swings and hormonal changes.

Final Thoughts

Why do pregnant women have food cravings? The precise science behind these food cravings is not conclusive. However, it’s clear that nutritional, cultural, and hormonal factors contribute to this. If you are expecting, don’t be too hard on yourself and follow your body’s cues.

If you have specific cravings, they might be due to nutrient deficiencies. This is the one time when you don’t have to feel too guilty about indulging in your favorite junk food or chocolate. Once you’ve delivered your baby, you can work on shedding the extra pounds you gained during pregnancy. Embrace your pregnancy symptoms, listen to your body, and enjoy this unique journey.



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