Five Tips for Better Snacks During Pregnancy from Prenatal Nutritionist

Pregnancy is strange.

Certainly it’s miraculous. But ask any woman, and she’ll probably tell you it’s uncomfortable, exciting, daunting, terrifying, painful, overwhelming, nauseating, exhilarating. And, most definitely,  it’s … strange. First a woman grows an organ – the placenta. Then she grows another human being.  It’s the ultimate in awesome biology and chemistry and whoa!

And, for some reason, everyone becomes a pregnancy expert as soon as they see a woman with a baby belly. These experts know what she should eat, how much weight she should gain, what vitamins she needs, the baby needs. Throw Google searches in the mix and pregnancy becomes incredibly confusing.

Before you change your diet in any radical way, please consult with your obstetrician to make sure whatever you’re doing will be helpful and healthy. Also, diet needs depend on both the mother’s and baby’s health. Are you dealing with gestational diabetes? Have you lost a lot of weight because of morning sickness? As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I work in conjunction with your ObGyn and medical practitioner to come up with the best diet plan for fertility, maternity, and postnatal needs so you can meet your calorie and nutrient requirements during pregnancy.

That said, all pregnant women need food – healthy foods that satisfy hunger and boost energy, keep acid reflux and indigestion at bay, and provide vitamins, minerals, and nutrients for both mom and the baby.

Here are our 5 favorite pregnancy foods and nutrition tips to quench those pregnancy cravings! They are quick, inexpensive, healthy and, most importantly, delicious.

Curb the potato chip cravings: Sometimes we just get the munchies, and grabbing a bag of store-bought chips packs a high-fat, high-sodium punch.  Replace potato chips with oven-baked sweet potato chips or kale chips.   Roasted pumpkin seeds and toasted almonds are a great way to curb the potato chip cravings and add protein to your day.

Swap sweets for something more: Ahhh … now it might feel like it’s the time to indulge. But high-sugar foods can leave you low on energy and add empty calories to your diet. Replace store-bought cookies with pumpkin bran muffins. Make a batch and freeze them to keep them fresh. These low-sugar, high-fiber muffins hit the spot when it comes to curbing sweet cravings (replace the pumpkin with carrots and zucchini if you’d like). If you’re in a rush and don’t have time to bake, replace cookies and cakes with cut-up fruits and berries with a dollop of vanilla yogurt. Mango, papaya, strawberries, kiwi. Sprinkle with brown sugar for this sweet indulgence.

Acid reflux and indigestion: When your esophagus is on fire, nothing sounds good. Oftentimes, women who are taking prenatal vitamins have a tough time with the high-iron content in the vitamins. Always discuss any discomfort with your obstetrician. To ease indigestion try these tactics: eat smaller portions, sip on liquids, and stand up or sit up after eating. Also, instead of just slashing foods from your diet, listen to your body. When does your indigestion flare-up? There are no universals, and it’s important to respond to what is happening to your body instead of automatically taking foods out of your diet.

Up the protein: During pregnancy, women need 10 grams more protein in their diets daily, so find creative ways to introduce proteins into your snacks. Instead of just eating an apple, add cheese slices to it.  Add boiled eggs to tuna fish. Cook lentils and add them to your salads.  Dip celery or carrots in peanut butter or hummus for a high-powered protein snack.  Edamame with sea salt is a perfect evening snack when you’re ready to put your feet up and watch a movie.  Make a black bean, cheese quesadilla for a high-fiber, high-protein afternoon snack. All of these healthy alternatives boost your protein and quench your cravings.

Breakfast cereal: Starting the day with a healthy, nutritious charge is critical. And we need things fast and easy. Cereal aisles have up to 130 different brands of cereals all touting their nutritious values. “Why not reach for America’s original breakfast cereal, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes? Each serving has a reasonable 2 grams of sugars and only 100 calories. But wait: it’s made from a refined grain, so it delivers little dietary fiber (1 gram) and is considered high-glycemic.” (Breaking the Fast, Harvard Health Letter, ).  That doesn’t mean we can’t eat cereal, but we should be aware of what they may have in excess (sugar and salt) and what they may lack (fiber). Look for fortified cereals with folate (a pregnancy must). But there are other options for breakfast when you’re short on time. Try overnight oats. All you need to do is get up and serve. Low-fat yogurt smoothies are delicious. Dump a cup of low-fat yogurt in the blender with your favorite berries, banana, and blend. Top with almonds or granola for a power breakfast.  And lunch for breakfast? A grilled cheese sandwich with whole-grain bread and mozzarella cheese is a quick, delicious way to start off your day.

Being mindful of what you’re eating while pregnant will also help you form healthy habits that will stick throughout your life. For those moms-to-be out there, I wish you a healthy, nutrient-packed pregnancy.

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