Malted milk balls? Popsicles? Pancakes? What foods did you crave when you were pregnant?

According to a recently-published study, moms-to-be hankering for bacon and eggs should feel free to indulge their cravings: Choline, a B-vitamin found in eggs, nuts, and meat (including bacon), may help promote fetal brain development. This may be the closest Western civilization has yet come to endorsing bacon as a health food.

That said, sadly, the best foods to eat during pregnancy (lean proteins and dairy, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains) are not what most pregnant women actually crave. Now that I'm expecting my first child, I'm beginning to take pregnancy food cravings a bit more seriously, particularly in the wake of an eye-opening experience I can only call The Raisin Bran Incident. I know I'm far from alone in being surprised at what my body seems to insist it needs RIGHT NOW: Friends have shared their own, er, colorful pregnancy food cravings:

"Malted milk balls."

"Popsicles and pancakes and orange juice (which I never liked prior to pregnancy)."

"Limes and watermelon!"

"Fruit (especially canned peaches), miso soup, sushi, string cheese, macaroni salad that my mom used to make (also containing cheese), cereal, Big Macs, ice cream, steaks, and pickled herring."

What's interesting is that even though pregnancy cravings certainly feel urgent and undeniable, researchers have traditionally disagreed about whether food cravings during pregnancy actually signal any real "need" for one nutrient or other.

For example, some practitioners have suggested that chocolate cravings may point to a shortage of magnesium in a pregnant woman's diet; whereas other scientists dismiss the connection between pregnancy cravings and nutritional shortfalls altogether. That said, it's interesting to note how many pregnant women report craving sour flavors like orange juice and citrus fruits (go-to vitamin C powerhouses), or cheeseburgers (a solid source of iron, although perhaps not the very best). Even the stereotypical expectant-mom craving for pickles and ice cream has its benefits: The lactic acid in pickles aids digestion, and ice cream contains some of the calcium and good fats pregnant bodies need.

If you've ever experienced pregnancy food cravings, what did you want to eat? Did you figure your body was just being bossy, or do you think your cravings telegraphed a message about what your nutritional needs were?

by Siobhan Adcock


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