When I was pregnant with my daughter, all I wanted were pickles and salt and vinegar chips. Pickles are such a cliché pregnancy craving. I couldn’t tell if I was actually craving them, or I was simply craving them because I’d heard that’s what pregnant people crave. Either way, I was chowing down on all the salty, briny foods I could get my hands on.
As far as cravings go, pickles are on the healthier side of things, but my eat-a-whole-bag-of-chips in one sitting habit wasn’t the best. If you’re pregnant and starting to get some of the classic pregnancy cravings, there are actually healthy ways to satiate those cravings.
Before I jump into what those are, let it be known that it’s OK to eat some chips, it’s OK to eat real ice cream, and it’s OK to eat a pizza. You should absolutely indulge in items that you’re craving without any guilt (as long as they aren’t off limits during pregnancy for health reasons!). You may find that by eating a small amount of the item you’re craving instead of denying yourself, you may be less likely to go totally overboard when you finally do decide to have a bite. So if you’re craving an ice cream cone, have at it!
However, if you’re feeling a little low energy from too much processed food, an excess of high sodium foods, or are experiencing frequent sugar crashes, there is something you can do about it. There are healthy alternatives, which in turn will make you feel better, all while satiating those cravings.
If you’re looking for healthy options to explore, here are some ideas to get you started. I promise they are still delicious, while also being good for you.
Editor’s Note: If you think you are gaining too much weight too fast in pregnancy or have gestational diabetes, always consult your doctor for medical advice.
1. Craving pizza? Health-ify your pie.
Sometimes you just want the cheesy melty goodness of your favorite local pizza joint. Alternatively, you can make your own pizza at home and give it a healthy spin to create a more balanced meal. Consider loading up your pizza with roasted vegetables, making a nice green salad to put on top of your pizza (like Pinch of Yum’s Chopped Pizza Salad), use a cauliflower-based crust (these are available at Trader Joe’s!), or consider healthier alternatives like the new chickpea pizzas from Banza (I just tried them, and they are so good!).
2. Craving ice cream? Try banana or blueberry ice cream.
Some pregnant people constantly feel hot and sweaty during pregnancy (one of the many lovely yet normal side effects of pregnancy). Ice cream or an ice cream alternative can be the perfect way to cool down. Instead of going for diet versions of ice cream, which are often filled with additives and chemicals, look to frozen bananas. Freeze a few bananas and put them in the blender with a bit of milk (or a dairy-free milk alternative), some almond or peanut butter, and any other flavors you might be craving, and blend on high. What you’ll get is a creamy icy texture that really does mimic ice cream.
This creation is typically called “nice cream,” and if you search that online, you’ll find tons of recipe options. Below, check out Ambitious Kitchen’s 2-Ingredient Blueberry Nice Cream recipe to get you started.
3. Craving pickles? Choose the right briny snacks.
As one of the most classic pregnancy cravings, it’s nice news that pickles aren’t actually unhealthy! However, you want to choose the right ones. When selecting pickles, make sure to take a close look at the ingredient list—many contain color dyes and unnecessary additives—when there are other super healthy pickle options.
While typically more expensive, these pickles have health benefits, so it’s worth the extra spend. Look for pickles that only contain ingredients you can pronounce and understand, and if you can, go for ones that are fermented, which contain probiotics and have many health benefits, like balancing the good bacteria in your digestive system. Another great fermented and tangy food choice with similar benefits is sauerkraut.
I’m a personal fan of the brand Bubbies (available in Whole Foods and other grocery stores) for both pickles and sauerkraut.
4. Craving salty chips? Make your own stand-in version.
More on the theme of salty! Chips are an easy go-to. Just open up a bag and go to town. After downing a bag of chips you might not be feeling your best, but there are healthy alternatives. You can make your own chips by thinly slicing potatoes (using a mandolin helps), or consider making roasted chickpeas with a salty topping, like these Cilantro Lime Roasted Chickpeas by Isabel Eats. Though it might not be exactly the same thing as a chip, they are really easy to prepare and can be the vessel to carry your flavor of choice. Plus, chickpeas are a healthy pregnancy food. According to Healthline, chickpeas and other legumes are a good plant-based source of fiber, protein, iron, folate, and calcium, all important elements during pregnancy.
If making your own crispy chickpeas, choose toppings to match your craving, like a dash of salt and vinegar.
5. Craving cookies? Go the homemade route with energy balls or chickpea cookie dough.
Maybe I currently have too many cans of chickpeas in my pantry, but it is a really amazing and versatile ingredient. If you’re craving cookies or even cookie dough (remember not to eat raw dough during pregnancy!), there’s a pretty healthy alternative in the form of chickpea cookie dough. I don’t really understand how chickpeas mimic the flavor and texture of dough, but they do. Add in dark chocolate for some antioxidants and to satiate any chocolate cravings you might be experiencing. Check out Erin Clarke of Well Plated’s Chickpea Cookie Dough recipe.
Another option is to forgo cookies and instead opt for an energy ball. These are simple to make and are typically bake-free, but you’re left with a cookie alternative that will actually boost your energy. Eating Bird Food has plenty of energy ball recipes to choose from, including these Somoa Energy Balls for Girl Scout Cookie fans.
Read More: What Is a Postpartum Doula and Should You Hire One?