Why Do I Crave Carbs While Pregnant? An Expert Explains

Since about six weeks of pregnancy, from the moment I wake up in the morning until I fall asleep at night, I have this nagging feeling that I have to throw up. I still haven’t actually thrown up yet, and I know I’m so lucky compared to most women. But the stomach-churning and mouth-watering feeling is constantly there. Other than these “Preggie Pop Drop” things, the only other thing that helps abate the nausea, even if for a little while, is carbs. So naturally, that’s what I’ve been craving. But why do I crave carbs while I’m pregnant? And also oddly enough, this long-time vegetarian (sometimes pescatarian) is craving some meat to go with those carbs, like whoa. Is it the comfort factor, an inherent need, or what?

Amanda Capriglione, a registered and certified dietitian nutritionist and owner of Food Balance tells Romper it could be because of a few things — and craving carbs is pretty common. “Carbohydrates are the go-to for ‘morning sickness,’ although it could last all day, not just the morning. If eaten alone, carbohydrates are bland and tolerable. And an empty stomach also tends to trigger nausea,” she says in an email interview. She also adds that eating the right carbs can help keep your blood sugar levels where they need to be, which is another trigger for nausea — low blood sugar.

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So what are the “right carbs,” according to Capriglione? “Try whole grain bread, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, and oatmeal. Carbohydrates aren’t the enemy — they give you energy, help keep you full (high-fiber carbs), and contain tons of nutrients for you and your growing baby." And lord do we all know how important fiber is during pregnancy — pregnancy constipation is the worst.

But what about serving size when it comes to those carbs you’re craving? I personally want to eat an entire box of macaroni and cheese, but I know that’s probably not the best route to take since I’m trying to have a healthy weight gain during my pregnancy. “As a rule of thumb, pregnant women should eat about nine to 11 servings of carbohydrates per day. Each serving contains about 15 grams of carbohydrates, but try not to be too worried about the grams and focus on the type of carbohydrate you’re consuming and the portion. Consuming a balanced snack or meal every three to four hours will help maintain healthy blood sugar levels (important for PCOS) and hopefully ease some of that nausea,” Capriglione explains.

And why the heck am I craving meat? That and carbs are the only things that don’t make me want to puke when I’m eating them. So weird, right? Capriglione says, “Understand that no two pregnancies are alike, and it is not uncommon for vegetarians to crave meat while pregnant. Meat, like chicken and beef, contain nutrients such as iron and B12, both important and needed for fetal development. Prenatal vitamins contain iron and B12 (among others such as DHA), but some women simply crave more.”

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Will I be able to return to being a vegetarian/once-a-month pescatarian on a low-carb, plant-based diet once again? Maybe even in the second trimester? “It’s difficult to say if you will return to a vegetarian way of life in your second trimester,” Capriglione says. “For now, just try and eat as healthy as possible for you and your baby. If you’re craving meat, go for it. If you’re craving pasta with cheese, go for it … maybe try one cup of whole grain pasta with a little cheese (like mozzarella or parmesan) and some tomato sauce.

“In my experience, when my nausea dissipated in weeks 15 through 16, the ravenous carbohydrates cravings stopped, and I was able to consume a more ‘regular’ balanced diet,” Capriglione notes. “Believe me, it was difficult for a registered dietitian to hate some veggies for a few weeks. Continue to consume your prenatal vitamins and try some whole grain carb suggestions in addition to lean protein and healthy fats.”

So it looks like even though I’m craving lots of carbs and meat, it’s OK to eat all of these things and still have a healthy pregnancy — even if it’s vastly different from my diet pre-pregnancy. And it’s pretty common to crave these things in early pregnancy. Plus, who doesn’t want to splurge and enjoy their pregnancy while they can? While the “eating for two” saying has been proven false, hand me the steak and whole wheat penne pasta, please. I can go back to being a veggie-only person when I’m not feeling so nauseous. You gotta have a few perks when you’re feeling so crummy, and if meat and bread does it for you, go for it.

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