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A brief guide to some of the most common foods women crave during a nine-month pregnancy cycle. 

Pickles, grapefruit, and ice cream. A sub-par combination for most, but a delicacy for one with pregnancy cravings. Although women will often experience some type of food cravings or aversions throughout the first, second, and third trimesters of their nine month cycle, little is known as to why women crave certain flavors, textures, and food combinations when expecting but not post-partum.

Top food cravings during pregnancy:

  1. Chili Peppers. Spicy foods are a popular craving among pregnant women. One theory suggests this is because the body is often in need of cooling down during pregnancy. Eating spice generates the effect of cooling down on the body, triggering a craving for a particularly distinct taste.
  2. Dark Chocolate. Both rich with antioxidants and flavour, dark chocolate satisfies pregnancy’s increased caloric needs.

    Woman enjoying a slice of chocolate cake.
  3. Vanilla Ice Cream. Also in line with the idea that the body is always looking to cool down, some suggest ice cream not only satisfies a sweet tooth, but is also high in calcium and iron. This rich ingredient is a popular craving for these nutrients. There are however, other, healthier options available to satiate a craving for calcium or iron (i.e. kale, almonds, fish).

    Woman in sunglasses enjoying a cup of vanilla ice-cream.
  4. Pickles. Along with the usual salty suspects, foods like potato crisps and pickles are a response to an increase in blood volume because they are high in sodium.
  5. Grapefruit. Sour citrus fruits such as lemons, and others such as grapefruit are low in natural sugar and high in vitamins and nutrients like vitamin C. This craving supports the popular hypothesis that the body craves food in which it is deficient.

    Sliced grapefruit on chopping board and plates.
  6. Rice. Starchy foods such as potatoes, pasta, and bread are popular cravings. Rice is a particularly interesting one because some research suggests it is culturally dependent. For instance, women in the Untied States are more likely to crave highly palatable foods such as chocolate, while women in Japan tend to crave rice. This suggests something to do with country specific cultural expectations about food and pregnancy.
  7. Dirt and clay. Yes, sometimes pregnant women crave non-food items such as ice, dirt, clay, soap, or chalk. These are unsafe to consume and may hint towards an iron deficiency. In more extreme cases, where the body cannot obtain certain vitamins or minerals from food substances, the body can develop Pica.

Why do pregnant women get food cravings? 

Woman eating a serving of hot noodles.

Pregnant women with food cravings or aversions does not last post-partum. This begs the question as to why pregnant women have a tendency to change their appetite for certain foods during pregnancy. Here a few hypotheses:

  • A popular suggestion is that pregnant women crave foods they themselves, or the fetus, have a deficiency in. The body craves what it lacks. For instance, a rare craving for citrus fruit such as Oranges might be a lack in Vitamin C, etc. An obvious link is the body increases a need for certain vitamins and minerals during pregnancy and expresses their absence in diet through cravings.
  • Others have suggested cravings and aversions to specific foods also have something to do with the manner in which pregnancy hormones can affect senses such as taste or smell.
Woman enjoying a meal of tacos with chillies.
  • Some scientific research has also suggested that although popular belief looks at biochemical justification for food cravings during pregnancy, they differ from country to country. Women in Japan for instance, had a higher reporting of craving starchy food like rice, whereas women in the United States had a higher case of craving for highly palatable foods such as fries, chocolate, and sweets. Indeed, this suggests cravings may have something to do with physiological factors or culture. This hypothesis challenges the idea that hormone levels influence food cravings.
Woman in pink enjoying ice-cream in a cone.
  • Some old wives tales suggest the baby’s gender has an influence on the types of cravings their mothers have. For instance, citrus cravings have often been associated to girls. Others suggest craving salty foods means the baby is a boy, whereas craving sweet foods means the baby is a girl.
Woman taking a bike into a sour lemon.

Side note: The only legitimate way of predicting a baby’s gender is through a skilled sonographer recommended by your doctor.

Whether a craving for ice cream means the body needs to cool down, or one for lemonade means one is having a baby girl, we still do not know enough about why women crave certain foods when they’re expecting. What is for sure, is that some foods are just not meant to be consumed at the rate some pregnant women crave during their cycle.

A happy couple presenting their sonogram.

 

 

Only 50 per cent of Australians eat the right amount of fruit and vegetables. Here are some tried and true tips, tricks and strategies to include more fruits and vegetables in your family diet.   

We all know that fruits and vegetables are good for us, and there is very good research confirming this. Not only do fruit and vegetables have protective effects for reducing our chance of getting cancer and heart disease, but anyone who eats the recommended amounts of two fruits and five vegetables are more likely to be a healthy weight.  

Adults are recommended to eat two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables, legumes or beans. The recommendations for children can be seen in the table. 

      Serves per day* 
    13-23 months  2-3 years  4-8 years  9-11 years  12-13 years  14-18 years 
Vegetables and legumes/beans  Boy  2-3  2 ½   4 ½   5  5 ½   5 ½  
Girl  2-3  2 ½   4 ½   5  5  5 
               
Fruit  Boy  ½   1  1 ½   2  2  2 
Girl  ½   1  1 ½   2  2  2 

 

*Additional amounts may be needed by children who are taller or more active 

What is a serve? 

A standard serve of vegetables is about 75g or: 

  • ½ cup cooked vegetables 
  • ½ cup cooked or canned beans, peas or lentils 
  • 1 cup salad vegetables 
  • ½ medium potato (no chips!) 
  • 1 medium tomato 

 

A standard serve of fruit is about 150g or: 

  • 1 medium apple, banana, orange or pear 
  • 2 small apricots, kiwi fruit or plums 
  • 1 cup canned fruit (no added sugar) 

 

Tip 1: Chat about Fruits and Vegetables 

Do you know what your children’s favourite fruit and vegetable is? I found it a fun exercise to ask my children. My seven year old daughter said mango and broccoli, and my three year old son said banana and carrot. This question led into a chat about fruits and vegetables and why they are so important in our diet. It is important to keep any conversation about food fun, light hearted and age appropriate.  

 I like to tell my children that fruits and vegetables are ‘super’ foods because of their different colours. For example, strawberries have folate in them which is important for our blood cells to grow. Mandarins and oranges have Vitamin C to help us stay well and heal cuts and bruises. Broccoli and baby spinach contain Vitamin A which is important to help us see at night and grow strong teeth. An easy way to find out more about fruits and vegetables is to Google them! 

 

Berry Smoothie
Serve 2
1 cup milk
½ cup baby spinach
½ cup frozen berries
2 tsp vanilla essence
½ cup ice

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Can add some honey to taste if desired. The spinach is hidden by the delicious berries!

Tip 2: Are they really hungry? 

If only I had a dollar for every time I heard one of my children say ‘I’m hungry’! My three year old will say this often after finishing his breakfast of three Weetbix, some oats and sultanas. So I am pretty confident that he isn’t hungry and I use this opportunity to ask him if his tummy is making hungry sounds or if he would like to play with his trains/get out his crayons or read a book. Usually it is just boredom and once I have set him up in an activity he is happy. 

Children have little tummies and can easily fill up on milk or juice (which I say doesn’t count as a serve of fruit because most juices don’t contain fibre). It can be useful to keep a food diary for a few days of what your child is eating as this can provide some clues on areas to improve. 

Tip 3: Encouragement and Praise

Children need to be offered, and encouraged, to eat foods. Vegetables are the most often rejected food – but each vegetable needs to be offered at least eight times before becoming a trusted and accepted food. I know just how frustrating it can be to see a child eat only one pea and refuse any more but the key is repetition, encouragement and praise.  

The jury is still out on rewards. The long standing ‘eat all your vegetables and you can have some ice cream’ can do more harm than good. If this is something that you are saying most nights then it probably isn’t working. The time when rewards of this nature can work is to encourage a child to try a food. If your child is refusing to even try different fruits or vegetables, a promise of a reward can work to encourage tasting, but after this it loses its value and may even cause a child to dislike a food even more. Beware of this backfiring! Noticing when they have made an effort and commenting on this goes a long way to improving eating habits. 

Tips from other Mums!

– Be creative and use cutters to cut fruit and vegetables into shapes

– Hide the vegetables!

– Eat together as a family

– Get the children to help prepare and cook the meal. From about the age of two children can start to use peelers to peel carrots/potatoes/sweet potatoes

– Grow some vegetables in your backyard

– Make fresh fruit ice lollies – puree some watermelon and add some sliced bananas, kiwi fruit and strawberries and put in ice moulds

– Frozen peas and corn make great snacks over the warmer months

– Vegetable pizzas with different vegetable pictures, such as a garden – broccoli for trees, carrot and peas for flowers

– Lots of different vegetables in small amounts often work better than just a couple of vegetables in big quantities

Tip 4: Plan to eat fruit and vegetables 

As parents we are in the powerful position of influencing what our children eat – but of course we aren’t the only influence – and our level of influence decreases as the children get older. So start early is my advice! If children see their parents eating and enjoying plenty of fruit and vegetables, then children are more likely to do the same. Children are more likely to adopt healthy eating behaviours when they have more than one person to imitate – so recruit as many family members as possible! 

 Children are often wary of foods, particularly foods that they haven’t enjoyed previously. Dinner time can be a particularly difficult time of day to encourage children to eat as they are often tired after a long day. If this is the case try lunch time and snacks to offer new fruits and vegetables when they are likely to be more receptive. Whole pieces of fruit such as bananas, apples and pears, or offering tomato and avocado on crackers or some vegetables sticks with peanut butter or a dip, are some easy, healthy snack options. 

Tip 5: Shop together 

I know that shopping with children is often one of the least favourite things to do. It is frustrating how things can take longer, packets can jump off shelves courtesy of little hands, and tantrums can occur. Consider visiting a fruit and vegetable market or your local farmers market with your child or children as an outing and opportunity for them to choose a fruit or vegetable that is in season that they would like to try. The rule is that whatever your child chooses you must buy and prepare, and you as the parent must try the food too. 

Empowering your child to make decisions about fruits and vegetables means they are more likely to try the food because they have been involved in the process.  

Finally, consistency plays a big role in getting children to eat their fruit and vegetables. There are always going to be those days where it comes down to a boiled egg and toast for dinner – but it is all about what happens most of the time.