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Pregnancy Cravings: Healthy Alternatives To Control Them

Pregnancy Cravings: Healthy Alternatives To Control Them

Pickles and ice cream, french fries and pizza…

Pregnancy cravings are no joke! When you are craving a certain food, your body tells you have to have it now!

Cravings are a completely normal symptom many women have during pregnancy.

In fact, 84% of women all over the world experience pregnancy cravings.

These cravings are most intense during the first trimester and become less as pregnancy progresses.

While it may be a normal part of pregnancy, many times intense cravings for food signify a lack of essential nutrients for baby and you. Other times there’s simply no explanation.

But how do you control your cravings? By substituting unhealthy pregnancy cravings with healthier alternatives!

Here’s some common pregnancy cravings, what they mean and what to substitute for them.

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Where do cravings come from?

Honestly, no one really knows. Each pregnancy is different for each woman and the scientific community can’t seem to agree either.

According to some doctors, cravings for certain foods signal a nutritional deficiency.

Other doctors believe pregnancy cravings are attributed to a heightened sense of smell.

Then, others think pregnancy hormones are to blame and women seek out foods that are comforting to them.

Like I said… No one really agrees on one set theory when it comes to cravings.

Whatever the cause of cravings may be, there’s no scientific evidence to suggest where pregnancy cravings come from.

When does a pregnancy craving become dangerous?

Believe it or not, some pregnant women don’t crave the usual pickles and ice cream.

Some pregnant women will get cravings for non-food items that include…

  • Dirt
  • Ice
  • Sand
  • Coffee grounds
  • Stones
  • Toothpaste
  • Soap
  • Burnt matches

Obviously by looking at the list above, you can tell many of these items are not good for you or baby.

If you find yourself craving/eating non-food substances, don’t be embarrassed and don’t panic.

Craving non-food items is a sign of Pica.

Like common pregnancy cravings, experts are not really sure what causes pica.

However, the Journal of American Dietetic Association believes there is a connection between low iron and pica.

Other experts theorize eating non-food substances is the body’s way of getting missing vitamins and minerals.

If you are experiencing pica by craving/eating non-food items, talk to your healthcare provider immediately.

Your doctor can perform a variety of tests to see if your pica is caused by a nutritional deficiency.

Without management, pica can cause nutrient absorption issues potentially causing a nutritional deficiency.

Also, eating non-food items like the list above expose you and baby to unhealthy toxins.

Common cravings and healthy alternatives

Salty Foods

Salty food cravings include…

  • Pickles
  • Chips
  • French fries
  • Lunch meat
  • Bacon

Just to name a few…

If you’re craving salty foods, it could mean your body is needing more sodium due to an increase in blood volume from being pregnant.

While some of these salty foods like pickles are perfectly healthy, others like French fries and chips need to be eaten in moderation.

So. what are some healthy salty alternatives?

If you want to indulge in salty foods without the guilt try simply adding salt to everyday meals.

Instead of eating excessive salt amounts in processed foods, you can add table salt or sea salt to just about anything.

If that still doesn’t do it for you and you’re still craving potato chips….

Try roasted chickpeas.

I love roasted chickpeas! This is my go-to healthy snack. Roasted in the oven, chickpeas will give you the crunch and saltiness you’re craving.

Plus, they’re packed full of protein, magnesium and potassium!


Sweet Foods

For many pregnant women, this is the ultimate indulgence craving! Anything sweet!

Cravings for sugar could be blamed on pregnancy hormones or it’s simply a comfort food.

Candy, donuts, pastries…

If you’re having a major sweet tooth during your pregnancy, you’re not alone.

During my pregnancy, I ate so many bowls of Lucky Charms cereal. It had the perfect amount of crunch and sweetness I couldn’t deny!

Of course, I sometimes cried into the bowl of my Lucky Charms because I only wanted the marshmallows and not the crunchies. Stupid pregnancy hormones!

Too many sweets during pregnancy not only packs on unnecessary pounds, but can put you at risk for gestational diabetes.

Some women do have an increased risk of diabetes during pregnancy, so know your risk and curb your sweet tooth.

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Here’s some healthy alternatives for your sweet tooth:

  • Dark chocolate (packed with antioxidants and magnesium)
  • Fruit (make a fruit and veggie smoothie)
  • Berries (full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties)
  • Snack bars (look for high fiber, no added sugars and whole foods)
  • Greek yogurt (gives you some added protein)
  • Dates (dried; packed with iron, potassium and fiber)
  • Sweet potatoes (filled with vitamin A and C, fiber and potassium)
  • Trail mix


Soft Drinks

Not always can you deny the sweet fizziness of a soda!

Although soda and energy drinks are satisfying at times, they really serve no nutritional value for you and baby.

Along with useless calories that add extra weight to your pregnancy, soft drinks contain high amounts of sugar and caffeine.

While you could drink diet soda’s occasionally, research suggests diet soda’s are just as bad as regular. This is due to substitute (fake) sugars in diet soda’s.

What are some healthy alternatives for a pregnancy craving of soda?

Something that’s both sweet and fizzy is sparkling water. Many people have replaced sugary soda’s with flavored sparkling water.

While I’m not a fan of drinking sparkling water, you may want to give it a try to curb your craving!

Just make sure you read the label because many sparkling waters are loaded with artificial sweeteners.

But there are sparkling waters with natural sugar that are delicious!


I’m not going to lie… I love cheese and basically all dairy. I feel like my life wouldn’t be complete without it.

A common craving during pregnancy is ice cream. Although this also falls under the sweet craving category, it’s technically a dairy.

If you’re eating tons of dairy products it could be your body telling you to increase your calcium intake.

Dairy products you may have a craving for include…

  • Milk
  • Cream
  • Cheeses
  • Yogurt

If you’re having a dairy craving, lucky for you all of these are already healthy options (within moderation).

Dairy products are full of protein to help your baby grow.


However, there are a few things you need to be careful with!

  1. Always make sure the diary you’re consuming is pasteurized.
  2. Avoid cheeses that are moldy such as blue cheese.
  3. Ice cream is full of sugar and causes weight gain if consumed too often.
  4. Too many dairy products cause either constipation or diarrhea (depending on how sensitive your stomach is to dairy).

Of course, you already know this, but I feel I need to tell you anyway.

If you would like a healthy alternative to ice cream with less sugar and fats, try frozen yogurt!

How To Curb Those Pregnancy Cravings

Now that you have some healthy alternatives for your worst cravings, let’s look at ways to control your cravings from the start.

Amazingly, it is possible to conquer your pregnancy cravings before they even begin!

This happens by first identifying what your worst cravings are and then take actions each day to control them.

Here’s how to control your worst pregnancy cravings…

Eat frequent meals

By eating smaller portions spaced through the day can help you avoid sudden drops in blood sugar.

I find the best way to eat smaller meals up to 6 times a day is by planning. Plan out a menu and shop for healthy food items.

Then, divide those food items into smaller portions and prep meals ahead of time by storing in pre-portioned food containers.

For instance: Prep smaller portions of salad by dividing up lettuce, cherry tomatoes, grilled chicken, parmesan cheese and whatever else you like.

Now just divide the portioned salads into 4 to 5 storage containers. Do the same for other snack foods.

Eat a balanced diet

A diet balanced with the necessary fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein and legumes.

If your diet does not meet your body’s nutritional needs, you could experience more cravings.

While your prenatal vitamin helps to fill in nutritional gaps, it’s important to still eat a balanced diet.

That means not always giving into your pregnancy cravings and choosing healthier options to satisfy them.

Choose smaller portions for your cravings

If you’re craving ice cream badly, don’t go all out with a banana split loaded with gummy bears. Choose a smaller option!

Instead of a full banana split for you to eat for yourself (and baby) try a small hot fudge sundae.

Although you’re not choosing a healthy option, you are choosing a smaller portion to avoid over-indulgence.

You don’t have to always ignore your cravings! Just choose smaller portions of your cravings.


I don’t have to tell you that exercise is good for both you and baby. You already know!

So, what does exercise have to do with pregnancy cravings?

Exercise can suppress even your strongest cravings. When you exercise your body releases endorphins.

Those endorphins in turn give you a feeling of happiness, which is the same thing that happens when you eat what you’re craving.

Instead of getting a rush of endorphins from food, try getting it from exercise.

Every time you have a strong craving that doesn’t pass on its own, try to exercise to take your mind off of it.

Keep small snacks of hand

Keeping small snacks in your pantry, fridge and purse is an easy way to control your cravings.

Keep and pack healthy snack options like Trailmix and protein bars to snack on between meals.

This will not only keep steady blood sugar levels, but give you portion control and healthy options to conquer cravings.

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Final Thoughts

Pregnancy cravings can get really bad. Who knows why pregnancy causes a host of cravings. Worst yet…

Each pregnancy may give you different cravings!

With one pregnancy you’re craving peanut butter and the next pregnancy you’re craving pickles.

Whatever your craving is, it’s important to make wise choices.

I know you cannot always ignore your cravings, but you can substitute your craving for something similar that’s healthy for you and baby!

Of course, not always can a craving be ignored!

When this happens, choose a smaller size of your food craving.

To control your cravings throughout your pregnancy, try to…

  • Eat small meals throughout the day
  • Exercise regularly
  • Keep small snacks nearby
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Substitute bad cravings for healthier food options

With these tips you don’t have to just ignore your cravings anymore, you can take control of them!

Start today by adding healthy food options to your diet!

What’s your worst pregnancy craving? Mine was hot fudge pop tarts and Lucky Charms.

Works Cited

Managing pregnancy cravings

19 foods that can fight sugar cravings

Pica: causes, common cravings and risks during pregnancy

17 foods pregnant women crave and why we crave it

Coping with pregnancy food cravings

Food cravings during pregnancy and what do they indicate

Food cravings and what they mean

Most common pregnancy cravings

Healthy alternatives to satisfy pregnancy cravings

The best healthy alternatives for your pregnancy cravings

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