How to navigate pregnancy cravings

Pregnancy | | Helen Farnsworth


How are you feeling? Have you had any weird cravings yet? Or perhaps there’s something you usually like, and right now it’s turning your stomach? Pregnancy cravings and food aversions typically begin in the first trimester, peak in the second, and subside in the third, so if you are suddenly hankering for spicy chips and ice cream, you’re not alone.

“I craved pickled gherkins,” says Helen at HiPP. “It was so bizarre. I would usually pick them out of my burgers, but suddenly that’s all I wanted. Well, that and Rich Tea Biscuits – which my husband kept eating before I got to them!”

While there’s no definitive scientific explanation for these cravings, it’s typically attributed to either hormones (isn’t everything?!) or your body’s way of sourcing the nutrients it needs to grow a brand-new human. So, whether it’s the calcium in your chocolate fudge brownie ice cream, or the sodium in your pickles – or both – there’s no harm in indulging in a little of what you fancy, as long as you’re eating healthily overall.

Unless , of course, you crave non-food items, like coal, sand, or even laundry detergent – in which case, definitely don’t indulge! This condition, known as pica, might indicate a nutritional deficiency, so if you start drooling over dirt, see your GP.

‘But the baby wants chocolate!’

For many people, however, cravings veer towards the sweet end of the spectrum. We asked our HiPP family what they/their partners wanted most during pregnancy and the answers included cookies, chocolate, liquorice, fruits and milkshakes. Interestingly, some of our mums reported preferences changing over time – like Laura, who says ‘I could only stomach beige foods at the beginning of my pregnancy. French fries were my go-to. But once I started feeling better, I craved soft, fleshy fruits. Nectarines were my favourite, but I loved pineapple and strawberry, too.”

While pregnancy cravings might have you adding new foods to your diet, food aversions have the opposite effect. For example, it’s common for pregnant women to develop an aversion to handling raw meats – a biological response, perhaps, to avoid the bacteria that can lurk there. Or, sometimes, particular smells can make you feel nauseous. So, if your other half is looking for a way to support you through your pregnancy, food prep can be a good one.

Eating for one (and a bit)

If you’re not feeling too sick, you might find yourself hungrier during pregnancy than you were before. Though the idea of ‘eating for two’ has been widely debunked (shame!), it is ok to increase your calorie intake slightly in the final trimester, by about 200 calories a day. However, the most important thing is that you’re eating the right foods to keep you and your baby healthy.

5-a-day, every day

Our nutritionist, Helen says ‘You don’t have to balance every meal, but you should try to achieve a balance over the day or week. Try to get at least five portions of fruit and vegetables into your diet each day , whether that’s fresh, frozen, tinned, dried or juiced. Consuming a wide variety ensures you receive a diverse portfolio of essential vitamins and minerals, along with fibre.’

Know your portion sizes

One portion is:

  • 80g of fresh, tinned or frozen fruit and vegetables
  • 30g of dried fruit
  • 150ml fruit/vegetable juice or smoothie

And some portions only count once – such as juices, smoothies, beans and pulses.

Carbs are your friend

Starchy foods are a good source of energy, fibre and some vitamins, and should make up a third of overall food eaten. These include potatoes, bread, pasta, noodles, rice, couscous, oats, and other cereals.

‘Wholegrain starchy foods are preferable to refined varieties, as they help increase your fibre intake,’ says Helen.


Protein is one food group that comes with a lot of recommendations during pregnancy, including foods to avoid. Meat should be thoroughly cooked, as should eggs unless they have the Lion logo on them (in which case they are safe for dipping!). The rules on fish sound complex, but aren’t too restrictive (unless you are a mega sushi fan):

  • Try to eat at least one but no more than two portions of oily fish a week, such as salmon, sardines, or trout.
  • No more than two tuna steaks or four medium-sized cans of tuna per week
  • Avoid raw or partially cooked fish and shellfish
  • Avoid shark, swordfish and marlin

You’re also advised to avoid liver, all types of pâté (even the vegetarian kind), as well as game meats such as pheasant.

Helen adds: ‘Processed meats like bacon, ham, and sausages can contain high amounts of salt, so these should also be limited. Of course, protein isn’t just found in meat. Pulses, beans and (unsalted) nuts are also good sources of protein.’

Dairy & Alternatives

If you’re a cheese lover, fear not. ‘Milk, cheese and yoghurt are all good sources of calcium and other nutrients that you and your growing baby need,’ says Helen. ‘However, you should avoid unpasteurised cow, goat and sheep milk products.’

And, if you crave Camembert, burn for Brie, or hanker for a honking blue cheese, you’re not totally out of luck. Pasteurised and un-pasteurised, mould-ripened and blue cheeses do not have to be avoided completely, though they must be cooked until steaming hot to ensure there’s no lingering harmful bacteria in there.

Caffeine and alcohol during pregnancy

Thank goodness for decaf – because the NHS recommends caffeine intake during pregnancy does not exceed 200 mg per day. To put that into perspective, there are:

  • 100 mg of caffeine in a mug of instant coffee
  • 140 mg in a mug of filter coffee
  • 75 mg in a mug of tea (including green tea)
  • 40 mg in a can of cola

And if you’re partial to a drink at the end of the day, note that the NHS advises the safest approach is to not drink alcohol during pregnancy.

What about additional supplements?

Eating a healthy balanced diet will help ensure you achieve your nutritional requirements; however, you’re also recommended to take folic acid for at least the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and vitamin D throughout . Additional guidance and advice can be found on the NHS website.

‘Pregnancy can be an anxious time, and it’s easy to get ‘in your head’ about the optimum pregnancy diet,’ says Helen. ‘At the end of the day, much of the advice is the same as for the rest of your life – eat a good balance of food types to give you and your little one all the nutrients you need to thrive.’

Until next time, remember: you’re doing great!