Meat Aversion During Pregnancy: Is It Normal?

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Written by Amy Kaczor RDN

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Have you found a distaste, disgust, or even a physically adverse reaction to meat, such as nausea, gagging, and vomiting? You have probably wondered if it is normal to develop an aversion to meat during your pregnancy.

Meat aversion is an entirely normal and common occurrence during pregnancy.

If this is something you are experiencing, you can ensure adequate consumption of protein from non-meat sources such as tofu, beans, and nuts. You can also consume a vitamin C source with your protein to enhance the absorption of iron.

It may be concerning and difficult to navigate any food aversion during pregnancy, especially to a major food category such as meat! So let’s dive into the science and recommendations behind meat aversions in pregnant women.

What Does a Meat Aversion During Pregnancy Mean?

Are you worried about your sudden aversion to meat during pregnancy? You may find solace in the fact that food aversions are relatively common, with almost 70% of women experiencing them at least once during their pregnancy (source: Cleveland Clinic). 

pregnant having meat avesion, avoiding deli meat

Whether you are feeling nauseous or gagging and vomiting from the taste, strong smell or sight of specific meat (or all meat entirely), it is very normal and no reason to worry.

Typically, food aversions begin in the first trimester of pregnancy due to hormone imbalances. Specifically, food aversions during pregnancy can be caused by the increase of a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin or hCG hormone (source: Cleveland Clinic).

This hormone also takes responsibility for the notorious morning sickness during pregnancy.

There is no reason to worry about any common food aversion, including a meat aversion, as long as you can replace that food, or group of foods, in the healthy diet with comparable nutrition.

How to Handle a Meat Aversion While Pregnant

When dealing with a meat aversion, sometimes the solution can be as small as changing the appearance, texture, or cooking and preparation method of the meat you’ve developed an aversion to. However, there may be more severe aversions during pregnancy in which you simply cannot consume the food. This is okay, too! 

It is essential when you are not consuming meat to ensure you are receiving adequate amounts of protein from other sources. If your aversion is only to red meat, you can continue to consume poultry and fish.

However, if you cannot tolerate any meat at all, supplement your protein with non-meat sources such as eggs, low-fat dairy (milk and yogurt), tofu, beans, and nuts. If you’re really struggling, you could also consider protein powder – we describe which protein powders are pregnancy-safe in this article.

Iron is of primary concern when consuming less red meat, especially during pregnancy. Iron is a mineral essential for healthy red blood cell formation. Red meat is an excellent source of iron, yet plant-based protein sources can also contain iron. There are also some breakfast cereals that are fortified with iron, such as Life cereal. 

To increase the absorption of iron in the body and receive the maximum benefits, consume your iron source with a food or beverage high in vitamin C such as orange juice, strawberries, or bell peppers (source: International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research). 

Check out this article here for 25 iron-rich foods to consume during pregnancy, including vegetarian and non-meat options! 

woman doesn't like burger meat

Does a Meat Aversion Predict My Baby’s Gender?

Have you heard that a meat aversion during pregnancy can potentially predict whether you are having a boy or girl? While this is likely a myth, let’s dive into some research surrounding the relationship between food aversions and the baby’s gender. 

In a study published in Poland in 2015, researchers surveyed 92 pregnant women during the first trimester of pregnancy, when food aversions are most likely to occur.

The researchers found that pregnant women carrying a boy had higher “disgust sensitivity” or aversion to specific scenarios, including healthy foods, when compared to women carrying a girl (Source: Physiology and Behavior). 

However, this relatively small-scale study has yet to be replicated and validated. Therefore, more research is needed in this area to determine if a true relationship between aversions and whether the baby might be a boy or girl actually exists.

Overall, meat aversions are common in pregnancy and can be navigated by ensuring you consume adequate protein and iron from other sources. I hope you found this article helpful in unpacking meat aversions!