Mother and Baby

9 common pregnancy food aversions and their meanings

food aversion pregnancy gender

Knowing what foods to eat and maintaining a good diet can be a bit tricky when you're pregnant. 

You're probably tired, stressed and worst still, suffering from nausea or morning sickness. All of that means you really can't face spending time cooking the healthy meal packed full of superfoods and nutrients that you know you need.

Your body is crying out for broccoli while you cry out for a greasy takeaway, the list of foods you can't eat seems as long as your arm and you might have unexplainable cravings that are driving you mad (what do they *actually* mean?!).

To make matters worse, there are certain foods and smells that cause your stomach to churn. Food aversions are common in pregnancy but they can change from person to person and nobody knows exactly why they happen at all.

What are food aversions?

Food aversions are pretty much the opposite of cravings. Basically, when you really can't stand the thought a specific food or food group, that's an aversion. You might find that out of nowhere, the wafting smell of your favourite cuisine suddenly makes you feel ill. Or you're put off your fave snack for no reason.

Like cravings, food aversions are often associated with pregnancy. Pregnant women often find certain foods make them feel uncomfortable, either by making them nauseous or they simply dislike the taste and struggle to eat them.

When do food aversions start in pregnancy and why?

Food aversions are most likely to occur during early pregnancy in the first trimester. It is unclear what exactly causes food aversions. However, the hormones of pregnancy and the effect they have on the body is often presumed to be the cause. The pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is perhaps the most likely culprit. 

HCG is the hormone that triggers a positive pregnancy test. HCG circulates the body and is discarded in the urine so pregnancy tests detect levels of it to determine the result. HCG is often blamed for morning sickness and nausea as it is at its highest levels when morning sickness occurs during the first trimester.

Pregnancy food aversions in the first trimester come alongside morning sickness, so, they are thought to be linked. This might be because both side effects are caused by hCG. Or, perhaps more likely, because you associate certain foods with any nausea and sickness you are suffering from. A 2016 study in the Journal of Food and Nutrition found women did associate sickness with certain foods and subsequently developed specific aversions.

A heightened or more sensitive sense of smell might play a part, as foods with a strong aroma often trigger women to feel grossed out. Food aversions might even be our attempt to protect ourselves and our baby during pregnancy. Food aversions often mean you feel disgusted and research suggests that disgust is an emotion triggered as a way to avoid pathogens, defending us against infections. So, when we simply DO NOT WANT to smell or even look at a fried egg during pregnancy, that might be because we are trying to keep our baby safe from potentially harmful bacteria. 

When do food aversions stop?

If you're put off your favourite munch or you can't stick to a healthy diet, you're probably thinking when do food aversions stop?! Sadly, there is no clear answer to this either. Aversions might stop after the first trimester or you could continue to experience them throughout every stage. For most women, aversions lessen or disappear after they give birth. But, if they are particularly extreme and the association is too strong, they could stick with you forever.

9 common pregnancy food aversions:

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1) Spicy food

Pretty understandably, spicy food is often off the menu. Spicy food isn't everyones cup of tea as it is, and it is more likely to upset your stomach and cause you toilet troubles. You are just protecting yourself from the inevitable!
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2) Hot food

No, not spicy, but cooked, hot food can put pregnant women off. Sometimes this is because the smell is more intense than cold food. If hot food is the issue, try a crudites of raw veg or add a cooling salad to whatever you're munching on to make sure you are getting some goodness.
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3) Meat

Red meat and chicken aversions are common. However, it is a weird one because protein is important for your baby and meat is packed full of protein-rich goodness. If this is the case for you, try and get your protein in other ways such as nuts and beans!
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4) Eggs

Eggs are a great food during pregancy because they contain lots of important nutrients and proteins. However, it's not surpsing that a cooked egg, be it boiled or fried, with that strong sulphur smell could turn your stomach pretty easily.
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5) Fried food

Fried food is offputting because it is often strong smelling and greasy. But, if you're disgusted at the thought of fried food, rejoice! It really isn't good for you, so take advantage of this break from fatty foods and indulge in some fresh goodness instead. Your body will thank you later!
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6) Fish and shellfish

This is probably all about smell. Raw fish doesn't have the loveliest aroma at the best of times. If your sense of smell is much more intense and sensitive then it's likely you'll be avoiding fresh seafood and fish.
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7) Vegetables

This one really isn't ideal. Vegetables are so beneficial during pregnancy because they are packed full of nutrients and vitamins. Hopefully the whole food group isn't wiped out, so find the veggies you do enjoy and stick to them until you feel better.
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8) Garlic

Have you found that you are suddenly a vampire, terrified of garlic? Garlic is pretty strong tasting and is a bit of a love it or hate it ingredient. No wonder some pregnant women are repulsed by it! Garlic is in so many recipes so if this is your aversion, we feel for you!
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9) Onion

Onion is another pretty unavoidable food because it is the base for so many great sauces and recipes. Cooking onion slowly and for a long time will make it taste less intense. Although, if you're really put off by them then we recommend you use this excuse to force someone else to do the chopping and cooking for now!

Can food aversions predict your baby's gender?

There are several old wives tales and myths about baby gender predictions. Many people believe that your particular food aversions might hint at whether you're having a boy or a girl. Pregnancy food aversion gender discussion is common in parenting forums and mummy groups online. But, can food aversions really predict gender? Well, according to a small 2014 Polish study in the Journal of Physiology and Behavior, there is some truth behind this idea. 

The study did not discuss specific food aversions or cravings. Instead, the researchers looked at how women experience disgust during pregnancy. The researchers found there was a link between disgust and gender. They discovered that:

  • changes in disgust sensitivity during pregnancy are related to the sex of a fetus
  • women carrying a son show higher disgust sensitivity in the first and second trimester

Apparently, male embryos are more vulnerable and women carrying sons display more disgust in response to certain things as a way to protect their precious little boy!

The most common theory is that if you're having a girl you'll be put off salty food (which is associated with having a boy) and if you're having a boy you'll be put off sweet things (which are associated with having a girl). We'll leave that up to you to find out!

Read more: try our Chinese Gender Predictor tool!


Catriona originally joined the team as an Editorial Assistant to work on the 2019 M&B Awards. As a Digital Writer, she has written and updated hundreds of articles on the site from medical explainers to celebs news and shopping galleries.

Catch her running along the Thames or eating her way around London's restaurants.


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