When you’re expecting a baby, you might notice that certain foods suddenly feel totally off-limits, while others feel like you could eat them every day without getting sick. Pregnancy cravings are one of the first symptoms of pregnancy, and you might be wondering – “Why am I craving salt in pregnancy?”
Now, unless you’re dealing with high blood pressure, there’s no reason why you would need to stay away from the salt shaker. Salt and salty snacks might not be the healthiest things you could munch on during pregnancy, but a little salt goes a long way when we’re talking about your and your baby’s health.
Pregnancy cravings can be caused by a myriad of factors, from hormonal changes and nutritional deficiencies to psychological and cultural expectations. Women can experience pregnancy cravings throughout the entire pregnancy, but they’re typically the strongest during the first trimester.
With that out of the way, though, why are you craving salt in pregnancy? Why are salty snacks the one thing that gets you out of bed at 3 a.m. and makes you sleepwalk all the way to the kitchen? Is it your undying love of french fries? Is it your non-existent self-control? All that and more down below!
5 reasons why you’re craving salt in pregnancy
1. Hormonal changes
Pregnant women experience a sudden surge of estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen and progesterone are hormones that can change the way you perceive taste and smell. Even though your morning coffee used to be the one thing to get you out of bed pre-pregnancy, now you’re appalled by it.
Estrogen can cause changes in your body’s fluid balance, make you feel like you’re dehydrated, and subsequently contribute to salt cravings. Craving salty snacks might not be the worst thing to happen to a pregnant woman, but you don’t understand why you’re suddenly craving salt, salt, and more salt.
We’d argue that the hormonal changes you’re going through are making salty snacks taste even better!
2. Nutritional needs
Pregnant women need salt – or sodium, to be more specific. When you’re expecting a baby, your body requires more sodium to help maintain the proper balance of fluids and electrolytes. With that in mind, your body might send you cues to consume more salty snacks to replenish your sodium levels.
Sometimes you might not think that way, but your body knows exactly what you need to maintain your and your baby’s health. Your body knows when to send you signals to consume more of certain foods and to keep an eye on your nutritional needs. Your body knows you need sodium – and that’s the truth.
What do salt and dehydration have to do with each other, you wonder? Salty snacks might be your guilty pleasure during pregnancy, but consuming excessive amounts of salt can lead to health problems such as high blood pressure, fluid retention, and dehydration.
Now, your body knows what you need, but your body can trick you, too. When you’re expecting a baby, your body spends a lot of time working on boosting your blood volume and that’s why you might feel a little dehydrated.
You start drinking more water, going to the bathroom more often, and complaining about how thirsty you are all the time. You resort to salty snacks because your body wants to retain as much of that water as possible and you end up stuck in a vicious cycle. Salty snacks might not be the right way to go, right?
Why are you craving salt in pregnancy? Probably because you’re stressed out!
When you’re expecting a baby, you go through a myriad of changes that affect the way you eat, sleep, or even dress. While that might sound like a silly problem to have, you’re trying to figure out a way to adjust to your new lifestyle – and that’s pretty freakin’ stressful.
When you’re stressed out, you tend to crave salty snacks because they make you feel better. We’re not kidding about that – it’s a proven fact that salt induces your hypothalamus to release dopamine. Salt is required to live and that’s why your brain learns to crave salt as a life-protective reaction.
5. Psychological and cultural expectations
Salty snacks are a common pregnancy craving, right? Whether you’re scoffing down a bag of potato chips while watching your favorite Netflix show or eating pickles straight out of the jar, you’re probably stuffing your mouth with some sort of a salty snack every single day during pregnancy.
You’re not the only one, that’s for sure. You’re bombarded with TikToks, Instagram posts, and articles telling you that you’re probably going to experience these cravings from the moment you get pregnant. You’re presented with pregnant women sneakily eating french fries or experimenting with cheeses.
And that’s not a coincidence. According to research, psychological factors and cultural associations can influence cravings and that might be the reason why you’re craving salty snacks rather than – let’s say – rice or soya sauce.
5 common pregnancy cravings that are salty
Pickles are one of the most common pregnancy cravings we’ve stumbled upon. Whether you snack on them throughout the day or combine them with a milkshake (that’s a real thing!), chances are you’ve experienced a strange craving for the salt-and-vinegar-soaked zingers.
Pickles are pretty tame when we’re talking about whether or not they’re safe to consume during pregnancy. Consuming pickles can even bring about a benefit or two for you and your baby – naturally fermented pickles are considered a great probiotic and an aid for the digestive system.
2. Potato chips
Potato chips, on the other hand, might not be as healthy as pickles. Pregnancy and potato chips go together, whether that’s because you’re craving salty snacks or because you’re on the hunt for that familiar crunch.
Whatever the case might be, potato chips are one of those salty snacks that might not be the best choice for you and your baby. When you’re expecting a baby, you need to focus on nourishing your body with delicious, nutritious food that can contribute to the growth and development of your baby.
Potato chips are pretty much empty calories that can harm your baby’s health. Switch out empty-calorie foods for more nutrient-dense snacks to give your little one the best start in life – whole-grain, high-fiber tortilla chips paired with a Greek Goddess salad might be the best substitute for you.
3. French fries
Oh, french fries! Everyone’s favorite fast-food cheat snacks are an extremely common pregnancy craving that can do more harm than good. Even though they’re not the worst things you can consume, they’re not the best, either.
French fries are packed with salt, fat, and carbohydrates that can cause harm to your and your baby’s health. Consuming excessive amounts of french fries throughout pregnancy can cause high blood pressure and gestational diabetes, both of which are detrimental to you and your baby.
But there’s a catch – prepare the french fries at home with “real” potatoes, a little bit of salt and seasoning, a drop or two of olive oil, and an air-fryer. Before you give up on your salty snack cravings, you can always experiment with healthy, wholesome alternatives.
Cheeses are tricky, and here’s why. When you’re expecting a baby, you’re not supposed to consume raw milk or products made with raw milk because of the risk of becoming ill from the bacteria Listeria. Normally, your body’s immune system would be able to defend you against Listeria and similar bacteria.
When you’re pregnant, though, your immune system focuses on defending your baby and becomes weaker with time.
You can eat cheese, but you need to pay close attention to the labels. You can eat hard cheeses, such as cheddar, parmesan, or gruyere, as well as pasteurized semi-hard and soft cheeses, such as cottage cheese, mozzarella, feta, paneer, ricotta, halloumi, cream cheese, and cheese spreads.
Who’s craving bread? When you’re pregnant with a baby, you crave all sorts of foods and you might catch yourself craving bread, pastries, and carbohydrates. Whether you’re dying for a croissant or going out for breakfast bagels every morning before work, you’re probably craving bread.
Worry not, though, because carving bread might not be the worst thing ever. Bread can be a healthy and nutritious addition to a pregnant woman’s diet because it provides essential nutrients such as fiber, iron, and folic acid – depending on the type of bread you opt for. Whole-wheat bread is the way to go!
What are the risks of consuming salty snacks during pregnancy?
We do need to underline that snacking on a couple of potato chips every now and then shouldn’t cause harm to you or your baby. With salty snacks, you need to remember to control the amount you consume because everything is bad for you if you consume it in excess.
Consuming excessive amounts of salt, for example, can lead to water retention and cause swelling of ankles, legs, feet, or face. Salt consumption is also connected to high blood pressure or preeclampsia, as well as loss of calcium through urination from the body.
We’re not saying that you must shy away from all salty snacks, but you might want to opt for healthier alternatives rather than stuff your mouth with potato chips and cheese.
How to safely consume salty snacks during pregnancy?
Don’t worry, you’re allowed (and recommended!) to consume a little bit of salt every day. Regulate the amount of salt you consume and opt for salty snacks that come with vitamins, minerals, or antioxidants, too.
Salty snacks you can eat are nuts, pickles, preserves, poultry, fish, plain yogurt, and eggs, as well as vegetables such as beets, celery, tomatoes, and carrots. Potato chips, french fries, and burgers shouldn’t be an everyday thing, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t allowed to consume them at all.