Are my pregnancy cravings normal? A dietician explains what you should know

Your cravings might be your body's way of telling you something.


At some point in our lives, we have all 'had to have' that basket of french fries or that chocolate chip cookie. This intense desire for a particular food is often referred to as a craving. Unlike actual hunger, a craving is a desire for a very specific food that feels nearly impossible to resist.

Studies have estimated that anywhere between 50 to 90% of women experience food cravings during pregnancy, so if you are finding yourself in the candy aisle more often than usual, know that you are not alone. Cravings often appear during the first trimester, peak during the second, and fizzle out during the third. Sweet foods are high on the list of the most-craved foods, as are savory foods like pizza or fried foods.


What causes pregnancy cravings?

The truth is, we don't know exactly why certain cravings appear during pregnancy. Most likely, pregnancy cravings are triggered by a combination of the following physiological changes associated with pregnancy:

1. Changing hormone levels

During the first trimester, the body begins to make more insulin to prepare for the temporary state of insulin resistance, which occurs during the latter half of pregnancy. When insulin increases, blood sugar drops. The drop in blood sugar increases the desire for carbohydrate-rich foods (hello, ice cream and candy) to stabilize blood sugar.

2. As a protective method

There are so many ways our bodies function at a physiological level to protect the health of the baby during pregnancy. For example, plant foods, especially bitter vegetables, contain phytochemicals that serve to protect plants from insects and pests. If consumed in excess, these compounds could be harmful or toxic. An aversion to these foods, and instead craving simple, starchy carbohydrates might be a protective mechanism to decrease a mother's risk for foodborne illness.

Women who don't gain enough weight during pregnancy have a higher risk of having a pre-term baby or a baby born with a low birth weight. Craving foods high in carbohydrates and fat may be a protective method designed to increase a woman's fat stores to support her pregnancy and to eventually support breastfeeding if she chooses.

3. Nutritional deficiencies

Nutrient requirements increase during pregnancy, especially the need for iron, folic acid, B vitamins, iodine, zinc, magnesium, calcium and vitamin A. If a woman is deficient in one of these nutrients, she may find herself craving certain foods higher in these nutrients (for example, a craving for steak when iron-deficient).

In extreme cases, certain deficiencies may manifest in dangerous ways. Pica is the craving for non-food items, such as dirt, ice or chalk. While the cause of Pica is unknown, it is believed that an iron deficiency is a common cause during pregnancy.

If you experience cravings for non-food items, schedule an appointment with your doctor right away.

How can I stay healthy when dealing with pregnancy cravings?

Food cravings are normal and typically not harmful! Don't beat yourself up over giving in to your cravings. After all, your cravings might be your body's way of telling you something.

However, the overconsumption of carbohydrates, especially highly-processed carbohydrates, can lead to excessive weight gain and increase a woman's risk for gestational diabetes. Excessive maternal weight gain can also increase the risk of having a large baby, which can present labor and delivery complications.

There are ways to optimize your nutrition while satisfying your urges. Here are my top tips:

1. Avoid highly-processed carbohydrates and choose real, whole foods whenever possible. For example, use real ingredients to make a more nutritious version of your favorite dessert like these 'cookie dough' energy bites.

2. Select complex carbohydrates (think: brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and whole wheat bread) over refined carbohydrates.

3. Eat every three to four hours to prevent your blood sugar from dropping too low, which will lead to increased sugar cravings.

4. Make sure you are staying hydrated throughout the day! Your fluid needs increase during pregnancy and thirst is often mistaken for hunger. Aim for 10 eight-ounce glasses of water per day.

5. Practice mindful eating. Eliminate distractions while eating and eat slowly. Pay attention to your hunger and satiety cues.

6. Reduce stress. Stress can exacerbate cravings. Ensure you are getting adequate sleep, exercising (if approved by your doctor), and practicing yoga or meditation for stress relief.

And remember, you are not in this alone. Reach out to your provider or a nutritionist for guidance and support as you make these important—and delicious—prenatal food decisions.

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This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


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Becoming a mother has been life-changing. It's been hard, tiring, gratifying, beautiful, challenging, scary and a thousand other things that only a parent would ever understand.

It is these life-changing experiences that have inspired me to draw my everyday life as a stay at home mom. Whether it's the mundane tasks like doing laundry or the exciting moments of James', my baby boy's, first steps, I want to put it down on paper so that I can better cherish these fleeting moments that are often overlooked.

Being a stay-at-home-mom can be incredibly lonely. I like to think that by drawing life's simple moments, I can connect with other mothers and help them feel less alone. By doing this, I feel less alone, too. It's a win-win situation and I have been able to connect with many lovely parents and fellow parent-illustrators through my Instagram account.

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