Pickles and ice cream

It’s equally as exciting as it is kinda freaky: Pregnancy cravings. They’re different for every woman, and once most find out they’re pregnant, they can’t help but wonder if they’ll be woken up in the middle of the night with an urge to dip pickles in ice cream or Oreos in ketchup.

But, not all pregnant women even get cravings.

Early on in my pregnancy, I had the opposite of cravings. I was overwhelmed with many aversions to foods I once loved. I let my beloved homegrown kale plants wither and wilt because the thought of even plucking those leaves turned my stomach. I couldn’t stand the site of much beyond toast and applesauce. And even that was eaten with contempt.

But like most women, as the second trimester began, my appetite soon returned. I kept waiting and waiting for the urge to pour mustard on (vegan) ice cream or chocolate sauce on my broccoli, but no such urges have compelled me. Yet. I’ve still got a few months to go, though.

I’ve heard of women not only having profoundly strange food cravings, but also developing pica—a craving for nonfood items like dirt, cardboard, sofa cushions, even cigarette butts.

There were a few consecutive nights when I couldn’t get enough vegan sushi. And for several months, I went through about $50 worth of olives a week. But nothing stranger than that.

According to Baby Center, our hormonal changes affect our sense of taste and smell, which can lead to our unusual cravings (and those nasty aversions).  My midwife says we’re seven times more sensitive when we’re pregnant, so that can mean the things we like, we really like a lot, and the things we don’t like, we really can’t stand. There may even be serious issues behind certain cravings, including vitamin or mineral deficiencies, but the science is still out on this. Some experts say that’s the case—even if what you’re craving doesn’t have the nutrient you need—and others say there simply isn’t any conclusive evidence.

A recent study (on monkeys) showed indulging in high-fat cravings during pregnancy could have negative implications for the baby. According to Forbes magazine, “being exposed to a high-fat diet while in the womb, and after birth, can permanently alter brain cells that control food consumption and lead to a propensity for over-eating and an increased preference for fatty and sugary foods.” But it wasn’t clear what high fats foods were ingested. Could healthy fats such as olive oil, avocados, or nuts and seeds have the same result as macaroni and cheese, ice cream or a candy bar?  

As a vegan, I was concerned about craving meat. I’ve heard that happening to some pregnant vegans…and if the mainstream pressure to eat meat—not just while pregnant—isn’t annoying enough, I was terrified of having to battle my own urges. But I’ve had no cravings for meat, eggs or dairy products. I have found pigs considerably cuter than normal, though.

Of course, the bigger issue than weird pregnancy cravings is indulging in unhealthy cravings. All things in moderation, except perhaps gnawing on cigarette butts, should be okay during pregnancy, but a bowl of ice cream—vegan or not—should never take the place of a healthy meal rich in whole grains and fresh vegetables.

What I’m craving most right now may be due to the pregnancy, the hot Los Angeles summer or the fact that I’ve not had a drink in seven months: a nice cold craft-brewed vegan beer. Only eleven weeks to go…

Read the entire series:

Vegan, 40, and Pregant, Part One

Vegan, 40, and Pregnant, Part Two

Vegan, 40, and Pregnant, Part Three

Vegan, 40, and Pregnant, Part Four

Vegan, 40, and Pregnant, Part Five

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: vegan feast catering