Why Do Some People Crave Junk Food In Early Pregnancy?

Although pregnancy cravings are common, not everyone has them. It's estimated that more than half of pregnant people have food cravings during pregnancy (via Insider). There's no clear-cut reason why some people do and some people don't, or even why they occur in the first place.

Yet, there are some ideas and the main theories center around hormones and nutrition (via Healthline). Whether pregnancy food cravings result from hormonal changes or nutrition deficiencies is an ongoing debate.

In one camp you have those who say that your body craves what it needs, so if you're craving ice cream and cheese, you need extra calcium, and an intense desire for red meat translates into requiring more protein. On the other hand, early pregnancy brings about intense hormonal swings which can affect your taste.

No matter why cravings start, once they set in, the need to have those foods we crave becomes intense. In early pregnancy, craving junk food is common. Here's why.

Why you may crave junk food when pregnant

When cravings begin, you have an intense need to consume things like pickles and ice cream or burgers, pizza, and chocolate. On top of that, the food combinations may be very different from what you would typically eat.

OB-GYN ‚Äč‚ÄčEmily Jacobs, MD says, "Some research suggests that Neuropeptide Y (NPY), which stimulates the appetite, is increased in pregnant women in response to hormone changes," she explains (via Yahoo! Life). "Couple that with the fact that pregnancy gives you a heightened sense of smell, which in turn alters your taste buds, and suddenly craving french fries for breakfast doesn't seem so strange."

In addition, the most common pregnancy cravings include dairy, sweets, and anything that's salty and spicy, so that basically covers all the main areas of junk food (via WebMD).

Another reason why you may turn to junk food during early pregnancy is that it may be the only food you can keep down when you're having major food aversions. When you simply cannot stomach regular meals and your go-to egg breakfast makes you retch, grabbing a carb-laden with salt can sometimes quell your nausea, while also providing you with some calories, sodium, and carbohydrates.

How to satisfy your junk food cravings during pregnancy

Indulging in a junk food craving here and there isn't harmful and won't affect your pregnancy as long as you enjoy it in moderation. Yet, your focus should always be on consuming the most nutritionally dense foods during pregnancy, especially once food aversions and nausea end. When you resort to eating junk food regularly for meals, the nutritional content you're consuming will be low, and that's not optimal for fetal development (via MomJunction).

Also, when consuming junk food on a regular basis, you may gain more weight than necessary which can result in gestational diabetes and an increase in pregnancy discomforts like heartburn, back pain, swelling, and digestive issues.

Remember that cravings are temporary and having a small serving of what you want usually takes care of the urge. If possible, try swapping out junk for a healthier substitute (via The Bump). Instead of potato chips, make some homemade popcorn. If you're craving sweets, try fruit before you grab a candy bar. In place of ice cream, opt for frozen yogurt with natural ingredients.